In Thomson's (The Dragon's Son) first picture book, she unfolds a history of the American flag, with a September 11 tie-in. The narrative tends to state the obvious, e.g., "You can see the flag at schools and at post offices, in town squares, and at baseball games. You can see flags in parades on the Fourth of July." Despite the rather bland presentation, many facts will intrigue readers, especially those who were raised on the story of Betsy Ross's flag-making (an endnote disputes Ross's contributions). Thomson states that in 1776 George Washington flew a flag that paired 13 red and white stripes with a small copy of the Union Jack; when, two years into the Revolutionary War, the Continental Congress decided that America should have a single flag, it supplied guidelines but no specifics for its design, leaving the configuration of stars and stripes subject to individual interpretation. While older readers may find some information elementary (e.g., "In the end the Americans won [the Revolutionary War]. The thirteen colonies became the United States of America"), they will enjoy descriptions of variant flags, many of which the artwork depicts. Dacey and Bandelin (previously teamed for Miriam's Cup: A Passover Story) favor a stirring, representational style, showing dramatic scenes of Francis Scott Key writing as bombs burst in the air outside his windows; Old Glory rippling in the wind; Olympic athletes draped in the flag; etc. The account ends with the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, and the widespread displays of the flag in response. With its teacherly approach, this book may be chiefly institutional in its appeal. Ages 4-8. (June) Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Flags, flags, everywhere! Students may well wonder what the flag means and how it came to be. Author Thompson and illustrators Dacey and Bandelin address these questions with a short history of the flag and a chronicle of its changes through the years. Most of the story concentrates on the early development of the flag before and after the Revolutionary War, providing opportunities for bright, bold illustrations of the various banners used before the Stars and Stripes was standardized. Especially effective are the pictures of Washington watching from horseback as a new flag is raised over a log fort, and of Francis Scott Key on a British ship, immersed in his writing while a minuscule American flag can be glimpsed on the shore. Peacetime uses of the flag are also shown; for example, the bright banners snapping behind Olympic athletes and the tiny flag sewn to the sleeve of a rescue worker. The author concludes with the politically neutral message that flags flying now express the faith and hope that Americans have in their country. Some short notes add helpful historical details, and an afterword about Betsy Ross explains that we can't really know who made the first American flag. With its attractive illustrations dominated by a glowing scarlet, this is an appealing, yet factual, book that can help children understand that the current passion for displaying the flag has deep historical roots. 2003, HarperCollins, Talcroft
School Library Journal
Gr 2-4-With an endnote that debunks the Betsy Ross story, this tribute to the "Stars and Stripes" traces the history of our current national banner and shows the changes it underwent during various times in our political past. Beginning with the pre-Revolutionary "Sons of Liberty" flag and concluding with the flags flown after 9/11, Thomson's concise yet clear explanations provide interesting background information and clarify misconceptions about Old Glory. Chronologically arranged, the text is straightforward, easy to follow, and supplemented by a page of notes that adds important details about specific flags. The full-page acrylic spreads provide appropriate backgrounds for the featured banners. For instance, when discussing the stars, stripes, and Union Jack that combined to make the first Revolutionary War standard, the painting features George Washington astride his horse watching two Colonials raising the flag near his army's camp. A later page that tells of the Continental Congress's attempts at choosing a final form for the flag is illustrated with pieces of fabric, thread, and other sewing materials poised for their assembly into the "Stars and Stripes." Each painting is filled with movement, vivid colors, and realistic details. Much simpler and for a younger audience than either Leonard Everett Fisher's Stars and Stripes: Our National Flag (Holiday, 1993; o.p.) or Dennis Brindell Fradin's The Flag of the United States (Children's, 1988; o.p.), this is a solid choice for introducing the history of both our flag and our country. Pair it with Peter Spier's classic rendition in The Star-Spangled Banner (Yearling, 1992) for a 21-gun patriotic salute.-Nancy Menaldi-Scanlan, LaSalle Academy, Providence, RI Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Sarah L. Thomson is the author of Stars and Stripes: The Story of the American Flag, a Nebraska Golden Sower Award finalist; all the Wildlife Conservation Society I Can Read Books, including Amazing Tigers!, winner of an Oppenheim Toy Portfolio Gold Seal Award; and What Lincoln Said, written with "admirable simplicity" (ALA Booklist). Sarah lives in Portland, Maine.
Bob Dacey and Debra Bandelin's first picture book collaboration was Miriam's Cup: A Passover Story by Fran Manushkin, a Book-of-the-Month-Club selection. Their numerous awards in illustration and design include gold and silver medals from the New York Society of illustrators. They have been married for ten years and live in upstate New York.