Through the Looking Glass Children's Book Reviews

O, Say Can You See? America's Symbols, Landmarks, And Important Words

O, Say Can You See? America's Symbols, Landmarks, And Important Words

Sheila Keenan
Illustrator:  Ann Boyadjian 
Nonfiction Picture Book
For ages 7 to 9
Scholastic Nonfiction, 2007   ISBN: 978-0439593601

If you were to ask Americans to talk about their favorite American symbols, it is likely that each person would talk about something different. A person living on the East coast might talk about Plymouth Rock, the Liberty Bell, or the Statue of Liberty. Someone living out west might mention Mount Rushmore. A child might want to talk about the Pledge of Allegiance or the National Anthem, and a veteran may mention the U.S flag. All of the things are some of America’s symbols, and all of them “stand for what the United States stands for: liberty, equality, and freedom.

In this excellent nonfiction title, Sheila Keenan looks as some of America’s most beloved symbols. She divides them into four categories. There are ten entries in the “Important Places” category, five things in the “interesting Objects” category, four entries in the “Inspiring Words” section, and nine special days are talked about in the “Celebrating American Holidays” group.

For each place, object, song, document, or holiday we are provided with a historical perspective, an illustration, and all kinds of facts, figures, and anecdotes. On the pages about the White House we learn that the White House was not always the elegant building it is today. When John Adams was in residence, it was a mess. with a leaking roof and damp plaster walls. The house was worked on and redecorated so many times, that by the time President Truman moved in, it was in a terrible (and unsafe) state. The president had the house renovated, redoing practically everything except the exterior stone walls.

On the pages that tell us about Mount Rushmore. we learn that the four presidential faces carved into rock is the “largest work of art in the world.” Carved into a granite mountain face in South Dakota, the faces of George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt, and Abraham Lincoln took fourteen years to complete, and they were designed by a sculptor called Gutzon Borglum. To get a sense of how big the faces are, the author tells us that George Washington’s nose is 20 feet long, and Abraham Lincoln has eleven foot eyes.

Readers who enjoy reading about famous places and things are going to love this title. The writing style is light and easy to read, and touches of humor make the text very accessible.