Through the Looking Glass Children's Book Reviews

America: The Making of a Nation

America: The Making of a Nation

Charlie Samuels
Illustrator:  Sally Launder , Michael Woods , Tom Connell 
Nonfiction pop-up book
For ages 9 to 12
Little Brown, 2008   ISBN: 978-0316031707

One day while he is in his attic, Charlie Samuels finds an old suitcase. Inside there is a collection of mementos, bits and pieces of a person's life that tell the story of America. The person who left the suitcase behind was a veteran who served his country, and he wants to share his thoughts with whoever finds his case. He wants the finder to see that America's history is full of great moments and admirable people.

The owner of the suitcase - whose name we never discover - begins by showing his audience who the people on the back of the two dollar bill are. The copy of John Trumball's painting that appears on the bill shows many of the men who helped to found America, including Benjamin Franklin, Samuel Adams, John Adams, and Thomas Jefferson. The scene in the painting shows the presentation of the Declaration of Independence to Congress.

America's history is full of symbols that represent the ideals of American democracy. One is the liberty bell, another is the American flag. The owner of the suitcase describes why the bell and the flag have come to mean so much, and we learn about special moments when the bell and the flag rallied the American people to important causes.

He goes on to describe how he was once invited to the White House for an event honoring WWII veterans. The White House is much more than a house. It is "owned by all the American people" and it houses one of the most powerful people in the world.

Other topics that the veteran touches on are: the story of America's patriotic songs, America's heroes, other symbols of the nation, the "Making of America," from "sea to shining sea," the American immigrant experience, American inventions, and a timeline of American history. He concludes by pointing out that, for him, the Declaration of Independence means "more than anything," and there is a copy of the Declaration for the reader to look at, one which is a fair facsimile of the original, complete with signatures.

In this interactive novelty book the reader will observe, through the eyes of another, what America has achieved. The reader will see that America is a country that one can be proud of, even during times when things are not going as well as they might. With flaps to lift, envelopes to open, and much more, this thought provoking book will keep young readers busy for a long time. The illustrations are delightful to look at, and the presentation will really make the reader feel that he or she is looking at someone else's treasures, treasures that have been lying in a suitcase for many years.