A squid for president? Lady Liberty on the loose? As July 4 approaches, Shelf Awareness takes the opportunity to trumpet six children's books that explore the ins and outs of this giant and complex country.
President Squid by Aaron Reynolds, illus. by Sara Varon (Chronicle, $16.99, hardcover, 9781452136479, 44p., ages 4-8, March 1, 2016)
No giant squid has ever been president before, but that doesn't keep this enthusiastic, hot-pink cephalopod from proclaiming, "I WILL BE THE GREATEST PRESIDENT THAT EVER LIVED!" Why not? He looks fabulous in a tie ("VERY presidential"), has the biggest house ever, is famous, does all the talking and, as he says "there's nobody bossier than me!" (The publisher swears this is fiction.) It's not until the squid stops bragging and helps a little sardine that his audience starts listening to him. Don't get too excited about that moral, though, because in the end the bloviating pink squid decides he'd rather be king than president. "All the power! None of the work!" This hilarious satire won't be lost on older readers, nor the silliness on younger ones.
Lady Liberty's Holiday by Jen Arena, illus. by Matt Hunt (Knopf, $17.99 hardcover, 9780553520675, 40p., ages 5-8, May 10, 2016)
Even the Statue of Liberty needs a vacation. But her friend, Moe the pigeon, worries she won't make it back to New York City in time for the Fourth of July. The 151-foot-and-one-inch-tall green lady traipses across America in sandals, uses the Florida Keys as stepping-stones and, "At the Grand Canyon, for once in her life, Lady Liberty felt small." Her journey across America's majestic landscapes is captured in grand, comical, wonderfully textured pencil-and-paint illustrations, and she does make it back in time for Independence Day fireworks, thanks to Moe. By book's end, young readers will have a better grasp on Lady Liberty's history, and they'll never look at her the same way again.
We Came to America by Faith Ringgold (Knopf, $17.99 hardcover, 9780517709474, 32p., ages 5-8, May 10, 2016)
Caldecott Honor artist Faith Ringgold's (Tar Beach) first book since 2002 is an illustrated poem about the immigrants who shaped the country and "[m]ade America great." The poem begins, and then echoes, "We came to America/ Every color, race, and religion,/ From every country in the world." In this celebratory picture book, bold, bright, folk art-flat paintings reflect the people's history, hardship, songs, stories, music, food, art--and fashion, past and present--that weave into the country's fabric.
America's Tea Parties: Not One but Four! by Marissa Moss (Abrams, $19.95 hardcover, 9781419718748, 56p., ages 8-12, April 5, 2016)
Not everyone knows that three other tea parties happened at about the same time as the Boston Tea Party--in Philadelphia, New York and Charleston. The colonists' determination to protest the high tea taxes imposed by Britain inched them that much closer to the American Revolution. "It all started with seven ships and 2,202 chests of tea," begins Marissa Moss's vivacious nonfiction narrative; a handsome design, maps and abundant illustrations help tell the tale.
Awesome America: Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About the History, People, and Culture by Katy Steinmetz (Liberty Street/Time for Kids, $24.95, hardcover, 9781618931498, 208p., ages 8-12, May 31, 2016)
There are 319 million people in the United States, living on nearly 3.8 million square miles of land. The photo-laden, statistic-riddled Awesome America is a colorful, appealingly designed, energetic primer on all things America. This hefty book shows how America has changed through the centuries and includes sections on the U.S. government, presidents, first ladies and states. It also explores the documents that molded American democracy ("Really Important Pieces of Paper") and introduces "Great Americans" such as Thomas Edison, Amelia Earhart, Mark Twain, Maya Angelou, Martin Luther King, Jr. and Cesar Chavez. A browser's delight.
All You Need Is a Pencil: The Totally Hilarious All About America Activity Book by Joe Rhatigan, illus. by Anthony Owsley (Imagine/Charlesbridge, $7.95 paperback, 9781623540760, 144p., ages 8-11, May 17, 2016)
This fun, funny activity book--and a pencil--is all any child needs for a long plane ride or a rainy day. Trivia about America takes the shape of puzzles, word games, even a "Hinky Pinky" crossword (Spoiler: "Barack's mother" is "Obama mama"). Along the way, kids are invited to sketch their version of "America's national monster," draw facial hair on selected presidents (then, "see if you'd vote for them"), design U.S. currency, strategize an unusual presidential campaign, and more. Answers in the back!