Friday, December 5, 2014

19 Shopping Days Left! Review of the Our American Symbols series from Millbrook Press

History is kind of big in our house. I mean, how many eight-year-old boys dress up as Abraham Lincoln for Halloween? Car trips are peppered with questions such as, "Why does the Statue of Liberty have a book?" and "What number president was Teddy Roosevelt?" Sometimes we get so caught up in cute picture books, we forget how much kids thirst for stories that are 'real'.

Lerner comes out with some great nonfiction series, really making things accessible for the younger crowd. I was able to look at two from the "Our American Symbols" series: 

Can You Sing

Can We Ring the Liberty Bell?

Other titles include:
Is the Bald Eagle Really Bald?
What is Inside the Lincoln Memorial?
Why are there Stripes on the American Flag? (I have been asked that recently!)
Why is the Statue of Liberty Green?

I think I am going to buy this entire series for myself and stock it in the car, so I can just hand the appropriate book back!

Let's look at pictures first, because I noticed something right away. Lerner's junior readers all seem to have that must-include-all-ethnic-groups thing going on, which is great, but do you see the eyes? I don't think I have ever noticed an illustrator using different shapes, so huge props to Poling for that one! In general, the illustrations are bright and colorful, if somewhat formulaic (there were a couple places where a child was completely cut and pasted from another page - like, the redhead and ponytail girl on pages 4 and 18 in the first title). 

The text follows a class (not the same one each time) through a lesson or field trip centered around the item or event in question. A bit too wordy for a read-aloud, but perfectly suited to a classroom lesson where you wanted to stop and discuss each page. Small side bars add interesting trivia bits (no gum or candy allowed near the Liberty Bell!), and vocabulary is explained clearly, both in the text and in a glossary at the back. Each book also has a suggested activity - writing a patriotic poem, or a game involving hiding the Liberty Bell.

A good introduction to basic symbols of America, with plenty of facts for curious youngsters like mine. 

Gifting Suggestions

I have been eyeing this floor puzzle for the kids:

(did I mention I love Melisa and Doug stuff?)

and, what child doesn't like to wave a flag? Maybe let this one wave in a corner of their room:
Adopt a bald eagle from the World Wildlife Fund, and receive this plush to give as a gift:

Or, if you are close enough to a museum that features a bit of American History, experiences and memories always last longer than tangible gifts!

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