In this fifth entry in the What Does It Mean to Be series, a bright-eyed girl and her biracial parents—who are sworn in as citizens in the book’s final spread—experience and exemplify the promise of America. DiOrio and Yoran point out that being American isn’t a matter of address or appreciation of fast food and fireworks; instead, it’s about volunteering, working hard to achieve dreams, “follow the same rules,” and “appreciating that our differences make us kinder, smarter, healthier, and stronger.” Mata’s cheery vignettes have a sprightly specificity and a strong sense of human connection that lifts them above the usual patriotic depictions; her settings are both familiar (the Statue of Liberty, a redwood grove) and fresh (the wedding of a Jewish groom and an Indian bride). Noteworthy for its unabashed open-heartedness and its insistence that there is common ground. An author’s note and discussion guide are included. Ages 4–up. (Apr.)
From the Publisher
"With engaging illustrations and an accessible text, What Does It Mean to Be American? orients children to the spirit of our inclusive, optimistic country. This book is a great way to teach kids about some of our country's most important commitments." - Ganesh Sitaraman, author of The Crisis of the Middle-Class Constitution: Why Economic Inequality Threatens Our Republic, one of The New York Times' 100 Notable Books of 2017
"Beautifully written and vividly illustrated, this book is a great starting point for kids of all ages to ponder what being an American means to them and the common bonds that unite us all." - U.S. Senator Jack Reed
"The multicultural people pictured throughout the richly hued pages are ethical, caring, and aware of their responsibilities as citizens. There is a hopeful, uplifting tone, matched by the illustrations' rosy portrayal of the United States" - Kirkus Reviews
"Mom's Choice Award Winner" -
"Reading this book with my young children and following the lessons learned will mold them into the Americans I want them to be." - Alejandro Villanueva, Pro Bowl NFL player, former US Army Ranger and decorated veteran of Afghanistan, and first generation American
"I'm absolutely in love with What Does it Mean to Be American? Written by author, entrepreneur and mom Rana DiOrio along with former US Army paratrooper turned military cyber-securiity expert and dad of four, Elad Yoran, the result is truly something special. What Does It Mean to Be American dives into a complex topic with thoughtful, accessible prose. And hey, maybe it will even start meaningful conversations among adults, too." - Liz Gumbinner, Cool Mom Picks
"What Does It Mean to Be American? is a memorable book for younger children to begin to understand our great country and its values. It is never too early to learn, or too late to be reminded, about what makes America so unique." - Mike Krzyzewski, Duke University and USA Senior National Team (2005-16) Head Coach
School Library Journal
PreS-Gr 2-The concept of cultural identity is explored in a series of simple phrases designed to introduce young children to American ideals. Accompanying illustrations follow a family composed of an Indian father, Jewish mother, and young daughter through scenes from daily life, special events, and sightseeing explorations. The book suits a purpose in educating young children about American values, yet it has particular flaws that make it less effective than intended. While much of the text reflects commonly held American values such as "believing that all people are equal" and "honoring those that protect and serve us," the claims that our differences make us "kinder" and that we are "healthier" than other nations seems to be a stretch. The digital artwork beautifully represents the diverse characters in the book and the natural beauty of the U.S. landscape. However, some illustrations are paired with unrelated text. A page about "welcoming people from other countries" shows the central characters buying local produce, and a page whose text states that Americans "follow the same rules" shows the daughter visiting the doctor and dentist. These mismatched illustrations may create confusion for preliterate and emerging readers. The book is more useful for its collection of extension activities than for the text itself. VERDICT An acceptable teaching tool where other resources are lacking.-Kelly Jahng, South Park Elementary School, IL
In their attempt to answer the titular question, authors DiOrio and Yoran go beyond the stated stereotypes of apple pie, fast food, and fireworks (a Chinese invention, it must be noted) to address a series of serious and timely civic issues.
The result is a mawkish primer of American ideals served on a feel-good platter of puff-piece Americana, complete with a senatorial endorsement. The America of this book is a good place: Equality is taken for granted, as is environmental protection. The multicultural people pictured throughout the richly hued pages are ethical, caring, and aware of their responsibilities as citizens. There is a hopeful, uplifting tone, matched by the illustrations' rosy portrayal of the United States. Realistic readers (or maybe just the grounded and common-sensical ones) would, however, question whether the ideals delineated in the book are shared ones. One cannot help but wonder whose America this is? The book comes with a useful appendix for caring adults, but it's hard not to interrogate the decision behind the selection and full listing of just the first and second amendments (out of 27) to illustrate the changing nature of the U.S. Constitution. As a sidebar, the authors' biographies account for triple the words of the narrative, reinforcing the privileged self-serving vibe present through the pages.
Well-meaning but naively idealistic. (Informational picture book. 4-8)