A Land of Big Dreamers: Voices of Courage in America


From the time Thomas Jefferson wrote "all men are created equal" in 1776, equality has been important to our nation. Yet for much of our history, women, African Americans, Native Americans, and other groups faced unfair treatment. In each generation, brave people who shared Jefferson's dream have spoken out. Over the years, America's dreamers have brought about dramatic changes.In this inspiring book, Neil Waldman honors thirteen Americans who stood up for their beliefs of equality and justice. Many of these ...

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From the time Thomas Jefferson wrote "all men are created equal" in 1776, equality has been important to our nation. Yet for much of our history, women, African Americans, Native Americans, and other groups faced unfair treatment. In each generation, brave people who shared Jefferson's dream have spoken out. Over the years, America's dreamers have brought about dramatic changes.In this inspiring book, Neil Waldman honors thirteen Americans who stood up for their beliefs of equality and justice. Many of these brave leaders did not live to see their dreams come true, but each, in his or her own way, achieved a victory that took the nation a giant step ahead toward achieving Jefferson's ideal.

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Editorial Reviews

Children's Literature - Margaret Orto
In this handsome book, artist Neil Waldman features thirteen Americans who stood up for their beliefs in equality and justice thereby leaving a profound imprint on the history of the nation. Beginning with Thomas Jefferson and ending with Barack Obama, the men and women selected span American history. The selection is thoughtful and includes some standard choices such as Abraham Lincoln, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Rosa Parks. Other, less expected, though well-selected choices include Sitting Bull, Emma Lazarus, Rachel Carson, and Cesar Chavez. A double page spread is devoted to each of the selected Americans and includes a portrait of that person, a quote, and a description of the landmark work of the selected figure as well as their legacy. Watercolor portraits are sensitively drawn and several include insets detailing the work for which that person is best known or placing them in an appropriate setting offering further visual understanding of the figure's importance. Brief appended biographies and source notes at the back of the book provide details for further research. Reviewer: Margaret Orto
Kirkus Reviews

Thirteen prominent American men and women are briefly profiled in this collection. Chronologically ranging from Thomas Jefferson to Barack Obama, each entry features an inspiring quote from its subject and a concise explanation of his or her context in history. Opposite each page of text is a watercolor painting by the author depicting an image or montage of the notable individual and illustrating the work they achieved or how they lived. Each one evokes the emotions the book is meant to inspire: courage, strength and determination. Franklin Roosevelt gazes reassuringly out at readers above a line of hungry people at a soup kitchen; Rachel Carson smiles at readers against a picture of a soaring bald eagle and an inset of her peering into a microscope. The selection includes four women and five male ethnic minorities. Almost all are familiar faces in collective biographies, including Abraham Lincoln, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Rosa Parks, but some names may be new to young readers, such as Emma Lazarus and Cesar Chavez. Included in the backmatter are thumbnail biographies of each figure and a list of source notes. The profiles are indeed inspiring, and younger readers will likely learn something new. For deeper research, students will have to look elsewhere but could use this book as an excellent starting point. (Collective biography. 8-11)

School Library Journal
Gr 3–6—Waldman has chosen 13 Americans whose words and actions have brought them to the forefront of the fight for equality and justice in this country. From Thomas Jefferson's writing of the Declaration of Independence to Rachel Carson and her landmark research on environmental degradation, these individuals have proven to be inspirational to the world. Others included are Cesar Chavez and his work with migrant farm workers, Frederick Douglass's passionate fight for the abolition of slavery, and Sitting Bull's attempts to make peace between the Sioux and the whites. Most of the choices are predictable, with the possible exception of Emma Lazarus and her poem on the Statue of Liberty. The annotations are fairly brief with additional biographical information included at the end of the book. The text is organized chronologically and highlighted by words taken from speeches or personal writings from a given year, so Rosa Parks's entry at 1990 was initially baffling, but her autobiography was published that year. Still, it might be confusing for students who consider her part of the early Civil Rights Movement. The accompanying watercolor portraits of the individuals are attractive but generally static, offering little in the way of further information or visual interest. Jane B. Zalben's Paths to Peace (Dutton, 2006) offers more depth on several of the same individuals.—Jody Kopple, Shady Hill School, Cambridge, MA
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780822568100
  • Publisher: Lerner Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 3/1/2011
  • Format: Library Binding
  • Pages: 32
  • Sales rank: 1,560,937
  • Age range: 8 - 11 Years
  • Lexile: NC1190L (what's this?)
  • Product dimensions: 9.40 (w) x 11.10 (h) x 0.50 (d)

Meet the Author

Neil Waldman's books have won the ALA Notable Award, the Parents Choice Award, the Christopher Award, the National Jewish Book Award, and many others. His jacket illustrations have appeared on seven Newbery Award winners, including Hatchet by Gary Paulsen and A Fine White Dust by Cynthia Rylant. Neil's titles include: The Starry Night, They Came From the Bronx, Out of the Shadows: An Artist's Journey, America the Beautiful, and Voyages: Reminiscences of Young Abe Lincoln.

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Sort by: Showing 1 Customer Reviews
  • Posted April 23, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    Excellent overview of American dreamers

    Thomas Jefferson had hopes that America would indeed be a country that would have a dream. The first words of the Declaration of Independence, "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal .," were a reflection of his hopes for our new nation, yet that dream would not come to pass, at least not in his lifetime. Others would fight for the right to vote, hold hopes that those who set foot on our shores would be welcome, and demand an end to slavery and the oppression of mankind. Throughout the years, individuals have stepped forth and made their mark on history in an attempt to ensure that Jefferson's dream would come to pass. Each step they made enabled others to live in peace and comfort in some way that previously had been denied them. Rosa Parks was a black seamstress who "defied the law by refusing to give up her bus seat to a white passenger." Her courage and determination began the civil rights movement in 1955. Rosa later maintained, "I would like to be known as a person who is concerned about freedom and equality and justice and prosperity for all people." Her voice echoed Thomas Jefferson's sentiment. There were many others who contributed in their own way toward that equality. These pages swirl with their stories as they strived to help others. In this book we hear the voices of Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Frederick Douglass, Sitting Bull, Abraham Lincoln, Emma Lazarus, Franklin D. Roosevelt, John R. Kennedy, Rachel Carson, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Cesar Chavez, and Barack Obama. The words and voices of "thirteen great Americans" echo the dreams of the founding fathers of America. Each portrait is prefaced by a quotation that expresses what the individual believed in and fought for. Students will read a brief biographical sketch on one page and see a visual expression of who the person was. For example, when we learn about Franklin D. Roosevelt, we can see people standing in line for free soup. Beside Franklin is a political pin that expresses the fact that he was "For A New Deal." The watercolors are very impressive in that they catch a person and moment in history that has changed the tapestry of America forever. In the back of the book is additional information about the "Big Dreamers" and additional source notes students may wish to explore if they want to make a report. Quill says: This is an excellent overview of American dreamers who stood up for their beliefs, a book that would be an excellent choice for any homeschool, classroom, or library shelf.

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