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My Country ‘Tis of Thee

President’s Day brings about a better appreciation for America’s great leaders of the past, as well as highlighting the tremendous sacrifices our ancestors experienced. Here are some outstanding new publications on the subject that are good for ages nine through adult.

The first five books are part of a wonderfully engaging historical fiction series, “Dear America”, that helps brings history to life for ages eight to twelve. The Winter of Red Snow (The Diary of Abigail Jane Stewart), by Kristiana Gregory, is a captivating story that takes place at Valley Forge in 1777 during the height of the Revolutionary War.  A Journey to the New World, 1620 (The Diary of Remember Patience Whipple), by Kathryn Lasky, showcases a twelve-year-old pilgrim girl traveling across the Atlantic on the Mayflower and of all the difficulties and triumphs she experiences on sea and land. Like the Willow Tree:  Portland, Maine 1918, (The Diary of Lydia Amelia Pierce), by Lois Lowry, tells about a very different kind of life back in the early 20th century. Young Lydia and her brother are recently orphaned from an epidemic that prevailed over the eastern coast during 1918 and they go to live with their uncle. His way of life is completely different from theirs as he is a Shaker. They must deal with their grief as well as this unusually simple way of life. Voyage on the Great Titanic (The Diary of Margaret Ann Brady), by Ellen Emerson White, takes young Margaret on this most adventurous and life-threatening trip where she nearly loses her life. The Fences Between Us, Seattle, Washington, 1941 (The Diary of Piper Davis), by Kirby Larson, contains many complicated difficulties that Americans dealt with during World War II. Piper’s brother is stationed at Pearl Harbor when the Japanese attack. Her father is a Baptist minister to many Japanese living in the community and now they are being shipped to an internment camp. And this is just the beginning of the story. All of the “Dear America” books contain fascinating historical notes, photographs and maps found at the back of each book.

Alexander Hamilton:  The Outsider, by Jean Fritz, gives an amazing account of this brilliant, loyal citizen who was actually born in the West Indies. This biography covers the young Alexander, his move to America, his assignment to be Washington’s Aid-de-Camp, his time as the Secretary of the Treasury, and finally his tragic and sudden demise. There are linocut drawings sprinkled throughout by Ian Schoenherr as well as interesting notes found at the back of the book.

The Ride:  The Legend of Betsy Dowdy, by Kitty Griffin, and illustrated by Margorie Pricemen, is an oral fable that has been passed on since America became a nation. When young Betsy first heard that the redcoats were coming to her area in North Carolina she knew she had to alert the freedom fighters. And that’s when her treacherous horse ride began. The brilliant illustrations seem to fly along with the text reverberating the spirit and speed of the ride.

George Washington’s Spy, by Elvira Woodruff, is a time-travel adventure featuring the same protagonist kids as they travel back to the Revolutionary War where they become involved with patriot spies. This sequel to “George Washington’s Socks” is a great introduction to many of the events that surrounded this war and will keep kids engaged to the end!

Lincoln Tells a Joke:  How Laughter Saved the President (and the Country), by Kathleen Krull and Paul Brewer, and illustrated by Stacy Innerst, is a picture book that demonstrates how this great president dealt with great adversity through humor. His love of words and jokes often times turned into some hilarious and diffusing storytelling. The amber and earth tone hues strike a hometown chord which enlivens the man into reality.

Lincoln’s Flying Spies:  Thaddeus Low and the Civil War Balloon Corps, by Gail Jarrow, is a non-fiction that highlights a little know fact about how Mr. Low flew hydrogen-filled balloons over battles and sent word to Lincoln. The photos, maps and illustrations sprinkled throughout enhance this fascinating piece of history.

Just in Time, Abraham Lincoln, by Patricia Polacco, is a picture book with two boys travelling back in time where they find themselves at Antietam Battlefield. What they witness there, as well as their experiences with Lincoln, brings about an awareness and greater appreciation for their current-day lives. This award-winning author continues her tremendous storytelling style that will surely touch many lives.  And her delicate portrayal of death is appropriate for a child’s grasp.

Profiles: The Civil War, by Aaron Rosenberg, is a non-fiction that focuses on the six main people that affected and changed the events of this devastating war:  Abraham Lincoln, Frederick Douglass, Clara Barton, George McClellan, Robert E. Lee and Mathew Brady. This kid-friendly account is filled with photos, maps and more.

The Battle of Nashville, by Benson Bobrick, is another non-fiction that takes you through the most decisive battle of the Civil War and will surely help with understanding the attitudes and decisions that the major players made. Original documents, photos and more are found throughout this amazing book.

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