America My Love, America My Heart (Daria Peoples-Riley)

Hello, friends! Our book today comes to us from our friends at The Equal Opportunity Book Box: America My Love, America My Heart by Daria Peoples-Riley, a sensitive examination of how to love your country when it doesn’t always seem to love you back.

An unnamed narrator opens the title with a powerful question: “America, the Brave. America, the Bold. […] Do you love me?” As artwork depicting children and families of color across multiple settings – a city, a beach, a school, the Capitol, etc. – the narrator wonders if America loves them the way that young Americans are taught to love it. Does it love their languages: English, Spanish, and Creole? Does it love their skin? Their voice? Their thoughts and ideas? “America, I am you,” the narrator concludes. “America, you are me.”

Powerful. Candidly, it’s been a turbulent time for Americans these last few months, and leaves many of us going into the 4th of July holiday feeling pretty unpatriotic. That’s one of the reasons that a book like this, which allows children to question a complicated relationship with their country of origin and/or residency based on its treatment of their cultural identities. Peoples-Riley’s lyrical text gently and elegantly – yet firmly – points out the injustice of asking a country asking compulsory allegiance of its citizens when it does not treat those same citizens with equality, in a way that affirms the readers who may be experiencing similar wonderings. The strikingly lovely illustrations, done in grayscale with pops of white, red, and blue, ties into this theme perfectly, while also visually dovetailing with the hopeful ending lines. The length is perfect for a storytime, and JJ and I both really liked this one. This is an absolutely stunning one, that tackles a serious issue with grace and artistry, and reminds readers that love and loyalty, even for one’s home, must flow both ways. Emphatically Baby Bookworm approved.

(Note: A copy of this book was provided by The Equal Opportunity Book Box in exchange for an honest review of their monthly subscription box, which highlights diverse characters and creators in kidlit. Check out the link here for more information!)