Two intrepid librarians

Two intrepid librarians review the best nonfiction books for children

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

We Are America: a Tribute from the Heart by Walter Dean Myers and Christopher Myers

We Are America: A Tribute from the Heart
by Walter Dean Myers; Illustrations by Christopher Myers
Collins: an imprint of HarperCollins. 2011
ISBN: 9780060523084

In the aftermath of the attacks on September 11, 2011, the question of "Who is an American" surfaced Immediately. People were being made to prove their loyalty. There was an increase in patriotic bumper stickers, American flags displayed on cars, homes and businesses, and, most upsetting of all was the vicious attacks on those deemed, UnAmerican. 

Walter Dean Myers states in his author's note that after 9/11 there "was a spate of patriotism centered on defining, to a large extent, what it meant to be an American. Many of the definitions were bothersome, if for no other reason than that they didn't seem to include me. I was not given to waving flags and I studiously avoided the jingoism that followed 9/11."

Myers decided to learn more about what made this country so great. He re-read the Declaration of Independence, the Articles of Confederation, the Federalist Papers, and the Constitution. This collection of poems is his tribute to the United States. They reflect the core of what American is: a coming together of people regardless of race, religion, and ethnicity. The reason America is great is because of its diversity.

The poems work as a chronology of America's development. From Native Americans to the coming of Europeans and slaves. However way people arrived at these shores, all hoped for a better life.

Each double-page spread includes a poem and a quote that surrounds a large oil painting by Christopher Myers, Walter's son, that reflect the lines form the poems. 

"We were willing to die to forge our dream
Knowing it was not enough to simply be
We needed to create ourselves
In the image of the new mind…"

Here, we see African-Americans from the Civil Rights era being sprayed with a firehose while our forefathers are throwing tea overboard in Boston Harbor.  
With the quote by King George III granting the thirteen colonies the right "to be free, sovereign and independent states."

Included are backstory for each quotation and notes about the art. 

The Myers have created a loving tribute to our forefathers and their original concept of America, "a model for governments all over the world." Thought-provoking.

5 stars.
(Grades 5 up)
This book will have limited appeal. Though the poetry is moving, the book will be most useful for older grades studying American history.

Walter Dean and Christopher Myers discussing their book:

Walter Dean Myers reads from his book:

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