Jul 1, 2012

Independence = Freedom to Dream

Politics, debates, polls, and protests are ubiquitous these days. (Sorry- I couldn't resist linking to an earlier post on both the word and the amazing book with that title.) When we celebrate Independence Day this Fourth of July, it calls to mind that the same conflict and turmoil existed in that historic revolutionary period, and in almost any other period in a robust democracy.

Rather than focus on the struggle and rancor that preceded our noble Declaration of Independence, I'll celebrate the results of  those struggles: a society in which girls and boys can aspire, can explore, can DREAM of any future of their choosing.

MY NAME IS NOT ISABELLA: Just How Big Can A Little Girl Dream? by Jennifer Fosberry, Illustrated by Mike Litwin. 2008.

Isabella's spends her otherwise routine day imagining herself as Sally Ride, Annie Oakley, Rosa Parks, Marie Curie, Elizabeth Blackwell, and Mommy. She tucks in at night with the full intent of exploring possibilities even further in the coming days.

MY NAME IS NOT ALEXANDER: Just How Big Can A Little Kid Dream? Also by the Fosberry/Litwin team. 2011.

Alexander's day finds him inhabiting the lives of Theodore Roosevelt, Thomas Edison, Chief Joseph, Fred Astaire, Jackie Robinson, and Daddy.

In both cases short biographic summaries of the names of historic figures are presented with photo images, vocabulary, bibliography, and website links. 

ISABELLA, GIRL ON THE GO, also by the Fosberry/Litwin team, is a 2012 sequel from Jabberwocky Books in which Isabella helps with common household chores while her imagination takes her around the world.

Check out some of the other  colorful and energized titles by illustrator Mike Litwin. And take a look at this YouTube video showing the progress of the illustrations for My Name Is Not Isabella: Just How Big Can A Little Girl Dream? 

There are several other related videos on the SourceBooks resource page.

Among Ben Franklin's many wise quotations, this one seems aimed directly at Isabella, Alexander, and every other child, past or present:
"The Constitution only gives people the right to pursue happiness. You have to catch it yourself."

Children living in lands without guarantees of freedom still dream. I believe that with all my heart. The legacy I celebrate, though, is that despite any vitriol, rage, or prejudice to which children in the USA may be exposed, they are also free to pursue their dreams, their happiness, to catch it for themselves.

In the interest of sharing some titles more directly associated with the period and players of the Revolutionary era, Ben Franklin offers a fine starting point.

BEN FRANKLIN: His Wit and Wisdom From A to Z by Alan Schroeder, illustrated by John O'Brien. Blending all the best features of an alphabet book, non-fiction text that is both informative and entertaining, quotes from Franklin's Almanacs, illustrations that extend content and generate laughs, this book works on every level. If you don't want to take my word for it, check out this Kirkus review. In fact, it would make an ideal handout at the political conventions later this summer. Perhaps it would inspire others to strive for more wit, wisdom, and eloquence in public discourse.

Here's hoping you'll find yourself hooked on picture books as you chill out on a scorching day. If so, look for other titles by Alan Schroeder,  Author of MINTY:A Story of Young Harriet Tubman, or consider this NYTimes review of this and other Americana titles.

When the physical or political temperatures rise to uncomfortable levels this summer, take a step away from the heat to reflect on our past and the heroes who built our country. Then take comfort in the     enthusiasm and energy of youth, trusting, as I do, in the promise of tomorrow. You won't need to go any further than the pages of good picture books to find them.

Any favorite titles you care to share? Comments always welcome.

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