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Children's LiteratureIn a narrative account of the making of the flag upon which Frances Scott Key based "The Star Spangled Banner," Bartoletti has given life to a 12-year-old girl, Caroline Pickersgill and her mother, Mary, who sewed the huge flag. Commissioned by Fort McHenry military so that it could be seen at a distance, the flag took the efforts of the two plus grandmother and cousins, a house servant, and a slave, before it could be completed six weeks later. While the flag-makers continued their trade, this flag flew at the mouth of the Baltimore harbor and stood throughout a September siege following the British burning of Washington. While Caroline watches many nights to see that the flag was still there, an author's note states what is true and what is imagined: no one knows, for instance, if Caroline could see the flag from her house, and it is not clear who sewed on the flag, but it is likely the whole household was involved. In addition to this note, six flag facts include the all-important dimensions, plus notes on the refurbishing of the once tattered flag. Nivola's watercolor and gouache illustrations create accurate and uncluttered city settings and some indicators of Baltimore daily life in the early 1800s. Intimate interiors, the vast malt house floor where the final sewing of the stars and stripes took place, and the sweep of the harbor all provide visual drama. The book is just right for fourth and fifth grade American history studies, but it stands on its own, too, as a look at women's entrepreneurial lives at the time. 2004, Houghton Mifflin, Ages 7 to 11.
—Susan Hepler, Ph.D.