cover image My Country, ’Tis of Thee: How One Song Reveals the History of Civil Rights

My Country, ’Tis of Thee: How One Song Reveals the History of Civil Rights

Claire Rudolf Murphy, illus. by Bryan Collier. Holt, $17.99 (48p) ISBN 978-0-8050-8226-5

“More than any other, one song traces America’s history of patriotism and protest.” Murphy’s (Marching with Aunt Susan) sweeping opening line sets the stage for subsequent examples of how marginalized groups have adopted and changed the song, “My Country, ’Tis of Thee.” A straightforward narrative examines the song’s various versions. Beginning in 1700s England as an anthem supporting King George II, the melody was put to use across the sea in the Revolutionary and Civil Wars, along with the abolitionist, farmworkers’, suffragist, Native American, and Civil Rights movements. Collier’s (Knock, Knock) striking full-spread collages invite close inspection. Layered textures and hues, photographs, and intricate paper designs create eye-catching and sometimes haunting illustrations. In one scene, runaway slaves escape through dark woods, the silhouettes of African-American children’s faces forming mountains and shrubs. A boy’s face stares out at readers from a hole in a tree trunk, as faded, anguished faces blend into the bark. “My country, ’tis for thee,/ Dark land of slavery,/ For thee I weep.” Source notes offer more details about each spread, and a bibliography and resource list are included. Ages 5–9. Author's agent: Kendra Marcus, Bookstop Literary Agency. Illustrator’s agent: Marcia Wernick, Wernick & Pratt. (June)