We Have a Winner!

Congratulations to Mark Evans of Silver Spring, Maryland, who won the contest for two patriotic children’s books by Amelia Hamilton! They will be winding their way to you soon, Mark. For those who didn’t win but still want to pick up some copies, why not drop on by the Growing Patriots site, were you can check out not only the two books, but related items for sale.

Thanks again to Amelia for the opportunity to share her work with you, to all who read these pages, and to the dozens of you who entered the contest.  I am currently making my way back to Smallville for the Independence Day weekend, so hope you are enjoying yours wherever you are.  I’ll be sure to save you some Amish potato salad.



Independence Day Giveaway: Books for Little Patriots

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!

Growing Patriots

No Nation of Whiners

Last evening I attended a going-away event for an academic friend, who is departing the Nation’s Capital for a more pastoral, albeit equally academic, clime.  Afterwards, another friend and I walked to a nearby cafe, where we had just finished dinner and were enjoying some beverages, when a torrential downpour began, looking and sounding something like a hurricane.  The storm seemed to last for hours, though truthfully the worst of it was probably closer to about 20 minutes.

We had to wait some time for the storm to pass, and when I finally managed to return home it was to find the house unscathed. However my neighbors’ tree, the upper part of which has always loomed very high and very menacingly over the back yard, had split.  The leaning part had crashed into the street behind our houses, and as of this writing is still sitting there, entangled in the utility pole and wires that run behind our block.

Fortunately on its way down the tree managed to miss any actual damage to the property and, at least as of this writing, we still have power in this block. Many people are without, in what has been described as the largest non-hurricane-related power outage in this area’s history.  Predictions are that we will be getting some more strong storms in Washington this evening, which makes me think that we may end up losing more power, including here.  Some are predicting that it may take a week to fully restore power in the metropolitan area, and with extremely high temperatures and the 4th of July coming up, things are going to be a mess.

It is not until these sorts of things happen that we realize how very dependent we are in the Western world on a certain set of comforts.  If it is hot, we have air conditioning, or we can go to someplace which has it, to feel relaxed and cool; yet just the other day I heard someone complaining on a city bus that it was too cold, on a day when it was well over 100 degrees Fahrenheit (37+ Centigrade) outside.  If it is cold, we have central heating to keep us nice and warm – but then we complain that we are hot, or that the re-circulated warm air dries out the house.

The truth is, most of us have nothing to complain about.  As they approached the 4th of July, for example, the founding fathers found themselves in sultry summertime Philadelphia, sweating through layers upon layers of stinking woolen clothing with no real hope of relief.  They worked in conditions which we, their political descendants, would find intolerable, to try to rationally come up with a document to declare their own fundamental beliefs and principles as to why they should form their own government.

Fortunately for them a summer storm broke the heatwave right around the 4th itself. For us, the best that most of us can do is tweet that it is hot and we need some more ice cubes from the freezer but are too lazy to get up and fix ourselves a drink.  This is perhaps a sad commentary on the intellectually and morally flabby state of this country.

The freedoms we enjoy in this country are not free: they were quite literally sweated and bled over.  It is why the Fortnight For Freedom is so important, and it is also why, whatever inconveniences you may be suffering right now in this heat or as a result of a loss of power, you ought to simply do your best to make the best of the circumstances.  In the grand scheme things, the passage of this heatwave and storms across a large swath of the U.S., while dangerous, is for most of us an inconvenience, rather than something whose importance ought to be exaggerated.

My advice is: reach out to your friends and neighbors, if they or you are without power, and get to know one another better by spending time together. Unlike in a blizzard, you are not isolated. And who knows what good may come of your meetings, even if not as portentous as the ones in Philadelphia 200 years ago.

Detail of “Drafting of the Declaration of Independence”
by Jean-Leon Gerome Ferris (1900)
Virginia Historical Society, Richmond, Virgina