Themed Reviews

Constitution Day

   Every year September 17th is Constitution Day in the United States. This year marks the 222nd anniversary of our nation’s founding document. The world’s oldest (and shortest) constitution, it establishes our three branches of government: Legislative, Executive, and Judicial; and the first ten amendments, known as the Bill of Rights, which protect our rights and freedoms. Constitution Day is a chance to learn, contemplate, and discuss our constitution, laws, government, and founding fathers.

   If you’re able to, try visiting the National Constitution Center in Philadelphia, the only museum dedicated to our constitution. This interactive museum tells the story of “We the People…” Interested in seeing our countries founding documents? The Constitution, Declaration of Independence, and much more can be found in the National Archives Museum in Washington, DC, currently celebrating it’s 75th anniversary.

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Visit these sites for useful facts and activities:

Contributor: Emily Griffin



The American Story: 100 True Tales from American History
Jennifer Armstrong
Illustrated by Roger Roth
   History is first and foremost a story. This personal selection of 100 events in U.S. history has been retold by a master storyteller with drama, variety, and an engaging narrative voice. Topics from the Spanish sacking of the first permanent French settlement in Florida in 1565 to the Supreme Court’s settlement of the disputed U.S. election in 2000 are brought to life in three or four pages and illustrated with lively pencil and watercolor illustrations. Topics mentioned in earlier stories recur, and the back matter includes a list of story arcs, from the obvious like “Crossing the Continent,” “Religion,” “Native Americans,” to the surprising like “Bananas,” “Cuba,” or “Crime.” Four pages of bibliography include a list of particularly useful and reliable Internet resources, and there is an extensive index as well. At times this veers toward being collection of American myths rather than American history, in spite of the subtitle “true tales.” Sometimes the author is up front about that, as in her explanation about the Pocahontas story, or her description of Johnny Appleseed as not quite the man of the tall tales. But sometimes she includes mythology as fact: retelling the story of Banneker’s reproduction of L’Enfant’s plan for Washington although in fact he had left the city before L’Enfant, and ignoring the careful planning of civil rights workers, including Rosa Parks herself, that led to the moment she chose not to give up her bus seat in 1955. Still, this is an excellent read, an enticing invitation to find out more. 2006, Alfred A. Knopf/Random House, Ages 10 to 14, $34.95. Reviewer: Kathleen Isaacs (Children's Literature).
ISBN: 0-375-81256-3
ISBN: 978-0-375-81256-9

The Bill of Rights in Translation: What It Really Means
Amie Jane Leavitt
   What if you could not think and talk freely? What if you went to jail for your thoughts? The text begins with these questions, helping students immediately grasp the importance of the Bill of Rights. As part of the “Kids’ Translations” series, this book includes sections on the meaning of the document, five reasons to care about it, a history and timeline, a vocabulary review, and suggested internet sites. There is also a short index, so this book can be a useful reference tool. The “translation” section works particularly well for the Bill of Rights, with its ten well-defined amendments; about half of this 32-page book is devoted to a clear, concise explanation of each “right.” Because each of the amendments covers a separate legal concern, these pages could be read in any order or be assigned individually. The history section is shorter than in other books in the series, but it is adequate for this topic and includes a short section on how old documents are preserved. The graphics are engaging, using a good mix of photographs and drawings. Several historic documents are shown, but the text is too small to be read. It would have been useful to include a close-up of a section of the Bill, so readers could observe the lettering, spelling, and language used in the eighteenth century; however, an internet link at the end of the book leads readers to federal government sites that allow them to view some documents at high resolution and to learn more about the Constitutional Convention, the ratification process, and the adoption of the Bill of Rights. 2008, Capstone Press, Ages 8 to 11, $23.93. Reviewer: Leigh Geiger, Ph.D (Children's Literature).
ISBN: 978-1-4296-1928-8
ISBN: 1-4296-1928-7

Children’s Encyclopedia of American History
David C. King
   American history can fill volumes, but this single volume offers a concise overview of most major events. The story actually goes back to about 1000 years to the first European explorer--Lief Eriksson's arrival in North America. It was almost 500 years before the Americas were discovered again and this time by Christopher Columbus in 1492. The layout of the book is enticing and the easy to read text, abundance of photographs and other illustrations will attract readers to nearly every spread. A very useful feature is the opening explanation describing how to use the book, which is really a guide to the spreads. The timelines that run along the bottom helps to put world events and the time period the spread relate to is clearly denoted. Each spread focuses on a theme or events that occurred during that time period. In addition to world events and what the US was doing at the time, readers will glean other interesting facts about prominent people, inventions and trends. There are definitions, references to related pages and in most of the chapters special feature spreads which can be recognized by their yellow border. For the period 1870-1901 a feature entitled Victorian America shows what life was like by depicting the interior of a home, describing the art and literature (Mark Twain, John Singer Sargent, James Whistler, Edith Wharton), the new forms of entertainment including the circus, Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show, the Chicago Exposition and the Ferris Wheel as well as spectator sports such as baseball. The encyclopedia is quite up to date with a discussion of the 2000 presidential election, the terrorist attack on New York and references to Osama Bin Laden. The backmatter includes a listing of all the presidents, their terms state of birth, party and a small picture; information about the states including date that they joined the union, state tree, bird, flower, and nickname and important documents such as the Declaration of Independence, Constitution and Gettysburg Address. There is an extensive index to facilitate research. 2003, DK Publishing, Ages 10 up, $29.99. Reviewer: Marilyn Courtot (Children's Literature).
ISBN: 0-7894-8330-0
ISBN: 978-0-7894-8330-0

Constitution Day
Molly Aloian
   Part of the “Celebrations in My World” series, this book focuses on the American holiday dedicated to the day that the Constitution was signed. I will admit that this topic was a revelation for me; I really did not know about this holiday. I was further surprised to learn that, until it was renamed in 2004, it was called Citizenship Day. The holiday occurs on September 17th and, as noted, commemorates the signing of the U. S. Constitution. The history of the development and signing of this very important document is recapped in language appropriate for the intended audience. However, there are some statements that are not really accurate. A Senator does not write a law, but he or she can introduce bills (legislation) which, when passed by both houses of Congress and signed by the president, become law. In addition, a president can veto a bill to prevent it from becoming law. If a bill is vetoed, Congress can override the veto and make the bill a law in spite of the president’s action. Other facts included in this book: Schools and universities that receive federal monies are required to have educational programs to teach students about the Constitution, and the original document is kept at the National Archives and freely available for viewing. Aloian suggests a couple of ways readers can celebrate this holiday, including trips to see the Constitution and attending a swearing-in ceremony for new citizens. Readers with stamina may be interested in completing the three-mile “Constitution Walking Tour of Philadelphia.” Bolded words are defined in the glossary and there is an index, but no other books or web sites are referenced. 2009, Crabtree Publishing, Ages 6 to 10, $19.95 and $8.95. Reviewer: Marilyn Courtot (Children’s Literature).
ISBN: 9780778743040
ISBN: 0778743047
ISBN: 9780778742869
ISBN: 0778742865

Constitution Day
Robin Nelson
   Constitution Day is celebrated every year on September 17th. This day is set aside to learn more about the United States Constitution in schools. Children learn that the Constitution is a set of rules set by the government many years ago. People wanted to be a free country. They also wanted to be fair to others, so the Constitution was written by many different Americans. It was signed September 17, 1787. The first Constitution Day was celebrated in 2005. On Constitution Day, the children in schools learn more about our country and our freedom. They celebrate what it is to be an American. This educational book includes a timeline about the events of the Constitution. It also contains interesting facts about the Constitution. There are photographs enclosed in the book to keep the reader’s attention. This simple-to-read book would be a great asset to any classroom. It is part of the “American Holidays” series. 2010, Lerner Publications Company, Ages 6 to 8, $19.93. Reviewer: Cathi I. White (Children's Literature).
ISBN: 978-0-7613-4930-3

The Creation of the US Constitution
Michael Burgan
Illustrated by Gordon Purcell and Terry Beatty
   Capstone Press seems to want to ensure that they have the corner on the market created by a federal mandate that all schools receiving federal funds observe Constitution Day on September 17 each year. In this case, the book appeals to the easy-read market by using a graphic novel approach that actually works fairly well. The book concentrates on the struggle amongst the Founding Fathers to resolve the tricky issue of how their new country could reach a balance between putting all power in one leader’s hands and the chaos that might come of a loose union of independent states. In effect, the graphic story book style of breaking the narrative into many boxes reflects the way the Constitution was the result of a complex interplay of many individuals and points of view. The illustrations, done in a classic “comic book” style with period dress and background help set the historical context. In addition to the story itself, the book includes a glossary and index, bibliography, and a clever link to internet resources that are age appropriate. 2007, Graphic Library/Capstone Press, Ages 8 to 12, $25.26. Reviewer: Mary Hynes-Berry (Children's Literature).
ISBN: 978-0-7368-7526-4
ISBN: 0-7368-7526-3

D is for Democracy: A Citizen’s Alphabet
Elissa Grodin
Illustrated by Victor Juhasz
   Each letter of the alphabet represents a word or phrase pertaining to the American system of government and is part of a quatrain that introduces the word to primary grade students. Along the side of the page is a longer explanation for older students. Some of the words, such as "amendment," "founding fathers," "religious freedom," and "taxes," easily fit the subject matter. The author had to be a bit more creative with the letters X ("marks the spot/ for a meeting one fall/ of the very first Congress...") and Z ("is for Zeitgeist..."). The caricatures lighten the tone of the book with touches of humor that will keep the reader turning the pages. There is an overall cluttered appearance, but when one focuses on each page, the information is clear and easy to handle. This provides a basic introduction of terms and history, and therefore would make a good starting point, or classroom read-aloud, for study or discussion. 2004, Sleeping Bear Press, Ages 7 to 12, $16.95. Reviewer: Sharon Salluzzo (Children's Literature).
ISBN: 1-5853-6234-4
ISBN: 978-1-5853-6234-9

In Defense of Liberty: The Story of America’s Bill of Rights
Russell Freedman
   The reader is hooked right from the start, where Freedman presents eight interesting questions that have been brought before the Supreme Court. In the discussion of each of the first ten amendments to the U. S. Constitution, historical information provides the reasoning for the amendment. Landmark cases are discussed, and cases involving children and teens are presented. These of course heighten the interest for young adults who can see how they are affected by the court's rulings. Clear, succinct and always interesting, this provides a fine introduction to the Bill of Rights. Black and white photos of justices and the parties involved in the cases as well as reproductions of historical paintings and objects are included. The Bill of Rights, source notes for Freedman's text, an index of Supreme Court cases that are cited, an annotated bibliography and an index will help readers gain information and insight. They provide the tools for further study. A must for all libraries. 2003, Holiday House, Ages 10 up, $24.95. Reviewer: Sharon Salluzzo (Children's Literature).
ISBN: 0-8234-1585-6
ISBN: 978-0-8234-1585-4

Homeland Security Versus Constitutional Rights
Ted Hottfried
   Since the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, a debate has simmered regarding the balance between appropriate defense of security and civil liberties. In an age when terrorism has come to the forefront as a global threat to peace, there is growing concern that one of the first casualties of such guerrilla warfare may well be the freedom that has typified American society. Ted Gottfried tackles this complex and perplexing issue. In a balanced manner, Gottfried applies a combination of skills to an issue that has long term implications. Initially, Gottfried traces some of the history of modern terrorism and thereby crafts a position that emphasizes the extreme threat that such militants represent. However, Gottfried also notes the ways in which the very act of fighting terrorism creates an absence of democracy and due process that has long-standing implications. Topics such as racial profiling, discrimination, overly free access to personal information, and inhumane treatment are all by-products of the American government's efforts to maintain social order in the face of heinous actions on the part of terrorists. Gottfried also points out the reasons why government officials have recommended some curtailing of liberties at a time when the stakes are so high. All in all, Ted Gottfried is to be commended for providing readers with such a well written and thoughtful account of a contemporary issue of the highest priority. 2003, Twenty-First Century Books, Ages 12 up, $24.90. Reviewer: Greg M. Romaneck (Children's Literature).
ISBN: 0-7613-2862-9
ISBN: 978-0-7613-2862-9

John, Paul, George & Ben
Lane Smith
   The Founding Fathers were wee lads once upon a time and by sharing tales from their youth, Lane Smith makes history more fascinating than one can imagine. Paul Revere was not born with that booming voice, you know. John Hancock’s superb penmanship became obvious in grade school. And young Ben Franklin was spouting pithy sayings before he was out of knickers. This book is hilarious from start to finish as it plays with the myths we have about these men. Rest assured, the back matter tells the truth about the stories (“Taking Liberties: Wherein we set the record straight with ye olde True or False section”) so history emerges unscathed. The design of the book is perfection from the flyleaf to the notes at the end. Smith’s use of varied media creates an illusion of a crackled veneer associated with the time period. History should never be dull and, believe me, it is not here. 2006, Hyperion/Disney, Ages 7 to 10, $16.99. Reviewer: Joan Kindig, Ph.D. (Children's Literature).
ISBN: 0-7868-4893-6
ISBN: 978-0-7868-4893-5

The People’s Guide to the United States Constitution
David Kluge
Illustrated by Allen Harris
   In a direct and engaging introduction, Kluge explains his motivation for writing this guide. The book consists of the basic rules of people desiring freedom and the guarantee to protect their rights and responsibilities. Kluge refers to the Constitution as the rules of the game. He wants readers to understand how to interpret their rights and how to exercise them. Using very brief chapters, Kluge interprets the key phrases, ideas and events which were the stimulus for the development of this great document. A timeline adds to readers’ comprehension. Different type settings separate the actual document wording from definitions provided, for the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution and its amendments. The book is an excellent resource for anyone who wants to learn about the value Americans place on freedom and the rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Ideas and historical events leading to the publication of the Constitution are described, and a summary of the amendments is provided. The last section of the book is devoted to “Applying the Constitution.” The work of the Supreme Court is explained, as well as how amendments are added to the Constitution. Several Supreme Court cases are used as examples. Kluge is the former Vice President of Legal Affairs for an international software company, an author, and a speaker. He invites readers to share the knowledge gleaned from this book with others. His clear and lively writing style is easy to read, and the book an excellent reference in the classroom and at home. An appendix, a glossary, a bibliography and an index are also included. 2008, Action Publishing, Ages 10 to 15, $14.00. Reviewer: Enid Portnoy (Children's Literature).
ISBN: 978-1-88804522-2
ISBN: 1-88804522-1

Unite or Die: How Thirteen States Became a Nation
Jacqueline Jules
   The children of Forest Lake Elementary school are putting on a school play that depicts how the United States Constitution was formed, bringing 13 separate states together to create one nation. The book begins on the night of the performance with the curtains closed. The audience waits in their seats for the play to start. When the curtains open, the play introduces the signing of the Treaty of Paris, which ended the American Revolution and gave the 13 colonies their independence from England. The book continues to tell about the establishment of the Articles of Confederation and the weakness of the country as a whole under this document. As the play progresses, the children tell about a meeting of the 55 delegates, also known as the Constitutional Convention, where the foundation for the Constitution was created. This historically accurate children’s book provides details and specific facts about the Constitution and the people who attended the convention. This book would be an excellent resource for students to read independently. Because the book is written as if the reader is an audience member at the play, it does not lend itself to being easily read aloud because of all the aside dialogue that is used. Reading this book would be a fun way for students to learn about the Constitution because the dialogue that is used by the children in the play expresses the thoughts and emotions of the American people in a way that is easily relatable. 2009, Charlesbridge Publishing, Ages 10 to 12, $7.95. Reviewer: Michaela Byars (Children's Literature).
ISBN: 978-1-5808-9190-5
ISBN: 1-5808-9190-X

The U.S. Constitution
Kathy Allen
   Learning about the Constitution is a big concept for young minds, but this beautiful picture book presents the basics in a child-friendly, appealing manner. Colorful full-page photos and paintings take the reader back to the 1700s, where it all began. Included in the art/photo pages is a painting of the Revolutionary War, a painting of the thirty-nine leaders who signed the Constitution, a photo of the Supreme Court building, and much more. The artwork complements the simple, child-friendly text. The book includes many useful features such as subject-specific vocabulary words, which are defined in a glossary, a table of contents, an index, a list of Internet sites related to the book, and a list of supplemental books. This works well as a read aloud, and is an excellent resource for a social studies class. Parents and teachers may want to employ other tools such as stories, dramatization, field trips, etc to help make this concept relevant to young learners. 2006, Capstone Press, Ages 5 to 8, $19.93. Reviewer: Cheri Stowers (Children's Literature).
ISBN: 978-0-7368-9594-1
ISBN: 0-7368-9594-9

The U S Constitution/la constitucion de los EE UU
Kathy Allen
Translation by Dr. Martn Luis Guzman Ferrer
Consulting Editor: Dra. Gail Saunders-Smith
   Employing simple, straight-forward sentences this book defines the U S Constitution, describes how it was written and gives insight into how it applies to Americans. Written in both English and Spanish, early readers will be able to grasp the essence of the history behind the document and its establishment of "a new government" after the American Revolution. The well presented material has been vetted by Philip Bigler, Director, The James Madison Center, Harrisonburg, VA. Comparing the English with the Spanish reveals the great care taken with the translation. Beautifully rendered photographs of actual paintings of the writers and signers of the document are sure to make the reader feel connected to the historical events, while the modern photographs show the Supreme Court Building and a parade of multi-ethnic children celebrating the Fourth of July. This title conveys the sense of what it is to live in a country governed by a strong document presenting its laws. The glossary gives readers help in understanding such terms as: Bill of Rights, document, government, right, law, etc. There are also internet sites through FactHound (grade level appropriate and all working as of this review) and an index. Well worth adding to any library in need of civics materials at this level, especially those with Spanish immersion programs or populations of English Language Learners. 2008, Pebble/Capstone Press, Ages 6 to 10, $19.93. Reviewer: Sheilah Egan (Children's Literature).
ISBN: 978-1-4296-0046-0
ISBN: 1-4296-0046-2

The U.S. Constitution
Christine Peterson
Illustrated by Brian Bascle
   This title in the “Cartoon Nation” series explores the origins of the U.S. government and the constitution. The author begins with the formation of the colonies, the oppression of the colonial government, and the American Revolution. She then traces the government of the new states through the Articles of Confederation and Shays’ Rebellion. We see the constitutional convention, ratification, and the Bill of Rights. The three branches of government and the process for amending the constitution are explored. The author touches on the National Archives and the current form of the government. Each page has several cartoon figures, which reinforce the facts presented. At times irreverent, the humor will appeal to kids. The facts are also reinforced by a good time line. There is a lot of important information in this book. The Fact Hound website maintained by the publisher has links to the James Madison Center, the Archives, and Ben’s Guide to Government websites. The glossary, a bibliography, and an index are useful. 2009, Graphic Library/Capstone Press, Ages 9 to 12, $32.00. Reviewer: Sue Poduska (Children's Literature).
ISBN: 978-1-4296-1984-4
ISBN: 1-4296-1984-8
ISBN: 978-1-4296-2856-3
ISBN: 1-4296-2856-1

The U.S. Constitution
Norman Pearl
Illustrated by Matthew Skeens
   In six short chapters utilizing short sentences, few words per page, and extra sidebar material, this book offers basic information about our government document that sets the rules for running America. The document is considered a symbol of our freedom. The book format is simple. James Madison narrates as he introduces the Constitution at the beginning of the book, presents concise factual information in the main body, and concludes by telling readers that they can be proud of the Constitution. An illustrated double-spread diagram successfully depicts the three branches of government to explain the balance of power. The main text is presented on "old, scrolled paper." This look is appealing. The back matter tells about the four historic figures who framed the Constitution and includes ten main words defined in a glossary. A list of books, a safe web site, and an index are also offered. The books in the "American Symbols" work well to present historical information to young readers. 2006, Picture Window Books, Ages 5 to 7, $23.95. Reviewer: Nancy Garhan Attebury (Children's Literature).
ISBN: 978-1-4048-2643-4
ISBN: 1-4048-2643-2
ISBN: 978-1-4048-2646-5
ISBN: 1-4048-2646-7

We the Kids: The Preamble to Constitution of the United States
Illustrated and foreword by David Catrow
   Just in time for the current wave of patriotism comes this explanation of the Preamble in language that children can understand. After an introduction, Catrow "translates" the words into simple statements. Then, using the Preamble itself as the only text, he takes us on a visual adventure as a group of kids and their dog live it out on a camp-out, a wild adventure which fills the double pages with active, cartoon-y, pencil and watercolor illustrations relating to each phrase. For example, "establish Justice" shows the kids examining a chart on which a lesson in "Rules" for their expedition is spelled out. The metaphors, delightfully funny as they are, humanize what might be a dull classroom exercise. Every citizen and would-be citizen can learn from and enjoy this examination of one of our canons. 2002, Dial Books for Young Readers/Penguin, Ages 7 up, $16.99. Reviewer: Ken Marantz and Sylvia Marantz (Children's Literature).
ISBN: 0-8037-2553-1
ISBN: 978-0-8037-2553-9

We the People: The Story of Our Constitution
Lynne Cheney
Illustrated by Greg Harlin
   With clarity and precision, Lynne Cheney simply and succinctly outlines the obstacles faced in 1788 by the new nation in keeping it from falling apart. When the 12 delegates met in Philadelphia, individual states were printing their own money, the British troops refused to vacate military posts, and the farmers of Massachusetts were rising up against the fragile government. Against this backdrop Cheney explains how leaders like Madison, Washington and Franklin worked with those who disagreed with their proposals, men like William Patterson of New Jersey, Governor Morris of Pennsylvania, and John Dickinson of Delaware. How diverse individuals representing diverse regions and ideas reached a compromise that yielded a document that goes to the very core of the republic is fascinating and very readable for young readers. Harlin’s watercolors capture the period and the mood of the emerging nation. His portraits of the remarkable Founding Fathers breathe life and character into them. In this year of a highly charged presidential election readers are reminded of the lasting power of the Constitution and the fractious time in which it was conceived and executed. 2008, Simon & Schuster, Ages 9 to 12, $17.99. Reviewer: Beverley Fahey (Children’s Literature).
ISBN: 978-1-4169-5418-7
ISBN: 1-4169-5418-X

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Added 09/17/09

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