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The Rocket’s Red Glare: Celebrating the History of The Star Spangled Banner

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The Rocket’s Red Glare: Celebrating the History of The Star Spangled Banner written by Peter Alderman and illustrated by Bea Moritz is reviewed by Dornel Cerro.

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The Rocket’s Red Glare: Celebrating the History of The Star Spangled Banner by Peter Alderman with illustrations by Bea Moritz, Flowerpot Press, 2014.

In 1812, the American Congress declared war on Great Britain following years of naval harassment. One day, in 1814, Francis Scott Key sailed out on an official mission to negotiate the release of an American doctor captured by the British. The British were agreeable to this but with one, agonizing condition: Key and his companions were to wait offshore so as not to tip off nearby Fort McHenry of an impending British attack.

Key anxiously followed the assault to its conclusion and saw “ … that our flag was still there.” With great pride and excitement, he shouted “oh say can you see?” and quickly wrote out the words to what would become the national anthem of the United States, the “Star Spangled Banner”.

In The Rocket’s Red Glare: Celebrating the History of The Star Spangled Banner  written by Peter Alderman and illustrated by Bea Moritz (Flowerpot Press, July 4, 2014, $16.99, All Ages) Alderman’s narrative, punctuated by the anthem’s vivid and stirring words, makes the complex history behind the “Star Spangled Banner” accessible for young children and captures the drama and suspense of the event that inspired it. The anthem wonderfully conveys Key’s pride which continues to resonate with Americans whenever it is played.

Illustrator Moritz’s use of a variety of illustrative techniques across stunning double page spreads bring understanding to the anthem’s soaring, but archaic words and phrases. The flag’s thickly painted broad, red and white stripes give it texture and, despite being battered and torn in the battle, invoke the new country’s strength and endurance. Ethereal looking rockets, blazing red and yellow, fly through a star-filled sky and prove, that while dangerous, they could not bring down the fort and thus the country.

The accompanying CD includes multi-platinum artist Jo Dee Messina reading the book and singing stirring renditions of both the “Star Spangled Banner” and “America the Beautiful.” Here is a link to Messina’s rendition of “The Star Spangled Banner”:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1tuwkmmoOCc

This lovely book is suitable for a wide audience and will be available just in time for the Fourth of July. Its large coffee table size and accompanying CD not only  make this a great gift, but a highly visual/auditory read-aloud. Highly recommended as an addition to elementary classroom and library collections. Teachers may want to use it to introduce units on American civics, holidays (Flag day is June 14) and early history.

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