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)
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.
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,
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.
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.