Here it is: my 4th of July round-up! Books about the Revolutionary War era recommended for ages 4-12, arranged from youngest to oldest.
Saving the Liberty Bell by Megan McDonald, illustrated by Marsha Gray Carrington. Ages 4-8. 32 pgs. This is perhaps the best story of the lot. It held the interest of my three year old, but would interest kids as old as perhaps 8 or 10. The main drawback of the book is that the text just doesn’t flow that well. I’m not overly crazy about the illustrations either. BUT it is a great story and told on a scale that kids really get (if you can smooth over the stilted language in spots.) When a young boy and his father head into Philadelphia, they find out that British General Howe is approaching with his men to ransack the town. The British want to capture the huge bells in the city so they can melt them into musket and cannon balls. So, our hero John Jacob and his father help load the bell in their cart, and take off through enemy territory…and thus begins their adventure (“Who goes there?” called a soldier…) until they finally find a safe hiding place for the bell—one that patriotic Christians will especially appreciate.
Paul Revere’s Ride by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow and illustrated by Ted Rand. Ages 9-12. 48 pgs. Like the Christopher Bing version of this poem which I reviewed last week (see link at end of post), this book combines superb illustrations with Longfellow’s delicious poetry. Unlike its publishers, I’d recommend it for kids from 4-12, and maybe even older. With animated reading and some explanation along the way, my children who are three and five years old, respectively, loved the story. Ok, I admit it…I loved it too! It’s a feast for both visual and verbal learners, and a far cry from most of the fluff we serve in picture books. A treasure for years to come! (Be sure to look for this and the other books listed here in paperback, if your budget is tight.)
When Washington Crossed the Delaware by Lynne Cheney, illustrated Peter Fiore. Ages 9-12. 40 pgs. This is a richly illustrated picture book chronicling the historical event it’s named for. It’s also just as rich in vocabulary, historical details, and quotes to bring the very close the actual people and events—as well as to convey their significance for our country and our freedoms today. This is a meaty story that will inspire and enlighten both young and old, and with illustrations that nearly tell the story alone, it’s a wonderful book for younger kids to grow into.
The Star-Spangled Banner by Catherine A. Welch. Illustrations by Carrie H. Warwick. Ages 4-8. 40 pgs. This is the first book on my list that isn’t strictly a picture book. It is more like reader, but the illustrations are so rich and compelling that it has as much visual interest of a picture book. Perhaps that’s why it’s aimed at kids 4-8 years old. The story traces the events that caused Francis Scott Key to come aboard a British ship in Baltimore’s harbor, where he observed the British attack on Fort McHenry in 1812 and so penned The Star-Spangled Banner. Then the book traces how the poem went from a popular tract to a song that would become our national anthem. The text is in big bold letters and short sentences to help beginning readers, but this may be a read-aloud for many four- and five-year-olds. (FYI, this is not technically set in the Revolutionary War, but it’s still great for celebrating the 4th of July.)
George vs. George by Rosalyn Schanzer. Ages 9-12. 64 pgs. Once you’ve whetted your young reader’s appetite for the period with a good story, why not follow up with this informational book for kids by National Geographic? With spreads acting like short chapters covering “How Government Worked,” “The Life of King George & His Countrymen,” “British Forces,” and “The Shot Heard Round the World,” this story uses the personalities of the two Georges—King George III of Britain and George Washington of America—to tell the story of the American Revolution. Lots of historical detail here told in an accessible and often entertaining way. Yet there is much more here than a just-for-fun book. If you’re looking for a book extolling the virtues of America’s founders, this isn’t it. If you’re looking for a book that is historically neutral(ish) and lets each actor in the great conflict explain himself, this is your book. (And remember, you can always use it as an opportunity to explain YOUR thoughts on the war.)
I do have one more 4th of July book I plan to review next week, so watch for that…as well as our other History Week posts this week. And do let me know if you have any other 4th of July favorites for your kids! I am always on the lookout for a good addition to our history library!
Don’t miss my favorite 4th of July book–Christopher Bing’s illustration of The Midnight Ride of Paul Revere. Also, more summer reading fun can be found in Janie’s Stalking the Elusive Boy Reader, Hitting the Road, and Thomas the Train: All Aboard for Fun.