Kiddosphere: Go Fourth: With Books for the Fourth of July!

Posted by Aaron on

History buffs often have a “favorite” time period or country for studying. For many, it’s the Civil War. Others read copiously about World War II. For me, it’s the American Revolution (and American history in general). I love reading about not only our Founding Fathers (and Mothers!) but also about everyday men and women during this tumultuous time period. Here are my favorite books about the holiday and the Revolution:

Alexander Hamilton: From Orphan to Founding Father by Monica Kulling. Illustrated by Valerio Fabbretti book cover Hamilton (the musical) has renewed interest in our first Secretary of Commerce, which has in turn produced a number of books about this fascinating man. If you don’t feel like tackling Rob Chernow’s compelling yet massive biography (upon which the musical is based) try Alexander Hamilton: From Orphan to Founding Father (an easy reader) or Alexander Hamilton: The Making of America (a children’s biography) for a more in-depth perspective. (And if you loved Chernow’s Hamilton biography, you must read his even better, in my opinion, George Washington biography. He also has a Ulysses S. Grant biography coming out this fall–cannot wait! Yes, I’m a presidential history nerd.)

The more you learn about the American Revolution, the more you learn that many people took part in the struggle: African Americans, women and immigrants included. Answering the Cry for Freedom: Stories of African Americans and the American Revolution is an amazing read about the role African Americans, both enslaved and free, played during the Revolution. America’s Black Founders; Revolutionary Heroes and Early Leaders and Liberty or Death: The Surprising Story of Runaway Slaves Who Sided With the British are also must reads for those looking for more information on African-American involvement with the Revolution.

Apple Pie Fourth of July is one of a recent number of picture books celebrating both inclusion and diversity on American holidays (Duck for Turkey Day is one of my favorite Thanksgiving stories). A young Chinese-American girl frets about her parents cooking Chinese food at their store for the Fourth of July. Everybody wants hot dogs and hamburgers, right? Turns out…maybe not, as the people along the parade route enjoy her parents’ delicious cooking.

A picnic with family and friends is a fabulous way to celebrate the 4th, as Celebration joyfully depicts. An African-American family gathers in young Maggie’s backyard for a day filled with food, fun and family (not to mention splashing in the pool!).

It’s common to think that only American-born descendants of British colonists fought in the Revolution, but that’s simply not true! Everybody’s Revolution is an eye-opening and memorable look at the African-Americans, women, Native Americans, Hispanic Americans, Jewish Americans and other immigrants involvement in the war. One of my top favorite reads on the Revolution!
Gingerbread for Liberty! How a German Baker Helped Win the American Revolution by Mara Rockliff. Pictures by Vincent X. Kirsch book cover

Gingerbread for Liberty! How a German Baker Helped Win the American Revolution is a spirited reminder that not all Revolutionary heroes served by firing cannons. In fact, one German immigrant, named Christopher Ludwick, served his country (via General Washington’s hungry troops) with his delicious gingerbread!

France was a powerful ally during the American Revolution, notably in the form of the Marquis de Lafayette. Lafayette and the American Revolution is one of master historian Russell Freedman’s greatest books; it brings this colorful and enigmatic Frenchman to life.

I doubt Lin Manuel Miranda is interested in another Revolutionary War era musical, but if anyone else is…could I put in a plug for a Benedict Arnold/George Washington musical (or movie)? While it doesn’t have the pathos of a tragic early death (both men lived into their 60s, albeit Arnold living in exile), it has treason, espionage and the downfall of a brilliant war hero. The Notorious Benedict Arnold is an incredible read!

“Listen my children and you shall hear/Of the midnight ride of Paul Revere.” To be fair, Longfellow’s poem is not really historically accurate (same for his Evangeline poem and The Song of Hiawatha). However, I’m all for cultural literacy, so I’m including Paul Revere’s Ride (unlike other classic poems typically read to children, such as A Visit From St. Nicholas/The Night Before Christmas and Casey at the Bat, its vocabulary isn’t as archaic). After enjoying the beauty of this American classic, check out Jean Fritz’s And Then What Happened, Paul Revere?, The Many Rides of Paul Revere or the informative Paul Revere House site.

Can we just say that colonial/Revolutionary War era women were awesome? Because they were! The Extraordinary Suzy Wright, the indomitable Abigail Adams, Phillis Wheatley and the women nicknamed Molly Pitcher are humbling examples of women’s lives during this unique era. Although the story of Molly Pitcher passed down through generations might be a composite of several women, Mary (Molly) Hays is probably the most accurate representation. They Called Her Molly Pitcher relates Mary’s bravery during Revolutionary War battles, including firing cannons when her husband and other soldiers were injured.

The Virginia GIant: The True Story of Peter Francisco by Sherry Norfolk & Bobby Norfolk ; illustrations by Cait Brennan book cover

Ever heard of Peter Francisco, the Portuguese immigrant hailed by General Washington for winning two crucial battles? I certainly hadn’t until I read The Virginia Giant, a rollicking nearly “tall tale” biography of an intriguing hero that separate folklore from fact.

Yankee Doodle is an iconic song for Independence Day, but did you know that the British sang it in jest about the American troops (their intent was to slam the troops as being foolish un-masculine hicks)? In true American fashion, Americans adopted it and added lyrics insulting the British and praising General Washington (and in epic troll form, Lafayette ordered the troops to play the song when the British surrendered at Yorktown). Steve Kellogg’s illustrated edition of the iconic song is a perfect addition to a July 4th read aloud.

Want some books about summer time fun? Check out Fun in the Sun: Books for Summertime Reading on the ALSC blog.

Happy Fourth!

For program highlights and staff suggestions for children and young adult readers, make Kiddosphere your source for all the latest on what to read and what to do for kids!

Jennifer Schultz, Youth Services Librarian, Fauquier County Public Library

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