Celebrate Flag Day
On June 14th our nation honors one of its traditional symbols with the celebration of Flag Day. From the first national flag, chosen by the Second Continental Congress on June 14, 1777, to its current incarnation with 13 stripes and 50 stars, Americans have long treasured Old Glory, the American Flag. From Stars and Stripes to the Star Spangled Banner and the Pledge of Allegiance, we honor our flag and all it stands for on this national holiday.
President Woodrow Wilson first established Flag Day in America in 1916, but it was not until 1949 that National Flag Day was officially created by an act of Congress. Flag Day was first observed in 1861 in Hartford, Connecticut, after George Morris, a resident of that city, suggested that Hartford do something to recognize the adoption of the American Flag.
While Flag Day today is celebrated throughout the country, from Maine to California, the largest Flag Day commemoration is usually held in Troy, New York, where the Flag Day parade often draws as many as 50,000 spectators. The following books will introduce readers to the Flag Day holiday, the origins and symbolism of the American Flag, and the pledge we make to the flag and our country. For more information please visit www.americanflags.org. And check out our special feature about Betsy Ross.
The following sites have additional interesting information but they also have pop-up ads, so if you don't like those don't pay them a visit.
American Flag Q&A
Sarah L. Thomson
This colorful book is filled with information about flags in general and the American flag in particular. Balancing illustration and text, all 20 sections are headed by questions that are clearly answered in a page or two. The early sections explain the symbolism of flags, define the terms for their physical parts, and discuss why flags were first used in battle and on ships. Then the book describes early flags flown in America, including Great Britain's Union Jack, some of the colonies' flags, the Grand Union flag, and the initial Stars and Stripes designed in 1777. A few sections depict additional early versions of the flag, including the one that flew over Fort McHenry while Francis Scott Key wrote his famous poem. Other sections describe the confederate flag and Lincoln's refusal to remove the stars that stood for confederate states from the Stars and Stripes. The final sections explain how the number and placement of the stars changes when new states come into the union, what Flag Day is, how the Pledge of Allegiance came about, what the rules for displaying the flag are, and in what unusual places the flag has been flown. At the end of the book, a two-page spread introduces Jennifer L. Jones, curator of the Smithsonian Institution's National Museum of American History. A glossary, a list of websites and suggested readings, and an index follow the text. 2008, Collins/HarperCollins, $6.99. Ages 5 to 8. Reviewer: Judy DaPolito (Children's Literature).
Betsy Ross and the American Flag
Kay Melchisedech Olsoni
Illustrated by Anna Maria Cool, Sam Delarosa, and Charles Barnett III
Did you know Betsy Ross was a Quaker and outlived three husbands? Did you know Betsy Ross was not allowed to associate with other Quakers--including her own parents and family--because she married a non-Quaker? Did you know that the story of Betsy making the first flag comes from Betsy's grandson and an old five-pointed star? Betsy supposedly created a five-pointed star rather than the six-pointed one given to her. There is no historical data, no written record, no genuine bill of sale, and no receipt. This historical story, written in color comic-book form' is part of the Capstone "Graphic Library" series. Teachers and parents would appreciate the book's format because of its appeal to nonreaders. It also has controlled vocabulary, short and direct sentence structure, photo-matching text to aid comprehension, chapter headings, and straightforward information. 2005, Capstone Press, $25.26. Ages 8 to 15. Reviewer: Charlotte M. Krall (Children's Literature).
Betsy Ross's Star
Stacia Deutsch and Rhody Cohon
Illustrated by Guy Francis
When I went to school, we all learned that Betsy Ross made the first American flag. The "Blast to the Past" series like the "Magic Tree House" series transports kids to different times in history so they can learn what really happened. In this case the four time travelers have a real difference of opinion. Bo strongly believes that Betsy's making of the first flag is only a legend and that no one knows who really made the first flag with its thirteen stripes and thirteen stars. There is even a very famous signer of the Declaration of Independence who claims that he designed the flag and even submitted a bill to Congress for payment. There is also a villain in this time travel tale--Babs Magee, who has escaped into the past and wants to claim credit for creating the flag. Will the kids find out the truth in the time allotted? Will William Canby give his speech about his grandmother, and will the four friends ever stop squabbling and become a team again? It is a quick read, but it will make kids stop and think about history, how research is undertaken, and how sometimes legends do indeed become the fabric of our history--and that it is not all that bad. 2007, Aladdin/Simon & Schuster, $3.99. Ages 7 to 9. Reviewer: Marilyn Courtot (Children's Literature).
Children relate to flags from the time they are little. This book offers them a plethora of pertinent information about flags as symbols for each state in the United States. As part of the "U.S. Sites and Symbols" series, the book contains information repeated in all books from the series. This information includes the definition of symbols, a map of states as shown in regions, text about each U.S. region and its geographic high points, and pages of states with their flags and specific details. In addition, useful websites allow readers to go in search of more information in a kid-friendly way. A page about the national flag explains how the flag obtained the nickname "Old Glory." A quick "Guide to State Flags" shows state names, flags, and the year the flag was adopted. A fun quiz follows the main text and a page about creating a flag encourages students to work in pairs. This book and others in the series are a definite plus to classrooms where students are learning about states. Many national benchmarks--including learning about how culture and experience influence perceptions of places and regions, how and why symbols are used, and using a map--are met with this series. 2009, Weigl Publishers, $20.05. Ages 9 to 12. Reviewer: Nancy Garhan Attebury (Children's Literature).
Meet our Flag, Old Glory
April Jones Prince
Illustrated by Joan Paley
The cut paper collages in bright colors are a terrific pairing to this ode to the American flag. As the author's flap copy notes, she was brought home in a red, white and blue blanket as a baby and was inspired to write her story when she saw all the flags at an opening ceremony for the Olympics. How appropriate that her book should come out in another Olympic year when flags will again be paraded around a stadium and hoisted over the heads of winning athletes. The young children depicted in this picture book are proud of the flag and proud of their country. They see flags at the baseball stadium, flying outside their front doors and recite the "Pledge of Allegiance" each day at school. The closing pages offer a brief history of the American flag (Old Glory) which is not only interesting, but will make this book useful for older readers working on school reports or just curious about the evolution of our national flag. 2004, Little Brown, $15.95. Ages 3 to 7. Reviewer: Marilyn Courtot (Children's Literature).
The National Anthem
Illustrated by Todd Ouren
How did The Star-Spangled Banner become our national anthem? Interestingly, our new nation did not have a national anthem for quite a few years. It wasn't until an attack on Fort McHenry which protected Baltimore during the War of 1812 between Great Britain and America that Francis Scott Key wrote his famous poem. He spent a night on a British ship watching the fort being bombarded. When morning came and he saw that the flag was still flying over the fort, Francis started writing the poem that became the beginning of our anthem. It was called by a different name originally, but as more people heard of it, it became known as The Star Spangled Banner. Note that a hyphen was added to the name later. Interestingly, the anthem was sung to the tune of an old English song (Hall does not name it in the text, but most historians would agree that the tune was taken from the popular English song To Anacreon in Heaven). The book accurately states that it was not until 1931 that Congress made Francis' song the national anthem. The large flag that inspired the anthem is now in the Smithsonian Institution. The text is informative, clear and well-written. The illustrations are appropriate and show a multitude of children and adults of various ethnic groups. The picture of the attack on Ft. McHenry is similar to one in The United States Flag which was also done by the same artist. There is a glossary, a web link through the publisher's site, and an index. Part of the "Our Nation's Pride" series. 2008, Magic Wagon/ABDO Publishing Group, $27.07. Ages 6 to 8. Reviewer: Marilyn Courtot (Children's Literature).
The United States Flag
Amanda Doering Tourville
Illustrated by Todd Ouren
If you ever wondered how the United States flag became the well-known symbol that it is, Tourville provides some answers. The initial spread opens with the flag as it appears today. What readers may not know is that during the Revolutionary War there were many flags in use; finally, in 1777, Congress decided that one flag was needed to represent the new nation. Betsy Ross has been credited with the design, but since there were no specifications, the flags made and flown came in various sizes and with differing arrangements of stars. As new states joined the Union, the flag was made bigger to accommodate additional stripes and stars. (It probably did not take too long before many realized that such an approach was going to be problematic if the country kept adding new states). In 1818, the flag was set at 13 stripes to represent the original colonies and a star for each state. The book makes note of the Star-Spangled Banner written by Francis Scott Key and the Pledge of Allegiance written by Francis Bellamy. (How fascinating that both men were named Francis!) The book is filled with interesting facts and full-page illustrations. The information is clearly presented and easy to understand. The Flag Code, Flag Day and a fun facts section will give kids plenty to talk about and fodder for quizzing family members and friends. There is a glossary, a web link through the publisher's site, and an index. Part of the "Our Nation's Pride" series. 2008, Magic Wagon/ABDO Publishing Group, $27.07. Ages 6 to 8. Reviewer: Marilyn Courtot (Children's Literature).
The Pledge of Allegiance
Dell explores the origins and meanings of the Pledge of Allegiance in this book from the "Let's See" series. After defining "salute" and "pledge" in the first chapter, the Pledge of Allegiance is printed with difficult words in bold face type. Next, Dell explains who wrote the Pledge, when, and why they chose to do so. The history of flag-flying at schools is also described. Next, the proclamation issued by President Harrison is explained, as well as changes the Pledge has undergone over the years. An explanation of the correct way to say the pledge is also included. A glossary, a "Did You Know?" section, and a list of references round out this excellent source on the history of the Pledge. Numerous photographs and reproductions of paintings add visual interest for the younger child. 2004, Compass Point, $19.93. Ages 7 up. Reviewer: Amie Rose Rotruck (Children's Literature).
The Pledge of Allegiance
Illustrated by Matthew Skeens
Norman Pearl creates yet another enticing introduction to an important American symbol with this work about the Pledge of Allegiance. Francis Bellamy, the author of the pledge, narrates the story of its conception. Bellamy, who worked for a magazine called The Youth's Companion, wrote the pledge so that students around the country would have something to recite on the 400th anniversary of Columbus sailing to America. The pledge, which originally did not include the phrases "under God" and "the flag of the United States of America," quickly became a regular part of the school day. Pearl breaks down what several of the terms in the pledge mean, including justice, allegiance, and republic. The posture one should have when saying the pledge is covered as well. The amount of facial expression Matthew Skeens achieves with his edgy, geometric style is surprising. The cross-section of Americans represented is indicative of the more accurate histories that authors and illustrators are creating now. Like the rest of the books in the "American Symbols" series, the author has included a glossary, facts, and a list of additional resources. This book is perfect for beginner historians. 2007, Picture Window, $23.93. Ages 5 to 9. Reviewer: Kristy Lynn Sutorius (Children's Literature).
To view Flag Day features from a previous year, click here
Or check out our special feature on Betsy Ross.
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