Happy Birthday, America!

Happy Birthday, America!

illustrated by Guy Porfirio
published by HarperCollins, May 2000
ISBN 0688130518
Ages 4-8, 32 pages

Book Description
Teacher Tips

From ALA Booklist:

Ages 5-7. Relatives arrive in dizzying bunches for a small-town family's glorious Fourth of July. Seen through the eyes of an eight-year-old narrator, the traditions are both fresh and familiar: reunion hugs and kisses; casseroles and red-white-and-blue jello on bowls on long tables set up on spacious lawns; children marching with the floats and fire trucks down Main Street; a post-picnic plunge off the dock; fireworks over the lake after sunset, followed by waving sparklers from the shore. In broadly focused, slightly hazy paintings, Porfirio parades gaggles of laughing aunts, uncles, and cousins over wide, well-kept, very green landscapes. Even more than Barbara M. Joosse's Fourth of July (1985), illustrated by Emily Arnold McCully, or Wendy Watson's Hurray for the Fourth of July (1992), this idealized celebration captures the joy and solemnity of the holiday. A final happy birthday wish shouted across the dark lake brings voices from the far shore: "I hear them all around me, wishes to us, wishes to them, wishes to everyone."

From Publishers Weekly:

Chall (Up North at the Cabin) and Porfirio (The Raggly Scraggly No-Soap No-Scrub Girl) offer an affectionate paean to the Fourth of July in this story of one extended family's holiday celebration. The narrator, an amiable girl who is "almost nine," relays snatches of conversation and her own impressions as carloads of relatives pull up to her family's welcoming clapboard house. ("They squeeze me and pat me and lipstick smack me" she says of some older folks' warm greetings.) The clan's high spirits resonate in the intentionally grainy, sun-dappled watercolor and colored-pencil art, which presents engaging depictions of town-wide festivities (a timeless parade in which the narrator rides in a "wheelbarrow float"), as well as of the family's own traditions (a picnic, a swim in the lake and a sunset boat trip to view fireworks). Chall's breezy and spontaneous storytelling sets a tone of familiarity and comfort. "An army of aunts swarms out of the kitchen, carrying sweet-pickle jars and casseroles," observes the narrator, who then cuts into a molded dessert shaped like the United States and announces, "I plop Florida down right next to my lasagna." Ample good cheer, mixed with splashes of patriotism and nostalgia, make this a family outing to which nearly everyone will feel invited. Ages 5-up. (May)

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