Review of America My Love, America My Heart

America My Love, America My Heart
by Daria Peoples-Riley; illus. by the author
Primary    Greenwillow    40 pp.    g
4/21    978-0-06-299329-8    $17.99
e-book ed.  978-0-06-308934-1    $12.99

In an immediate, evocative text, a child of color asks America — her country, which she loves — if America loves her back. Against black, white, and gray backgrounds, many different BIPOC children appear on the subsequent pages, wearing red, white, and/or blue, calling America to account. These children ask timely questions: “Do you love me when I raise my hand? My head? My voice? When I whisper? When I SHOUT?” On many pages, the speaker looks directly at readers while asking these questions, a handful of which use exact verbiage from the Pledge of Allegiance — which opens and closes the book, handwritten on an American flag. The bald eagle constitutes a visual motif throughout: it hovers on the title page; casts a huge, gray shadow in which one child stands, arms spread as if actually casting this shadow; and flies above the New York City skyline, rural landscapes, and the U.S. Capitol. Peoples-Riley’s author’s note mentions that despite reciting the Pledge daily in school as a child, she didn’t feel America’s commitment back to her. Occasional Spanish and Louisiana Creole words and phrases appear throughout the main text, which the author’s note also explains. The pictures’ grayness makes hope somewhat elusive, but the pops of color against the somber hues, the children’s persistent questions, and intergenerational support suggest a brighter future.

From the May/June 2021 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

Dr. Michelle H. Martin
Dr. Michelle H. Martin
Dr. Michelle H. Martin is the Beverly Cleary Professor for Children & Youth Services in the Information School at the University of Washington in Seattle.

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