Patriotism can take many forms, from flag-waving to vocalized dissent. These books delve into the lives of American heroes and examine some not-so-proud moments in our history.
Becoming Ben Franklin: How a Candle-Maker’s Son Helped Light the Flame of Liberty by Russell Freedman emphasizes Franklin’s growing belief in an independent and united Colonial government and his diplomatic efforts leading to that ideal. With impeccable sourcing and deep research, the author enhances his narrative by quoting liberally from Franklin’s autobiography; Freedman’s modern and accessible language helps provide context. Archival photographs appear on every page. A timeline of Franklin’s many accomplishments; documentation; a note about sources; picture credits; and an index are appended. (Holiday, 10–14 years)
Tonya Bolden’s Emancipation Proclamation: Lincoln and the Dawn of Liberty begins with Frederick Douglass in Boston’s Tremont Temple on January 1, 1863, awaiting word that Lincoln had signed the Emancipation Proclamation: “We were waiting and listening as for a bolt from the sky.” Bolden adopts Douglass’s collective “we” for the narrative voice representing all people — black and white — who stood up for “black liberty.” She succeeds in taking a complicated story and making the narrative interesting, lively, and personal. The book is chock-full of reproductions of photographs, famous documents, paintings, engravings, cartoons, and maps, all thoroughly captioned, that make for fascinating browsing. (Abrams, 10–14 years)
In Imprisoned: The Betrayal of Japanese Americans During World War II, author Martin W. Sandler traces anti-Japanese prejudice back to the earliest stages of immigration and discusses the effects of Pearl Harbor, the numerous injustices suffered because of relocation, the patriotism and fortitude exhibited by Japanese Americans both in the camps and in the military, and the movement toward redress. Sandler’s earnest telling is complemented by well-chosen primary sources, not just the words but also the black-and-white photographs that present striking images. Bibliography, source notes, and an index are appended. (Walker, 10–14 years)
I See the Promised Land: A Life of Martin Luther King Jr. by Arthur Flowers, illustrated by Manu Chitrakar, and designed by Guglielmo Rossi, is an innovative homage to Dr. King. The book blends African griot storytelling and folk art from India to create a bold graphic novel. There is a dual narrative here — one more distinctly the voice of a storyteller, the other providing commentary. The illustrations, drawn in the style of Patua scroll painters (a combination of sequential and performance art), take just as much liberty with the story, recasting it with a distinctively Indian flair. There is a creative symbiosis between the seemingly disparate elements, which reminds us that the civil rights movement is but one chapter in the story of global human rights. (Groundwood, 12–16 years)
From the July 2013 issue of Notes from the Horn Book.