cover image A Fourth of July on the Plains

A Fourth of July on the Plains

Jean Van Leeuwen. Dial Books, $15.99 (32pp) ISBN 978-0-8037-1771-8

Van Leeuwen (Going West) revisits the rugged pioneer trail in a gratifying book highlighted by warm, period-precise illustrations. Rendered primarily in watercolors, Sorensen's (River Day) art spills gracefully across each spread, balancing panoramas of the muted, tawny plains with slightly hazy close-ups of a group of Oregon-bound families who work together to stage a makeshift Fourth of July celebration. Though the child narrator wonders how they can properly pull off the festivities in a spot so far removed from the ""booming cannons and flying flags, parades and speechifying and games"" of his Indiana hometown, he manages to orchestrate the day's most exuberant moment. Based on an account of an actual Fourth of July observance on the Oregon Trail in 1852, Leeuwen's tale provides a likably informal child's view of pioneer life, as well as an enthusiastic appreciation for the rituals, both solemn and boisterous, of the Fourth. Ages 4-8. (June)