In honor of Independence Day – and courtesy of my friend, the lovely and talented Amelia Hamilton – this Friday, July 4th, we’re giving away a free copy of each of her two fantastic children’s books: “One Nation Under God: A Book for Little Patriots”, and “10 Steps to Freedom: A Growing Patriot’s Guide to the American Revolution”.
One Nation Under God is a wonderful teaching tool, which uses counting and poetry to explain concepts which can sometimes be tough for young readers to grasp. Beginning, appropriately enough, with the number 1 for God, Hamilton takes each number from 1-10 in turn, and explains different aspects of the American republic and its history, from the Bill of Rights to the branches of the military services. For example, for the number 4, Hamilton explains who each of the four U.S. Presidents carved on Mount Rushmore were, while for the number 9, the nine Justices of the Supreme Court are engaged, appropriately enough, in a tug-of-war.
In 10 Steps to Freedom, Hamilton again uses numbers to great effect, only this time by tracing ten key moments in the path to Independence, from the Boston Tea Party to the election of George Washington as the first President of the United States. Along the way, we get to meet important figures from our country’s history, including Paul Revere, John Adams, and Benjamin Franklin. It’s not easy to explain concepts like the Declaration of Independence or the ratification of the Constitution to children, but Hamilton’s poetry and the colorful accompanying images draw readers in, encouraging them to learn more about the people, situations, and concepts presented.
Anyone who has read to a child knows that oftentimes these books can be a chore for adults. So often these days, children’s books seem to talk down to their audience, using babyish or relativist terms. This is not the case here, and those who have children to teach or entertain will enjoy reading these books as much as their charges will. In her poem about what the Statue of Liberty symbolizes, for example, Hamilton explains the seven rays which emanate from the crown atop Lady Liberty’s head in a way children can understand, and adults will ponder over, giving both an opportunity for further reflection and discussion:
On her crown, those seven rays
Remind Americans every day
That on seven lands and seven seas
Many still are not yet free.
It’s also a delicate balance, presenting stories of warfare to children without intentionally and unnecessarily frightening them. Hamilton admirably handles the task, by pointing out that brains and brawn had to work together in order to gain the freedoms which Americans enjoy today. In asking children to remember why we celebrate Independence Day every year, she notes how freedom came at a cost, and was achieved by two different types of fighters: “Some with guns, and some with pens.” Realizing that both were necessary to form and preserve the United States is a crucial step for children to reach, in their civic understanding.
Both books are beautifully illustrated, with bright, dynamic pictures by illustrator Anthony Resto. Using a mixture of imagined historical scenes and elements from everyday life to accompany Hamilton’s poems, there are many charming details. In the illustration of the three branches of the federal government for example, we are shown a large tree, with a boy in a tire swing. And while Betsy Ross sews the American flag, two colonial children play alongside her with a hoop and a drum. The pictures give adults the opportunity to go into greater detail with children, about the history and ideas being brought to life through these images.
Interested in seeing more for yourself, or as a gift for some little ones in your life? Visit the entry form by following this link; you may enter to win between now and midnight tomorrow. One entry per reader, please. The winner will be announced Friday morning here on the blog.
My special thanks to Amelia Hamilton for allowing me to share these terrific books with all of you, and of course to all of my readers for their support. Good luck!