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!)

We Came To America (Faith Ringgold)

Hello friends, and happy Independence Day! We wanted to read a special book for the occasion, so we chose We Came To America by Faith Ringgold, an illustrated poem in picture book form that celebrates the diversity that founded our nation and our culture.

“We came to America, every color, race, and religion, from every country in the world,” the rhyming text of We Came To America repeats, accompanying a folk-style portrait of a person, group or family from a different corner of the Earth. Some came in chains, some came escaping persecution, some came hoping for opportunity, even a very few have always been here. Most important, they all came together to form the United States, a country built from voyagers, migrants and dreamers who came here and gave of themselves to create the land we all call home.

Lovely book with a fantastic message. I love that the diversity of America, and Americans, is explored with tact but still honest (for instance, it’s important that slavery is not shied away from as one of ways people came to be in the US). But ultimately, it’s a celebration of the great multitudes of cultures, religions, and communities that built the nation and continue to make up it’s very fabric. The folk art is colorful and vibrant, and JJ enjoyed it a lot. The length was great, and the message is as timeless as it is timely: no matter our origins or appearances, we are ALL Americans. Baby Bookworm approved!

Our Enduring Spirit: President Barack Obama’s First Words To America (Barack Obama)

Happy President’s Day! In honor of the occasion, our book today is Our Enduring Spirit: President Barack Obama’s First Words To America, excerpted from the 2009 Inauguration Day speech by former President Barack Obama and illustrated by Greg Ruth.

Beginning with the timeless presidential opening of “My fellow Americans,” the words of Obama’s first address to the people of the United States as their president speak of hope, promise, and unity. The newly-elected president acknowledges the complicated past of America while celebrating our patchwork country of religions, races, cultures, genders, etc. He encourages us to embrace our differences, and our similarities, and find the enduring spirit within us to work together as one people with one goal: the preservation of our nation and its promise.

As I noted, this book is comprised of excerpts from Obama’s speech, and fitted together with Ruth’s gorgeous paintings of both his Inauguration Day and various slices of Americana, it makes for an inspirational and moving children’s book. The notion of acknowledging the United States’ past, and not only the triumphs but the moments of great division as well, gives the work an honesty that other kids books about national pride can lack. Yet still, it is, at its core, about what our country can achieve when we eschew our petty differences and recognize that we are all equal, and that’s a fantastic message for little ones. The book is a bit long for babies, but JJ made it through without complaint, and absolutely adored the art. This one is definitely Baby Bookworm approved, and great for celebrating a patriotic holiday like today.

Of Thee I Sing: A Letter To My Daughters (Barack Obama)


Summer Reading Day 38: Today’s book was Of Thee I Sing: A Letter To My Daughters by Barack Obama. When I picked this at the library, I didn’t really know anything about it, but I’m glad I decided to check it out because it’s very sweet. It explores the accomplishments of notable American citizens (Cesar Chavez, Martin Luther King Jr, Helen Keller, Neil Armstrong, etc) in a few sentences each, tying together the theme that the titular daughters, as well as all young Americans of every color, creed and background, can be brave and smart good as well. JJ particularly liked the illustrations, artistic likenesses of each subject. It was a little long for a one year old, but not by too much. We liked it!