Michael Sampson, Bill Martin, Jr., Francis Bellamy, , illus. by Chris Raschka. . Candlewick, $15.99 (40pp) ISBN 978-0-7636-1648-9

Martin and Sampson's (previously teamed for Adam, Adam, What Do You See?) timely volume breaks the Pledge of Allegiance into digestible phrases or words and explains their meaning along with some history. Raschka's artwork makes a felicitous match; his highly conceptual style keeps the treatment playful yet respectful. Dressing the pages in a patriotic palette of snappy red, white and blue (jazzed up with torn-paper collage in shades of orange, green, black, yellow and more), he creates a series of clever visual counterpoints to the authors' careful deconstruction. As the text defines and explains each phrase or concept, Raschka bolsters the passages with child-friendly images. For "allegiance is loyalty," readers see a dog wagging its tail while, for "liberty" (described as an individual's freedom "to make his or her own choices"), individuals literally choose their own path as they step out onto stripes of various colors. The authors also include interesting background, such as the meaning behind the colors in the American flag ("Red is for courage. White is for purity and innocence. Blue is for loyalty and fairness") and the pledge's origins (it was written by Francis Bellamy in 1892 as a poem for children). Simple without being simplistic, this cleverly designed volume spells out the concrete meaning behind the words in the Pledge of Allegiance while deftly communicating the democratic spirit and principles that inspired it. Ages 6-9. (Oct.)