The Flag We Love — Tenth Anniversary Edition

The Flag We LoveThe Flag We Love – 10th Anniversary Edition.  Written by Pam Munoz Ryan.  Illustrated by Ralph Masiello.  Charlesbridge, 2006.  Publisher recommends for ages 5-8.  ISBN:  9781570917073.

First of all, let me say that this is a beautiful book.  The colors are deep and rich.  Each two-page spread has a four line poem about a particular historical aspect of the flag or a way in which the flag is used, as well as a full-page illustration of the content of the poem. Also on each two-page spread there is a box with more detailed information for older kids or for adults.  With words like “connotations,” this is not a book of five-year-old could read to him or herself. However, it would be a great book to read with a teacher or a parent.

There is a certain lack of coherence in “The Flag We Love.”  The first page, which has four lines of poetry and no box with more detailed information, seems to indicate the purpose of the book. The book will tell us of the many things the flag means to people in our country. But the very next spread is about the creation of the flag, which doesn’t address what the flag means to us. The next spread is about the flag flying above schools. The meaning of the flag flying above a school, says the book, is to let children know that in the school one can learn.  Since a public education is not a right granted in the Bill of Rights, it’s a stretch to say that the flag flies above schools to let children know they can learn at school. In fact, I always thought the flag flew above schools as part of the civics lessons given at schools that are so important in making us feel like Americans.

The spreads aren’t all muddy.  One set of pages addresses athletes competing for the United States. In this spread its clear the flag is a symbol of the country, and joins us all together on the same team rooting for the athletes who represent us.

The book, unfortunately, doesn’t hold together as a whole. But if read with an adult, it would be an excellent starting point for discussions about what the flag means to Americans and so what it means to be an American.

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