cover image STARS AND STRIPES: The Story of the American Flag

STARS AND STRIPES: The Story of the American Flag

Sarah L. Thomson, , illus. by Bob Dacey and Debra Bandelin. . HarperCollins, $15.99 (32pp) ISBN 978-0-06-050416-8

In Thomson's (The Dragon's Son) first picture book, she unfolds a history of the American flag, with a September 11 tie-in. The narrative tends to state the obvious, e.g., "You can see the flag at schools and at post offices, in town squares, and at baseball games. You can see flags in parades on the Fourth of July." Despite the rather bland presentation, many facts will intrigue readers, especially those who were raised on the story of Betsy Ross's flag-making (an endnote disputes Ross's contributions). Thomson states that in 1776 George Washington flew a flag that paired 13 red and white stripes with a small copy of the Union Jack; when, two years into the Revolutionary War, the Continental Congress decided that America should have a single flag, it supplied guidelines but no specifics for its design, leaving the configuration of stars and stripes subject to individual interpretation. While older readers may find some information elementary (e.g., "In the end the Americans won [the Revolutionary War]. The thirteen colonies became the United States of America"), they will enjoy descriptions of variant flags, many of which the artwork depicts. Dacey and Bandelin (previously teamed for Miriam's Cup: A Passover Story) favor a stirring, representational style, showing dramatic scenes of Francis Scott Key writing as bombs burst in the air outside his windows; Old Glory rippling in the wind; Olympic athletes draped in the flag; etc. The account ends with the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, and the widespread displays of the flag in response. With its teacherly approach, this book may be chiefly institutional in its appeal. Ages 4-8. (June)