September 11 is now a day of reflection, sadness, appreciation and of renewing our faith in our great country and believing all that it stands for. Here are some outstanding books that reflect what our country has begat and the talents and abilities of many that allow our democracy to thrive, which in turn allow us our precious freedom. All of these books are good for all ages unless otherwise specified.
American Heroes: Robert Smalls, The Boat Thief, by Robert F. Kennedy Jr., and beautifully illustrated by Patrick Faricy, re-tells an event about a courageous slave, Robert Smalls, back during Civil War times. Mr. Smalls, along with the help of 5 other slaves, stole an important gunship belonging to the Confederacy in the dead of night in Charleston's harbor. Mr. Smalls' high intelligence, courage and leadership ability allowed for the success of this life-threatening maneuver which showed the world that slaves did want freedom and were willing to risk their lives for it. They were also able to manage such a difficult feat. Mr. Smalls went on to lead naval battles, as he became a captain of the Federal Navy. He also became highly influential with President Lincoln and helped open the doors for black men to enlist in the service.
How about looking back at important people who helped shape our land long before it became a country? Sacagawea, by Joseph Bruchac, recounts the most famous exploration through America: The Lewis and Clark Expedition. Bruchac is the perfect author for such an insightful look into this important time in our history as he vigorously investigates and researches his books prior to writing. He's won many awards because of this unprecedented procedure. Sacagawea was captured by her enemies when she was young and ended up marrying a foreigner. When she met Meriwether Lewis and William Clark, she was already a young mother at 16. They both found her invaluable as an interpreter and guide, and later most helpful as a peacemaker. The story alternates between this Shoshone young woman and actual journal entries from Clark. Because of these two view points, the reader begins to grasp a greater understanding of life in America as the vast wilderness past the Mississippi was being explored for the first time in 1804.
And while I'm reviewing about great people who helped shape and influence America, here are two books in David Colbert's "10 Days" series about two people that definitely made a difference. Benjamin Franklin is an insightful look into this amazing and brilliant man who helped shape America. This kid-friendly book is well written, especially for ages 10 and up. This book will help the reader begin to understand how Franklin came up with a great plan to save the colonies, become a spy in France and help to bring America together by gathering great men to help compose and sign the Constitution. The other "10 Days" book in this series showcases how America's freedoms and liberties allow all to become the great people that we are. Thomas Edison was brilliant, but it was also his willingness to try and try again by tinkering and attempting new experiments that allowed him to invent ways to record music, make movies and develop the light bulb.
How about a book that shows how a grain of faith can spread and grow and ultimately last a lifetime? Eliza's Field of Faith, by Rachelle Pace Castor, and wonderfully painted by Dixon Leavitt, is a picture book based on a true story about Lehi area saints back when the area was first settled and how crickets completely destroyed their wheat crop. However, Eliza's family planted late because her father had recently left on a mission to Norway and it took the rest of the family longer to plant this vital food. Because of the lateness of their crop, the Lord blessed this family and many others in the community because the crickets couldn't eat what hadn't grown yet. This family was able to share their crop and their faith was strengthened. So many events like this enabled the early Saints to build up Zion by living in this land of freedom.
A New Nation: The United States: 1783-1815 , by Betsy Maestro, and illustrated by Giulio Maestro, is a picture book filled with information about the Founding Fathers, the 3 branches of government, the on-going conflicts with Britain and France, the Louisiana Purchase, and much, much more. The paintings illustrate the style of dress, life in the cities back then and war in America. This book is geared for ages seven and up.
I want to end with a picture book that brings to life what it was like long ago and the progress of a mighty city. It also brings us back to the reason of this review and to honor those who died in the September 11 attacks and appreciate all the freedoms we enjoy in this great country. Building Manhattan, by Laura Vila, is a picture book that magnifies this island back when it was uninhabited. The growth that takes place throughout the story shows the ownership going from Native American to Dutch to British to American. This is truly an eye-opener to those who never realized this city was once an island full of lush vegetation and wild animals.