This is probably one of the hardest reviews I've ever written. I read We Are America when I first received the book. I wasn't sure what to write, so I walked away for a couple of weeks. Then, I asked my husband to read it and I reread it. Now, I'm going to make an attempt to explain why this is the hardest review I've ever written.
The author and the illustrator start this book off with why they took on this project and what it means to them personally. These short comments mean a lot and begin to show how diverse the people who call the United States home are.
This book`s narrative is in free verse. There is now lead character or set story but a winding and wandering view of different points in US history. On some pages the verse starts before the Revolutionary War and ends in present day while other pages stay in the same period of history though that period may or may not be in any relation to the pages prior and after.
Tying the free verse to what the author is trying to express are quotes from different figures in history. These quotes clarify and put into context what is being explored. Only through these quotes can you guess where in US history you are.
Because this book is short, there are many highlights within the US history that are missing or shortened. The Civil War is described by battles the Union forces won and a couple of short quotes. The Revolutionary War does have four pages dedicated to it and four quotes but the free verse doesn't say Revolutionary War. Slavery and being down trodden seemed to be intertwined in some way many of the pages but the triumph of raising from slavery to well-known scientist or that opportunity was and is available to all was not evident.
Maybe it's me but I saw hints of what the US is but I couldn't get anything solid. I saw a mish mash of facts and beliefs but not in an order that made sense. To be honest, I didn't get it.
New York Times bestselling author Walter Dean Myers and Caldecott Honor artist Christopher Myers, the father-son team who created harlem, celebrate the freedom dream that is America: our struggles, our ideals, and our hope that we can live up to them.
What is it to be an American?
To live in a strange and beautiful land of complexity, with a tumultuous history of epic proportions, among the people who were here first, who came after, who will come tomorrow.
We were the youth that could not fail
Planting our high ideals in virgin lands and eager hearts
Making vows forever brighter than the story we would live . . .
The lyrical free verse evocative of Walt Whitman's Leaves of Grass and striking mural-like paintings are a testimonial to the heart and soul of our country: its ordinary and extraordinary people and the monumental events that have shaped our nation. With layered, sweeping panoramic paintings and text rich with historical allusion, this stunning picture book features passionate writings and vivid portraits of political Americans, from Tecumseh, the Shawnee chief, to Abraham Lincoln to Jimi Hendrix.