Themed Reviews

Fourth of July--Celebrate Independence Day

   A long, hot day spent outside at the pool, enjoying a barbecue feast, watching a parade, and listening to patriotic tunes, as fireworks explode in the sky--nothing quite says summer like the Fourth of July. Every year Americans gather with friends and family to celebrate our nation’s independence from Great Britain in 1776.

   Did you know? In July 1776, the estimated number of people living in the newly independent nation was 2.5 million. On July 4, 2008, the nation's population was 304 million. (Taken from

   The selections below can help in showing children the exciting activities and traditions associated with the Fourth of July, as well as the history behind this day of independence. Browse through these titles and those from previous years for some selections to share with your family or students.

Contributor: Emily Griffin



The Blues Go Birding Across America
Carol L. Malnor and Sandy F. Fuller
Illustrated by Louise Schroeder
   Five birds make up the group: Bing, Lulu, Uno, Eggbert, and Sammi. The five birds are asked to sing in concert on the Fourth of July at the White House Lawn. Their mission is to find a new song to sing at this concert. To do so, the group decides to go on a road trip to find new sounds for the White House concert. After setting off, the first stop is Alaska where the Bald Eagle lives. From there, the group of five travels to Hawaii, spotting a Black-Footed Albatross. Going east to California, the next bird they find wisas a Ring-Billed Gull. But the group still has not found sounds they could use for the White House concert. There are more destinations to come in New Mexico and the Rocky Mountain National Park. They do not stay long and continue on to Kansas to hear the song of the Western Meadowlark. Perhaps the fancy whistles they hear could be learned, but they are not yet done. The Turkey Vulture in Texas is next, and there are more birds across America to be seen. Will the group ever find the new sounds they seek? For each bird they came across on their journey, Eggbert adds birding tips, and one of the five includes a notebook. Easily learned statistics are included for each bird. The illustrations are beautifully colored, realistic portrayals of each bird. A Reading Guide, in pdf format, is available online for those who may read this book to groups. This excellent book will introduce young readers to bird watching. 2010, Dawn Publications, Ages 5 to 9, $8.95. Reviewer: Debby Willett (Children's Literature).
ISBN: 978-1-58469-1259

Independence Day
Molly Aloian
Illustrated by Bill Slavin
   This book starts with a table of contents that includes fifteen different subjects ranging from a definition of “Independence Day” to the Declaration of Independence to the American flag, parades, and fireworks. Each subject is covered on two pages, with words in bold (that are found in the Glossary) and a “Did You Know?” on each subject to direct the reader’s attention. A child will learn about America being ruled by Great Britain, in language easy to read and comprehend. In the section “Early Celebrations,” readers will learn that the first Independence Day was held in Boston, MA in 1783. The bolded glossary words will direct them to the resource page in the back. Readers are encouraged to take trips with their families, especially to Mount Rushmore in S. Dakota to view the faces of the four Presidents carved into the mountain. The National Archives Building in Washington, D.C. is not only free to tour, but also holds the Declaration of Independence. One of the things I learned in reading for this review is that there is a National Independence Day Parade held in Washington D.C., which just goes to show how universal the knowledge contained within this book is. I highly recommend it for grades K to 2, but whoever reads it will learn something that was probably previously forgotten. This is an educational book worth keeping at home, for home school, in public schools, and public libraries. My only problem with this book is the back cover indicates it as a Guided Reading: M, yet the title does not appear on the publisher’s web site for Guided Reading. 2010, Crabtree Publishing Company, $26.60 and $8.95. Ages 5 to 7. Reviewer: Debby Willett (Children's Literature).
ISBN: 9780778747727
ISBN: 9780778747543
ISBN: 0778747549

In 1776
Jean Marzollo
Illustrated by Steve Björkman
   Written in rhyming verse, this picture book briefly tells what led New World colonists to declare independence from the United Kingdom, fight a war for their freedom and form a new government and nation: The United States of America. Great Britain’s King George imposed one tax too many on his subjects and they rebelled. But, as Professor Barry O’Connell of Amherst College says, the fight for freedom and justice never ends. The watercolor illustrations are nice in a cartoonish sort of way. I did like the inclusion of three children as observers in many scenes of the story. The author mentions Thomas Jefferson writing the Declaration of Independence and quotes the part about all men being created equal, endowed with the rights of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. On July 4, 1776, the leaders in Philadelphia approved Jefferson’s document, which is why we celebrate on July 4th. The book makes a good jumping off place for discussing American history. 2009 (orig. 1994), Scholastic, $6.99. Ages 5 to 8. Reviewer: Sarah Maury Swan (Children's Literature).
ISBN: 9780545110730
ISBN: 0545110734

It’s Summer, Dear Dragon
Margaret Hillert
Illustrated by David Schimmell
   This is another book in the “Dear Dragon” series about the seasons, this time about summer, in which the boy explains to his pet dragon what he does at that time of year. He and his friends play in a backyard pool. His family has a picnic and he gets ice cream from the ice cream truck that drives through the streets. The boy puts on a uniform and his family drives to a park where he plays softball. Then they go to watch a fireworks display. The activities are colorfully illustrated but not described, and one of the “Reading Reinforcement” exercises at the back of the book suggests asking what holiday was being celebrated with the fireworks and what things the child or children like to do in the summer. The simple, often repeated words in the book are listed at the back as well. 2010, Norwood House Press, $14.95. Ages 5 to 7. Reviewer: Christine Cassello (Children's Literature).
ISBN: 9781599533131
ISBN: 1599533138

Pippa at the Parade
Karen Roosa
Illustrated Julie Fortenberry
   Pippa stands on the curb with her parents as she watches the parade. She taps her toes and claps her hands to the beat of the marching band. Some of the instruments featured include drums, trumpets, and trombones. Pippa marvels at gymnasts’ flips, the tall man on stilts, and a red balloon sailing into the blue sky. She eats pizza, popcorn, and a candy apple. Afterward Pippa goes to a carnival and wins a stuffed animal when she throws a ball threw a hoop. She and her parents watch fireworks flare in the evening air. At the close of her exciting day, her dad carries her home and tucks her into bed. The snappy text written in verse will engage listeners when the book is read aloud. Colorful illustrations add movement and joy as they show a loving family enjoying a special day together. 2009, Boyds Mills Press, $16.95. Ages 2 to 6. Reviewer: Phyllis Kennemer, Ph.D. (Children's Literature).
ISBN: 9781590785676
ISBN: 1590785673

Sunny Bunny Tales
   This book is included in the “Max and Ruby” series. This book is comprised of three short stories. The first story, titled “Grandma’s Berry Patch,” is about Max and Ruby’s attempt to help Grandma make a berry pie. The pair is supposed to gather raspberries, blueberries, and blackberries so that Grandma can make a pie. Ruby takes the job very seriously, but Max has other ideas for the berries. The second story included in this book is called “Max Cools Off.” Max wants to go swimming, but Ruby says they must water the plants and weed the garden first. Ruby tries to keep Max busy so that she can get the work done. She gives Max a shovel to dig for worms. Max has a different plan to cool off. When Ruby is not looking, Max digs a hole and fills it with water. The final story included in the book is titled “Max’s Fireflies.” On the Fourth of July, Ruby and her friend Louise are waiting at Grandma’s house for the fireworks to begin. Max thinks the fireflies in the yard are the fireworks. Max is very interested in the fireflies. When the girls go inside to get a flashlight, Max dumps out their lemonade so that he can collect fireflies in the empty bottle. Later, Max releases the fireflies creating a light show better than fireworks. Children will love the three stories as these beloved television characters have fun together. Ruby tries to guide Max into following her lead, but Max always has other ideas. Children will enjoy the funny illustrations and Max’s silly antics as sister Ruby tries to keep him on the right path. 2009, Grosset & Dunlap/Penguin Group, $4.99. Ages 2 to 5. Reviewer: Melissa Hower (Children's Literature).
ISBN: 9780448451725
ISBN: 9780448451725

To view 4th of July book reviews from previous years, click on the following link:


Added 06/25/10

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