Happy Birthday, America
Publication Date: April 29, 2008
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Mary Pope Osborne celebrates July 4th, the most American of holidays, with a warm family story. Three generations enjoy parades, popcorn, "Yankee Doodle," and at the end of the day, lightning bugs and fireworks. "Then I blow out the stars, as if they were candles on a giant birthday cake" --a glorous image in Peter Catalanotto's glowing and buoyant watercolors.
Mary Pope Osborne is the author of the multimillion-copy bestselling Magic Tree House series, as well as New York's Bravest. She lives in northwestern Connecticut.
Peter Catalanotto's most recent book for Roaring Brook Press is We Wanted You, written by Liz Rosenberg. He lives in southeaster Pennsylvania.
Publishers Weekly Mary Pope Osborne joins in a family's small-town Fourth of July celebration in Happy Birthday, America, illus. by Peter Catalanotto. Thickly applied watercolors depict the festivities, including a pet parade, picnic, concert and fireworks. An author's note details the origins of Independence Day traditions. Booklist This sparkling tribute to the Fourth of July depicts how a family of eight living in a small town celebrates this favorite holiday. Catalanotto's familiar, softly colred artwork stages the scenario: a pet parade; popcorn, pizza, and raffle tickets for sale; face painting; antique cars, penny pitching; a nighttime concert, a reading of the Declaration of Independence, and fireworks. The day is made up of little things, while the celebration is about big ones--community, freedom, and pride. Catalanotto's watercolor palette lends a candlelike glow to scenes as the expressive faces of kids and adults enjoy the occasion. Pair this with Marsha Chall's similarly titled picture book, published in 2000, for a doubly festive reading. School Library Journal Independence and patriotism are hard concepts for the very young to grasp. Osborne tackles this challenge through a nostalgic recollection of a small-town Fourth of July celebration. Food, fun, and family fill the day, with firemen; members of the Kiwanis, American Legion, and Knights ofColumbus; and a local dance school and band all playing their parts. "Yankee Doodle," "Stars and Stripes Forever," Lady Liberty, reading from the Declaration of Independence, and a community singing of "The Star-Spangled Banner" lead right into the "Oooooh!" "Ahhhh!" "Wow!" sparked by the fireworks. Finally, a happy, tired family drives home. Though most children would rather be at an event than read about the nice time others have, Osborne's text is an agreeable slice of life. Catalanotto's illustrations capture the festivities with selective realism and just enough detail. The author's notes cap the work with a few historical and personal tidbits. Libraries that need additional materials to support holiday collections will find this worthy of consideration even though the ideals of independence and patriotism remain elusive.