cover image Happy Birthday, America!

Happy Birthday, America!

Marsha Wilson Chall. HarperCollins, $17.99 (32pp) ISBN 978-0-688-13051-0

Chall (Up North at the Cabin) and Porfirio (The Raggly Scraggly No-Soap No-Scrub Girl) offer an affectionate paean to the Fourth of July in this story of one extended family's holiday celebration. The narrator, an amiable girl who is ""almost nine,"" relays snatches of conversation and her own impressions as carloads of relatives pull up to her family's welcoming clapboard house (""They squeeze me and pat me and lipstick smack me"" she says of some older folks' warm greeting). The clan's high spirits resonate in the intentionally grainy, sun-dappled watercolor and colored-pencil art, which presents engaging depictions of town-wide festivities (a timeless parade in which the narrator rides in a ""wheelbarrow float""), as well as of the family's own traditions (a picnic, a swim in the lake and a sunset boat trip to view fireworks). Chall's breezy and spontaneous storytelling sets a tone of familiarity and comfort. ""An army of aunts swarms out of the kitchen, carrying sweet-pickle jars and casseroles,"" observes the narrator, who then cuts into a molded dessert shaped like the United States and announces, ""I plop Florida down right next to my lasagna."" Ample good cheer, mixed with splashes of patriotism and nostalgia, make this a family outing to which nearly everyone will feel invited. Ages 5-up. (May)