These are the times that try men’s souls…
If you know these words, you know Thomas Paine, a great patriot and inspiration for American freedom. It is that precious freedom and the hope it inspires that stirred a young Irving Berlin to create a song which even today is dear to the hearts of Americans. America is built on the backs of everyday people who rise to great heights, despite the circumstances of life, and Disney Publishing is about to release two books honoring these great Americans – Thomas Paine and the Dangerous Word by Sarah Jane Marsh and Edwin Fotheringham and God Bless America: The Story of an Immigrant Named Irving Berlin by Adah Nuchi and Rob Polivka.
Ironically, I’m sitting on a bus with my daughter’s 8th grade class, touring America’s great landmarks as we study history in real life. Just before we left I received these two wonderful books and read them immediately (Disney Publishing allowed me to see advanced copies so artwork and content could change although it seems to happen rarely). Both were the perfect read for our trip.
Title: Thomas Paine and the Dangerous Word
Author: Sarah Jane Marsh; illustrations by Edwin Fotheringham
Publisher: Disney Press
Genre: Young Readers
Thomas Paine and the Dangerous Word tells the story of Thomas Paine’s life and how he influenced not only America politics but the War of Independence. Never expected to do anything but follow in his father’s footsteps as a corset maker, Paine got a whiff of education at a young age and it drove him his entire life. Marsh isn’t shy about telling the truth about Paine’s struggles and how he didn’t succeed in everything he did. Quite the opposite. He searched for years to find his voice, but when he did he changed how we thought about our new nation. She uses actual quotes from historical pieces to augment the story which gives it an air of added authenticity. It was surprising to me how forbidden it was to use the word “independence” when talking about the colonies! Very informative in an easy to read format. Edwin Fotheringham does an excellent job by helping to shape the story with his art in friendly pictures that will engage younger readers. He uses a style reminiscent of colonial times.
Title: God Bless America: The Story of an Immigrant Named Irving Berlin
Author: Adah Nuchi; illustrated by Rob Polivka
Publisher: Disney Press
Genre: Picture Book
God Bless America is the tale of Irving Berlin whose real name was Izzy Baline. Izzy was a Russian Jew and his family immigrated to America in hopes of a better life. As he found his passion for songwriting, Izzy changed his name to Irving and his last name to Berlin. Adah reveals how Irving Berlin came up with the song that would become one of the best known and inspirational songs in the United States. Adah uses an interesting technique, using sound in each part of the story to convey an idea in ways reminiscent of Dr. Seuss. Rob’s art is wonderful and reflects the meaning of the story through pictures. While the book is about Irving Berlin it is also a story about how an immigrant came to not only contribute to American culture but captured its essence so succinctly that his contribution became one of the ways we define being American.
If you’re looking for books for your children to read that will inspire them and give them a sense of hope, both Thomas Paine and the Dangerous Word and God Bless America: The Story of an Immigrant Named Irving Berlin are worthwhile reads.