We Are America: A Tribute from the Heart

Walter Dean Myers, Author, Christopher A. Myers, Illustrator
Walter Dean Myers, illus. by Christopher Myers. Harper, $16.99 (40p) ISBN 978-0-06-052308-4
Reviewed on: 03/21/2011
Release date: 05/01/2011
Library Binding - 40 pages - 978-0-06-052309-1
Hardcover - 978-1-4301-1112-2
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The father and son team behind Jazz and other award-winning titles pays homage to the entire United States in a soul-searching, free-verse poem examining the people, ideals, and promise of America. The verse journeys along a rough historical chronology. "Before the ships came... My Lakota heart pounded the rhythms/ Of this sacred land." Following are dreams of and fights for freedom, and periods of unrest and abuse (slavery, Japanese internment), when "Like clumsy children we fell/ As we learned to run." Christopher Myers's evocative paintings often juxtapose different eras; a scene in which a firefighter turns his hose on a group of African-Americans melds into the Boston Tea Party. "We were willing to die/ to forge our dream," the accompanying verses begin. Like many passages, it has multiple interpretations. In opening, Walter Dean Myers writes, "No words here have been penned lightly, no flag waved mindlessly," and his introspective reflections offer proof. Closing notes explicate quotations that lace the pages and identify figures shown in the artwork. It's best appreciated by readers with some knowledge of American history, but few will be unmoved by this stirring and provocative collaboration. Ages 7–12. (May)
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