I love the Fourth of July. Fireworks, hot dogs, parades and desserts made to look like flags -- there is no downside to the celebration of our nation's independence. This year, in addition to playing with sparklers, why not remind our kids of what we're celebrating? Before the election cycle gets really ugly, before we tumble mindlessly into partisanship, let's take a minute to remember all the events and people who got us here. From the democratic process to simple geography, this month's list will help all of us remember what we love about our country.
In a year when partisan politics is front and center, an imaginary race between Elephant and Donkey is just the ticket to explain campaigns to your kids. Clever rhetoric, great illustrations and a surprise candidate will amuse grown-ups while teaching kids a thing or two about mud-slinging. I still don't know what Elephant or Donkey's platforms were, but I appreciate their commitment to making children's literature a better place.
I don't know about you, but I can't ever keep all the square and rectangle states straight. They confuse me, sitting in the middle of the country, all square-ish. I console myself that they'll always be right where they should be though. Nice and predictable. Unless, of course, Kansas gets bored and throws a party and Virginia and Idaho convince all the states to switch places. That would be bad. Or very funny.
I've recommended it before and I'll recommend it again. While celebrating the freedoms our founding fathers helped secure, it doesn't hurt to be reminded that before they were historic figures, they were, well, kids. Checking in on our colonial heroes during their childhoods, you'll discover that George Washington was a delinquent with an unhealthy attachment to his axe and Thomas Jefferson was a teacher's worst nightmare. Ben Franklin, John Hancock and Paul Revere suffer from similar flaws. In an election year, it's never too early to learn the truth about politics, whether you can vote or not.
Bored and snowed in at an airport? If you're lucky, like Anna, Jose and Henry, you'll be pulled into a mystery involving the theft of the Star Spangled Banner, secret societies and politics run amok. Middle schoolers will love these three inspiring detectives who, along with their families, take protecting great art and historical objects seriously.
I love ambitious rodents. Determined to end the reign of gross school lunches, Babymouse decides to run for student council president with a slogan of "A Cupcake in Every Locker." (I know I'd vote for her.) With daydreams of memorials, 1776 and the White House, this clever comic has a touch of education mixed in with a whole lot of sass. It's like a cupcake with the perfect amount of icing. Delicious.
The Supreme Court has been busy this term, so if your kids are wondering what the heck those people in robes do, this book is a clever and fun way to explain it to them. Deftly avoiding big issues like health care and immigration law, the jurist mice in this story take on the troubling issue of the constitutionality of a law limiting cheese eating. Your kids will get a sense of why cases end up before the Supremes and how decisions are made. Detailed illustrations of the courthouse add authenticity and adults will find a bit of humor in the depiction of the justices themselves. And really, who doesn't like a good cheese story? Other titles from these authors include "Woodrow The White House Mouse" and "House Mouse Senate Mouse," so you can cover all three branches of government. You know, just in case you get bored with all the fireworks, food and general celebrations.
Letting an elementary school vote on school rules? It probably won't end well, but Amelia Bedelia's first foray into the democratic process is a clever way to engage kids in a discussion of the upcoming presidential election. Kids will learn about absentee ballots, run-offs, ballots and the power of persuasion. They may even learn how to convince the administration to adopt homework free Wednesdays, but you didn't hear it from me.
In an afternoon at the library, Ellis the Elephant takes an historical tour of some of the seminal moments in American history, from the first Thanksgiving to the Boston Tea Party to putting a man on the moon. Told in easy to read rhymes with lovely illustrations, this book introduces kids to the events that inspire our most patriotic feelings.
We spend a lot of time talking about our founding fathers on July 4th, but the women who helped shape this country get less attention. Take a stroll through "A is for Abigail" for a virtual encyclopedia of great American women and their contributions to our country. If that won't make you proud, I don't know what will.
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