The Fourth of July Story. Written by Alice Dalgliesh. Illustrated by Marie Nonnast. Aladdin Paperbacks, A Division of Simon & Schuster, 1956. Second Aladdin Paperbacks edition, 1995. 32 pages. Publisher recommends for ages 4-8. ISBN: 9780689718762.
This book is aptly named; it is indeed a story. The basic elements are true. Flourishes are added to make the story more accessible for a young child. Those flourishes work well. They add excitement and a sense of pride to the story.
The book starts with the Liberty Bell ringing on the very first Fourth of July. It starts by addressing the reasons colonists wanted to be free from the British, and how the tension between England and the colonists mounted. Next we see Thomas Jefferson writing the Declaration of Independence, followed by spreading the news about the Declaration of Independence, and then the victory of the Americans over the British. All of this is told by three time Newberry Honor Winner Alice Dalgliesh, a seasoned storyteller with a rich voice and a keen eye for the elements of history that must be told if the story is to impart the awe of the founding of a nation.
Dalgliesh also adds scenes that might have happened. For example a rider with the Declaration of Independence in his saddle bag, stops to talk with a farmer of German ancestry about the Declaration. The farmer continues thinking about what it means to live in a free country as the rider moves on through the countryside.
The major figures of independence and the revolution have a place in the story: Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, Benjamin Franklin, George Washington. There’s a nice anecdote about a very young Andrew Jackson reading the Declaration of Independence to his neighbors.
“The Fourth of July Story” was originally published two years before I was born. The illustrations look like the illustrations in many of the picture books, novels and textbooks I grew up with. They bring a simple view of the revolutionary time alive. The artist is not trying hard for reality. The last picture in the book makes this particularly clear. At the end of the war, Washington is reviewing his troops. Almost all the troops are wearing uniforms that look spotless. My understanding is that soldiers were lucky to have any part of their uniforms left after the war.
“The Fourth of July Story” is great choice for reading on the 4th of July, or anytime the subject of the American Revolution comes up with young children.