Consider spending segments of September 11 commemorating our nation with books that celebrate American heritage, culture, and people. (To go back to Judy Freeman's Booktalk, click here
By Elisa Bartone; illustrated by Ted Lewin. Harper Collins, 1996 (K4).
Humiliated when other girls taunt her for not being American enough, Rosina decides both to change her name to Rosie and to stop speaking Italian in this turn-of-the-century New York story.
The American Wei
By Marion Hess Pomeranc; illustrated by DyAnne DiSalvo-Ryan. Albert Whitman, 1998 (K3).
On the day he is to become an American citizen, young Wei Fong loses his first tooth, dropping it outside the federal courthouse right before the solemn naturalization ceremony is about to begin.
Davy Crockett Saves the World
By Rosalyn Schanzer. HarperCollins, 2001 (K3).
In this literary tall tale, Tennessee frontiersman Davy Crockett is enlisted by the President of the United States to pull the tail off Halley's Comet in order to prevent it from crashing into the Earth.
By Allan Drummond. Farrar, 2002 (PreK3).
A young boy colorfully describes how he helped give the signal that unveiled the face of the Statue of Liberty to all the people of New York City on the day of its dedication back in 1886.
By Barbara Cooney. Viking, 1982 (K6).
Miss Rumphius casts lupine seeds up and down the Maine coast to honor her grandfather's request that she do something to make the world-or at least her corner of it-more beautiful.
Nonfiction and Folklore
By Louise Borden; illustrated by Stacey Schuett. McElderry, 2002 (K4).
This handsome, over-sized picture book takes a look at what America means to people throughout the country. It also offers a message: "We are the nation whose name means freedom to people all over the world."
America the Beautiful
By Katharine Lee Bates; illustrated by Neil Waldman. Aladdin, 2002 (PreK6).
Take a dazzling tour of 14 U.S. monuments
and natural wonders, painted in gorgeous pastel acrylics.
America: A Patriotic Primer
By Lynne Cheney; illustrated by Robin Preiss Glasser. Simon & Schuster, 2002 (K4).
Glasser's ornate, oversized watercolors and pen-and-ink drawings provide a memorable backdrop to an alphabetical description of the heroes, history, and ideals that unite the states of America as one nation.
American Tall Tales
By Mary Pope Osborne; illustrated by Michael McCurdy. Knopf, 1991 (Gr. 36).
The exploits of nine American folklore characters are accompanied by historical explanations of how each became part of our national heritage.
Activities to Enjoy
- Discuss what it means to be an American. Do you have to be born here? Why is it a privilege to live in America? Have students write and illustrate an ending to the sentence, "America is..."
- Invite students to ask parents or grandparents to tell them a story from their own childhood or country of origin. Compile a book of the folklore your students collect.
- After sharing America: A Patriotic Primer, have your students compose and illustrate their own class Alphabet of America, with a new word for each letter.
- In Barbara Cooney's Miss Rumphius, the title character knows she must do something to make the world beautiful. Ask your children to reflect upon what they'd like to achieve in their lives, and how they might reach their goals.
- What qualities make up a tall-tale hero? What kinds of acts do they perform? Discuss their exploits, and then have children write new tall tales, either featuring traditional characters like Davy Crockett, or new ones who resolve modern-day problems and disasters.