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America: A Patriotic Primer

Overview

America: A Patriotic Primer is a succinct history of the United States, an ABC of the principles on which this country was founded, and a book for children and families to pore over, discuss, and cherish.
A is for America,
the land that we love.
B is for the
Birthday
of this country of ours....
To choose the twenty-six people and ideas that...

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Overview

America: A Patriotic Primer is a succinct history of the United States, an ABC of the principles on which this country was founded, and a book for children and families to pore over, discuss, and cherish.
A is for America,
the land that we love.
B is for the
Birthday
of this country of ours....
To choose the twenty-six people and ideas that comprise the book, Lynne Cheney has drawn on a lifetime of learning about the American past, and on the inspiration that comes from witnessing recent history firsthand. Illustrator Robin Preiss Glasser imbues Mrs. Cheney's words with childlike joy through her exuberant drawings. Together they have created a patriotic primer, a book that teaches history by celebrating the diversity, tenacity, and faith of the American people.

This A to Z of America frames the story — and the miracle — of our country.

Each letter of the alphabet is represented by important people, ideas, and events in the history of the United States.

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  • Robin Preiss Glasser
    Robin Preiss Glasser  

Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble
The Barnes & Noble Review
Three cheers for the red, white, and blue! In this dazzling tribute to the good old U.S. of A., Lynne Cheney, noted author and spouse of Vice President Dick Cheney, guides us through the ABC's of America, giving us a lesson in our country by paying homage to the people and qualities that make up our great nation.

Chock-full of useful information and exuberant pictures, America: A Patriotic Primer paints an exciting and thorough portrait of the U.S. From A to Z, each letter is given a theme, framed with stylized borders that include historical quotes, bonus facts, and people of interest. Each spread is truly a feast. The letters E and F, for example, stand for "Equality and Freedom and the Flag that we fly." Focusing on schoolchildren, the spread shows a diverse group of kids and adults raising an American flag in front of their school, with a paragraph about equality and the Pledge of Allegiance alongside. As if this weren't enough, E's and F's borders are stuffed with information, giving a timeline of important dates in equal-rights history, flag facts, and directions on proper flag folding. The other 24 letters are just as impressive, and Cheney's introduction -- along with additional explanatory information in the back -- help round it all out.

Cheney's book is an excellent resource for children wanting to learn our country's basics. Not only does she tell what America stands for, she presents the fundamentals in a thoughtful and fair way. Readers will be seeing fireworks over Glasser's plentiful illustrations, too, which breathe additional life into Cheney's words. An ideal read for anyone dedicated to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. (Matt Warner)

Publishers Weekly
The Second Lady teams up with Glasser (the You Can't Take a Balloon series) to create this well-intentioned ("I wrote this book because I want my grandchildren to understand how blessed we are," writes Cheney in her introduction) if rather listless alphabet book celebrating the United States and its history. Rendered in ink, watercolor washes and colored pencil, Glasser's detailed, bustling art features multiple images on each spread and inventive borders containing pictures and brief factoids, yet the spreads have a slightly washed-out quality. The alphabetical entries include renowned individuals (Thomas Jefferson, Martin Luther King Jr., Abraham Lincoln), milestones in this country's history (The Constitution, The Declaration of Independence) and generic terms (heroes, ideals, oath, patriotism, suffrage, valor). As the alphabet winds down, Cheney strikes a sentimental note, drawing readers into her narrative with her assertion that "Y is for You and all you will be in this greatest of countries, the land of the free." Glasser then provides simulated snapshots of children with captions denoting their career aspirations (e.g., "future art critic" and "test pilot of tomorrow"). Although many of the anecdotes and quotations from presidents and other patriots appear in a tiny type face, children will likely pore over the pages to glean the interesting tidbits offered. Cheney's concluding notes provide details about some of the individuals or events mentioned on the prior pages. A competent though less than compelling tribute. FYI: The author's net proceeds from the sale of the book are being donated to the American Red Cross and to projects that foster appreciation of American history. A portion of the publisher's proceeds from the sale of the book will also be donated to the Red Cross. Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
Children's Literature
Using the ABCs as a jump-start, Cheney and Glasser review with pride and enthusiasm what makes America unique among nations. The book opens with A for America and B for Birthday of the nation in a double-page spread celebration. Letters stand for ideas such as Equality, Freedom, Ideals, Patriotism, and Suffrage; artifacts such as the Constitution; people such as Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln, Martin Luther King Jr, James Madison, Native Americans, and George Washington; and others such as X, which marks various key locations of historical events; and Q commemorating America's quest for "the new, the far, and the very best." In a wonderful and hopeful accolade to youth, Y is for You, "and all you will be in this greatest of countries, the land of the free" and is illustrated by trading-card-like images of children who are future art critics or test pilots and in various occupations-to-be. Cheney and Glasser work in a tremendous amount of information by decorative borders of names or quotes, multiple sidebars lavishly captioned, and a centered short paragraph balancing the letter. Each letter incorporates a modern American family, for instance, reading in bed on J for Jefferson's page, with Jefferson's well-known quote underlining the picture, "I cannot live without books." Thus readers are treated to numerous facts about Jefferson plus several quotes, a formula echoed on the facing page of K for King. The letter-vignette pictures a white child lifting up a younger brown child to have a drink at the fountain and the quote is "Let justice roll down like waters." Ronald Reagan is the only president of recent history to earn a spot in the text, with a quote. (Readers may want to check outAlice Provensen's well-designed The Buck Stops Here, published in 1990 to review presidents through Reagan). This carefully designed book invites readers of all ages to consider, in Cheney's words, "how blessed we are...to be part of a nation whose citizens enjoy liberty and opportunity such as have never been known before." There's a lot to learn here and Glasser's cheerful, cartoonish, black-line, colored pencil, and watercolor illustrations wear their research lightly but accurately. Endnotes on the text are extensive and include information about patriots, heroes, and aspects to further each letter's presentation. 2002, Simon & Schuster,
— Susan Hepler
School Library Journal
Gr 2-5-In this alphabetically arranged "Patriotic Primer," sample entries include "H is for Heroes and I for Ideals. Heroes remind us of our nation's ideals and how important it is to live up to them." Portrayed among the heroes, along with firefighters, teachers, and astronauts, are "elected leaders," which sounds uncomfortably self-serving coming from the wife of the vice president. For a country founded on the notion of the separation of church and state, God seems to pop up at every turn, even serving for the letter G: "for God in whom we trust." "P is for the Patriotism that fills our hearts with pride." Each letter is given at least a full page of captioned, informative drawings in ink, watercolor washes, and colored pencils. Quotes and facts frequently frame the oversized pages. "Notes on the Text" provides additional information. However, the final quote by Ronald Reagan and the large feel-good jacket photo of the author and a suitable rainbow array of children reinforce the feeling that this is a none-too-subtle paid political advertisement.-Dona Ratterree, New York City Public Schools Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
What does it mean to be an American? In her first effort for children, Cheney attempts to answer this question as well as encapsulate the entire history of the US through the familiar device of an alphabet book. Glasser's (You Can't Take a Balloon into the Museum of Fine Arts) cheerful watercolor-and-ink illustrations are the greatest strength of this ambitious project, with endearing children of all colors, kinds, and cultures, and dozens of historical figures and sites rendered in carefully researched detail. Each page or spread includes a topic sentence, several smaller related vignettes, a large initial letter framing a related illustration, and often a border incorporating a hand-lettered quotation. Packing all this information onto the page requires a crowded, busy design (a challenge met quite well by the designer), and some very small treatments of type, which are really too small for most children to read by themselves. The multiple illustrations on each page preclude reading the volume aloud to a group, although the information and the concepts will work well in elementary classrooms. The most likely use for this is for teachers and parents who want to teach their children about US history, citizenship, and patriotic concepts, probably focusing on just a few pages rather than the whole volume at once. Though the concept and busy design require some extra effort, this well-meant exploration of our history and heritage packs a huge amount of information between its covers.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780689851926
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster Books For Young Readers
  • Publication date: 5/21/2002
  • Pages: 40
  • Sales rank: 185,391
  • Age range: 3 months - 6 years
  • Lexile: IG840L (what's this?)
  • Product dimensions: 10.64 (w) x 10.90 (h) x 0.42 (d)

Meet the Author

Lynne Cheney

Lynne Cheney's most recent book is the New York Times bestseller, We the People: The Story of Our Constitution, illustrated by Greg Harlin. She is also the author of the New York Times bestsellers America: A Patriotic Primer, A is for Abigail: An Almanac of Amazing American Women, When Washington Crossed the Delaware: A Wintertime Story for Young Patriots, A Time for Freedom: What Happened When in America, and Our 50 States: A Family Adventure Across America, and has written a memoir, Blue Skies, No Fences. Mrs. Cheney is a senior fellow at the American Enterprise Institute and former chair of the National Endowment for the Humanities. She lives in Washington, D.C., with her husband, Vice President Richard B. Cheney.

Robin Preiss Glasser is the #1 New York Times bestselling illustrator of the Fancy Nancy series, written by Jane O’Connor; America: A Patriotic Primer, A is for Abigail, and Our Fifty States by Lynne Cheney, and Tea for Ruby by Sarah Ferguson, the Duchess of York. She lives in Southern California with her family.

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Interviews & Essays

A Conversation with Lynne Cheney
Q: How did you get the idea for this book?

A: I started thinking about it during the 2000 campaign, jotting ideas down on anything that came to hand, the margins of newspapers, scraps of paper. The campaign was such a lesson in America. Seeing the great cities and the natural beauty of the country, meeting people from all across the land, I found myself so deeply moved, time and again. I love this country and there is so much about it to love, and I wanted to make sure that my grandchildren -- that all children -- understand that.

Q: How did you decide what each letter stood for?

A: Some of the letters just fell into place. A is for America, of course. C has been the Constitution from the first moment and D the Declaration of Independence and J for Jefferson, K for Martin Luther King, L for Lincoln, M for Madison. Some of the others evolved. In the beginning Q was for Question, "the greatest question ever debated," in James Madison's words, and that was whether this country would become free and independent. But that gradually evolved into Quest -- "America's Quest for the new, the far, and the very best" -- which gave me an opportunity to talk about everything from our amazing achievements in sports and in the arts to our exploration of space.

Q: How did Robin Glasser become the illustrator for the book?

A: When I started talking about doing a children's book, friends brought me other children's books to look at and so did Brenda Bowen, who became the book's editor at Simon & Schuster. I loved Robin's drawings from the moment I laid eyes on them. They are so joyful. She also manages to get a lot of visual information on each page, and I liked that. There's a lot to tell about America.

Q: How did you and Robin work together?

A: It was a wonderful collaboration. I provided the basic framework and then we both began to fill it in. Robin came up with ideas and so did her sister, Jacqueline Weiss, who served as her research assistant. Robin lives in California, and over the months we were working on the book, we were in almost daily contact by e-mail and fax. Both of us spent days, evenings, and weekends on this project, but it never felt like a burden to either of us. It was so inspiring to work on this book.

Q: Was anyone else involved in the project?

A: I talked about this book with so many people that friends started coming up with ideas for it. V for a while was for Valley Forge. I wanted to talk about the sacrifices that people have made for freedom. A friend suggested that a better way to do that would be to make V for Valor, and thus it is. Robin came up with the idea of using the Congressional Medal of Honor to frame the page. My research assistant at the American Enterprise Institute, Stephanie Lundberg, and I came up with the idea of putting Congressional Medal of Honor recipients in the page's border. I believe Molly Pitcher was Robin's inspiration. I wanted the 54th Massachusetts Regiment, the African-American unit that fought with such valor in the Civil War, and the 442nd Regimental Combat Team, the Japanese-American unit so highly decorated in World War II, on the page.

Q: Was the Vice President helpful?

A: Very. He's a serious student of history, particularly military history, and I turned to him from time to time. He and I were watching the HBO series Band of Brothers while I was working on the V page, which inspired me to put the World War II paratroopers there. The Vice President recommended that we illustrate the Enterprise, the aircraft carrier so important at the Battle of Midway in World War II. I remember his describing how effective it was in that battle and how it began the war and ended the war and went all through the Pacific. Stephanie and Robin and I had quite a time coming up with a picture that showed what the Enterprise looked like with planes on its deck. I believe Stephanie is the one who succeeded.

Q: How did you do the research?

A: I'm a book person. When I was working on the W is for Washington page I had biographies of Washington and histories of the Revolutionary War piled up everywhere. Fortunately over the years, Dick and I have gathered quite a library, but whatever order it had when I started this project has been totally disrupted. I also sought expert opinion like that of Bob Goldwin, one of my colleagues at the American Enterprise Institute who is deeply knowledgeable about the founding period. I would call him and ask, "Is it okay to say that our Constitution is the oldest written constitution in the world today?" And he would advise that I'd better insert "national" in that description. Stephanie Lundberg, my research assistant, was a great help. If you ask her when Jefferson proclaimed that he couldn't live without books, she'll have the answer for you in two minutes.

Q: Who is the audience for this book?

A: It's a children's book, but it's for parents and teachers, too. I think its best use will be when adults and children read and talk about it together. Reading experts talk about "dialogic reading" as a way of teaching reading that is particularly effective. Instead of just reading words while the child listens, you read a little bit, then talk about what you've read and about other things on the page that interest the child. This is a perfect book for that.

Q: Are there any surprises in this book?

A: Not surprises, exactly, but discoveries that children and their parents might make after several readings. On the C (is for Constitution) page, the illustration around the letter C shows three children playing jump rope. Why three, careful readers might ask? And the answer, which they could figure out from the material at the back of the book, is that the Constitution established three branches of government. The three branches work together just as the three children play together.

Q: How did September 11th affect the book?

A: It made it more important to me. This is a book that helps little kids understand the principles our country is based on, the ideas that underlie our freedom. When we are under attack, it's particularly important that the next generation understand the foundations of our liberty.

On the opening page, which shows a Fourth of July celebration in New York harbor, there's a banner with words from "America the Beautiful": "Thine alabaster cities gleam undimmed by human tears!" To this day I can't read that without choking up.

Q: What do your grandchildren think about the book?

A: They're fascinated by it. I can't wait to get a real copy of it for them. They know a lot about American history already. The seven-year-old can tell you quite a bit about George Washington. And she's been to Frederick Douglass's home. She and her four-year-old sister, who sings a great "God Bless America," are going to have a wonderful time exploring this book. And I suspect when the two-year-old sees all of us reading it, she'll want to take part too.

Q: Have you written history for children before?

A: When I first started writing years and years ago, I did a few things for children. One I remember was the story of Elizabeth Blackwell, the first woman doctor. Over the years I've written history for a variety of magazines, including Smithsonian and American Heritage. I wrote a book about important historical figures in the House of Representatives with my husband when he was a congressman from Wyoming. It was called Kings of the Hill. I wrote about history often when I was chairman of the National Endowment for the Humanities. My point was that we need to do a better job of conveying our national story to the next generation. I still speak about that today -- and I hope that America: A Patriotic Primer will go some way to help accomplish that.

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Sort by: Showing all of 12 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted June 3, 2002

    Appreciate what you've got

    I saw this book in the store and it stands for everything I've found after surviving a war of true hatred.This country has given me the freedom to raise my children and the ability to dream and work towards achieving those dreams.I was given the gift of a new life and have appreciated it all these years. Thank you, Mrs. Cheney, for writing a book that might explain to the younger generation why they should take care of this country.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 21, 2005

    A Glowing Tribute to a Mighty Nation

    'We live in a land of shining cities and natural splendors, a beautiful land made more beautiful still by our commitment to freedom. I wrote this book because I want my grandchildren to...know they are part of a nation whose citizens enjoy liberty and opportunity such as have never been known before.' So says Lynne Cheney in America: A Patriotic Primer. America is an enormously complex topic to cover, but Cheney does an admirable job. Using an alphabet format ('E is for Equality), the author manages to cover a lot of ground and do it well. Children will read about concepts such as tolerance and freedom; about leaders, from Native Americans, Founders Fathers and suffragettes to presidents and Martin Luther King; and about important places, such as Ellis Island and Yorktown. The 'Concluding Notes' provide more in-depth information about the people and events mentioned, and even the Bill of Rights. Mrs. Cheney hopes not only that children will enjoy it themselves, but also 'that it will most often be read and discussed by parents and children together.' Robin Preiss Glasser's illustrations and border drawings are a treat. Fascinating in themselves, they keep discrete pieces of information clearly separate, yet bring a cohesiveness to the book. Those who enjoy America: A Patriotic Primer might also enjoy a book entitled: Ruby Lee the Bumble Bee - A Bee's Bit of Wisdom, in which a young girl learns an important lesson about meeting life's challenges with courage and faith. Books like America: A Patriotic Primer and Ruby Lee the Bumble Bee are valuable tools for teaching children the importance of developing a strong character - the same sort of character upon which this great country was founded.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 5, 2002

    'P' is for pass this up

    Wait until your children are older and then give them Howard Zinn's A People's History of the United States. Despite the gloss of tolerance, too many details are omitted to provide anything close to a reasonable primer. For example, Native Americans are mentioned as having been here first. Yup, but why are there so few now? Ms. Cheney is silent. I'm not one for white liberal guilt, but history is history, doggone it.

    0 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 5, 2002

    A Timely Tribute to the Bright Shining City on the Hill!

    Mrs. Cheney has written a powerful and timely tribute to the Spirit and Ideals of America! The wife and life partner of our Vice President has greatly contributed to the restoration of values and integrity in our Executive Branch of Government. This is a must read for all American children, and a timely rebuttal to a liberal educational system that has downplayed the contributions of our Founding Fathers and opted for a politically correct revisionist history of this Bright Shining City on the Hill.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 23, 2002

    Fun way to introduce important values!

    Is there room for politics on a child's bookshelf? You bet there is! Our children need to understand the great ideals that brought about the birth of our democracy and to understand the values we are fighting for in a difficult world. AMERICA: A PATRIOTIC PRIMER does just this in a very entertaining format. There is so much to look at on each page, both visually and information-wise. In our first reading, we only got up to 'S is for Suffragettes' because we stopped so often to talk about the concepts and principles presented. I especially loved the cover illustration, and went directly to the internet to show my daughter the famous photo it mimics. I will be giving this book to all the families coming to my annual 4th of July picnic this year. A real find.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 29, 2002

    Patriotic Primer is 'Politically Correct' America

    If I wanted to indoctrinate my child into 'political correctness' I would buy this book and read it to them nightly. It is also historically inaccurate stating that Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation freed African-Americans in the Confederacy. The Emancipation Proclamation did not free any slave anywhere. Lincoln had no authority in the Confederacy and he had no authority as President to free any slave. Only with the passage of the 13th amendment did slavery end in America. There are lots of good books offered by Barnes and Noble for children than this one. Don't waste your money on this one.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 31, 2002

    I learned this in school

    I liked this book because I learned about the Declaration of Independance and Constitution in school this year and this book was more fun than my teacher. I liked the flag page because I never knew how it gets to be a triangle. I liked it.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 3, 2002

    No, thanx, Mrs Cheney

    'P is for the Patriotism - that fills our hearts with pride' 'R is for the Rights we are guaranteed: The right to keep and wear arms' - all you have to know about the tendency of this book. Mrs. Cheney, America is a beautiful country, yes - but it is not 'the beautiful' you are describing. When will you understand?? Write books about other countries - make your children understand what happens in the rest of the world. That's what they need - now, more then ever before! 'We will be an inspiration to the world'...?!? No, thanx!

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 27, 2002

    Well done Mrs. Chaney

    What a wonderful concept of having parents reading to their children about our great nation. This book is beautifully written and illustrated. Mrs.Chaney's work includes many little factoids that even adults may not have known prior to reading this.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 3, 2002

    America: A Patriotic Primer

    I have always associated Mrs. Cheney with conservative politics. I could not imagine her writing a book covering American history that I would not find distasteful for professing conservative philosophy. My liberal soul stood ready to detest whatever she wrote sight unseen. The first lesson I learned from this book is that 'T is for Tolerance' as I truly regret my liberal snobbery. This book should not be seen as authored by a conservative writer, but merely as one written by an American, one that truly loves America, American values, and America's promise through its children. Rightly, no political viewpoint is taken, other than professing the greatness of our history and the profundity of our ideals. This is a book best read with your child not as a story book from cover to cover, but rather to be savored in an unhurried fashion jumping from place to place. I think it is best to let one of Ms. Glasser's wonderful cheerful illustrations draw your child in and then let the discussion go from there.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 3, 2002

    America: A Patriotic Primer

    I am not sure what one is supposed to say in a review, but I found this book so special that I needed to say something to encourage others to read it with their children. Many within the group of mothers I have talked to after 9/11 are at such a loss in making our children understand what happened, what was at stake, what it all meant, and what it means to live in a free country. Thanks to Glasser's extraordinary colorful and beautifully illustrated pages, the book's irrepressible heart and pride speak to my children in a way that, so far, my talks have not been able to accomplish. Mrs. Cheney is able to articulate the book in a way that translates the depth of her love for America and its children into tangible concepts and images that I think should reach even the youngest Americans. In reading the book, you probably will find a favorite character or letter or two that has a special meaning to you. The favorite for my group was the statue of the Minute Man. His tough, handsome, chiseled features standing strong and resolute against those that would strike against America's freedom symbolizes all that America stands for and what I think we must teach our children well.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 14, 2009

    No text was provided for this review.

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