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!)

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.