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We’re Teaming Up With Once Upon a Time Bookstore in a New Monthly Feature

“What We’re Reading”


A Roundup of Independence Day Books



We’re delighted to introduce a new monthly feature where local bookstore owner, Maureen Palacios and her daughter Jessica, of Once Upon a Time, weigh in on what they’re loving in hopes that you’ll love their suggestions too. Established in 1966, Once Upon a Time in Montrose, California is America’s Oldest Children’s Bookstore.


Pie is for Sharing cover illustrationMany things come to mind when you mention celebrating the most American of holidays, Fourth of July — fireworks, picnics, parades, food and family, among others.  As we take a look at a roundup of Fourth of July titles, one of my new favorites—although not technically an Independence Day title—is filled with emotional resonance that conjures up all the great feelings of a well-spent day of celebration. The debut picture book by author and poet Stephanie Parsley Ledyard, whose words are expressively coupled with artwork by Jason Chin, Pie Is for Sharing (Roaring Brook Press) is a first book about the joys of sharing. With a similar cadence to that wonderful picture book, Stars by Marla Frazee, this book celebrates a rich, diverse community in the everyday delights of climbing a tree, sitting on a warm beach towel and, of course, sharing every morsel of a pie. Chin expertly intersperses bits of red, white and blue in each page to magically and triumphantly end in a glorious cascade of fireworks! A perfect read for ages 2-6.
Starred reviews – Booklist, Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books, Kirkus, The Horn Book,


The 4th of July Story cover illustrationGeared to the 4-8 age group is The 4thof July Story, written by two-time Newbery winner Alice Dalgliesh and illustrated by Marie Nonnast. First published in 1956, this paperback has adequate information for late kindergarten and a bit higher, but not for much younger and its illustration style may seem dated to some. The concept of war is a tough enough subject, and trying to explain the origins along with what actually happens may be too much for younger learners. I did enjoy remembering that the origin of “Congress,” which was newly enacted in Philadelphia during the run up to the Revolutionary War, means “coming together.” This simple telling of how the holiday began is why the book remains a primary teacher favorite. Still worth revisiting.




cover illustration from The One and Only Declaration of IndependenceFor a more contemporary approach for older children, I highly recommend The Journey of the One and Only Declaration of Independence, written by Judith St. George and sprightly illustrated by Will Hillenbrand. This 46-page picture book is not so much about the actual Fourth of July holiday, but rather about the history of the document which it inspired. Young readers, ages 7 and up, will embrace the fun and engaging text, with much more current information about the precious piece of parchment that outlines our country’s initial thoughts on freedom, equality and liberty.  Still resonating in today’s divisive political climate, this book, with a biography in back, is a terrific addition to your holiday book shelf.
Starred reviews – Publishers Weekly, School Library Journal

• Reviewed by Maureen Palacios

You can click on the colored links for each book reviewed and go directly to the bookshop’s web store to place an order. Good Reads With Ronna does not get compensated for any purchase. All opinions expressed are those of Once Upon a Time.

Mother and daughter booksellers Maureen and Jessica Palacios of Once Upon a TieOnce Upon A Time
“Your family bookstore”
2207 Honolulu Ave. Montrose, CA 91020

Closed on Wednesday, July 4th
Story time: Every Thursday at 11 am
(Pictured at left, mom and daughter booksellers)
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For July 4th, Read I Pledge Allegiance by Pat Mora and Libby Martinez

I Pledge Allegiance by Pat Mora and Libby Martinez with illustrations by Patrice Barton is reviewed by Rita Zobayan.


I Pledge Allegiance by Pat Mora & Libby Martinez with illustrations by Patrice Barton, Alfred A. Knopf Books for Young Readers, 2014.

Independence Day is just around the corner, and for many of us that means barbecues, fireworks, and parades. Of course, the celebration includes the pride of being or becoming an American, and that’s the focus of I Pledge Allegiance by Pat Mora and Libby Martinez and illustrated by Patrice Barton (Alfred A. Knopf; $16.99; ages 3-7).

Young Libby must lead her class in the school flag ceremony, and her great aunt Lobo is getting ready for her citizenship ceremony. They both must learn the Pledge of Allegiance, so they decide to practice together. They practice in front of their cat, Libby’s stuffed animals, and each other, and during the week, Libby learns Lobo’s story about coming to America and becoming a citizen.

“Why do you want to be a citizen?” I ask.

“Mi querida, I was born in Mexico and went to school there, but the United States has been my home for many years. I am proud to be from Mexico and to speak Spanish and English. Many people are proud of the places where they were born or where they grew up. But a long time ago…my father wanted a safer place for us to grow up, and we came to the United States. The American flag—read, white, and blue—wrapped itself around me to protect me.”

This sweet story artfully weaves the themes of patriotism, immigration, citizenship, history, and family. It’s a wonderful introduction to the importance, history, and meaning of the Pledge, as well as a reminder that no matter where we come from, we are all together under the flag.

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

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.

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”:

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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The White House, America’s Most Recognizable Residence

Coming out this July is The House That George Built written by Suzanne Slade and illustrated by Rebecca Bond. Today reviewer Rita Zobayan weighs in on why she likes this new picture book.

                  Presidents’ Day may have passed, but Independence Day is just around the corner. Begin your celebration by sharing the story of one of America’s most recognizable residences: the White House.  The House That George Built ($16.95, Charlesbridge, ages 6 and up) written by Suzanne Slade and illustrated by Rebecca Bond  describes George Washington’s role in the building of the presidential home, which was originally referred to as the President’s House.

                  In essence, this book is almost two in one. On the left pages is more advanced, detailed text: “Then George spied a magnificent drawing with majestic columns, grand staircases, and a stately oval room. James Hoban’s design was just right and he won the contest.”  On the right pages is the simpler version: “This is the design/that would stand for all time/that was drawn for the lot/that grand, scenic spot/for the President’s House that George built.”  (You may recognize the rhyme style and the book title as a reference to the famous poem “This Is the House That Jack Built.”) The book provides information on the many aspects of this process from choosing the correct location to using the available materials in the new country to the people who worked on the house.

                  Finishing up the book are additional pages of information. One page provides the logistics of the house (35 bathrooms!) and outlines changes made to the residence, such as Theodore Roosevelt adding an outdoor tennis court in 1912 and Bill Clinton adding a hot tub and jogging track in 1993. The next page is the author’s note and elaborates on the back story of the building endeavor. For example, even though George Washington had an active hand in overseeing the process to build this structure, he is the only president to have never lived there! Lastly, sources and resources are listed, which are useful should a child wish to use this book for a report. The House That George Built is an informative and fun way to learn more about one of our nation’s most historic buildings.


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Fireworks & Fun on The 4th of July


RED, WHITE, AND BOOM! ($16.99, Henry Holt, ages 3 and up) by Lee Wardlaw with illustrations by Huy Voun Lee is reviewed by Ronna Mandel.

         What do you do on the 4th of July? Do you watch a parade or head to the beach?  Do you have a picnic or fly a kite?  Award-winning author and unrivaled rhymer, Lee Wardlaw has captured the essence of this patriotic holiday in a picture book that simply shouts happiness, fun and family on every page.

            The book opens with “Red, white, blue. Curbside view.” Observant readers may catch the humor of a street sign post at the corner of Holt St. and Lee Ave. near the parade watchers.  I just love that whimsical touch added by acclaimed artist Huy Voun Lee in her beautiful paper cut illustrations which are actually colorful collages of layered paper-cut outs! She also told me that “All the fine lines are also cut, not drawn, with an x-acto knife.” 

Huy Voun Lee artwork used by permission of Macmillan.

            With each turn of the page youngsters will be treated to all of the delights that Independence Day brings – be it romping on the beach with your favorite pet; “Frisbee zips. Doggie flips.” Or snacking; “Melon grins. Juicy chins.” Find little ones dashing and splashing at the water’s edge or constructing sand castles and keeping busy building and digging all day long. At a playground, “Fireflies flit. Sparklers spit,” while children play with pinwheels and families enjoy the wonderful outdoors. At night the red, white, and boom of the colorful fireworks light up the skies as sleepy ones doze and families call it a day. But we know it was no ordinary one.

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Grand Old Flags

When you think of Independence Day you may think of barbecues, beaches, fireworks, but this Fourth of July, consider the flag and its many uses. Iowa’s first poet laureate Marvin Bell has done just that in A Primer About The Flag ($15.99, Candlewick Press, ages 4-8) and Chris Raschka has created the artwork to accompany this delightful romp (well poem actually) around the world of flags.

0763649910medThe book starts with bed & breakfast flags, seafaring flags, state flags and even little flags that say bang when they’re shot out in a fake gun.

Kids will love the variety of flags described and illustrated with whimsical words and drawings. Adults will acknowledge that flags are really everywhere and Bell and Raschka make those colorful waving pieces of fabric worth paying attention to.

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More Independence Day Reads

Some of the following books are not brand new releases, but noteworthy nonetheless as we think back this weekend to how our great nation came to be. Find out more about these interesting books at the pubisher’s websites or visit your local library or bookstore.

9781599903712-1Road To The Revolution (The Cartoon Chronicles of America) by Stan Mack and Susan Champlin – ($10.99, BloomsburyUSA, ages 10-14)

0763647039medFree? Stories About Human Rights AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL with a forward by Jacqueline Wilson – ($17.99, Candlewick Press, ages 10 and up)

63005171776: A New Look at Revolutionary Williamsburg by K.M. Kostyal with the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation, photographs by Lori Epstein Renda – ($17.95, National Geographic Kids Books)

91899Unite or Die: How Thirteen States Became a Nation by Jacqueline Jules with illustrations by Jef Czekaj-  ($7.95, Charlesbridge, ages 5-9)

catalog_cover_100-1Imogene’s Last Stand by Candace Fleming with illustrations by Nancy Carpenter – ($16.99, Random House Children’s Books, ages 4-8)

Editor’s Note: Please check to make sure these books are in stock and that prices have not changed since original details were supplied to us. There may be copies available in remainders stores online if no longer available from the publishing house.

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Let’s Celebrate Independence Day! In 1776 by Jean Marzollo

IN 1776
Written by Jean Marzollo
Illustrated by Steve Björkman
(Scholastic; $ paperback prices vary, Ages 7-10)



In 1776, by Jean Marzollo and illustrated by Steve Björkman, while first published in 1994 by Scholastic, is still relevant today as we look forward to July 4th in 2017.

This paperback, part of the Scholastic Bookcase series, is a great book to bring out this holiday before all the BBQs and fireworks get started so youngsters can understand just exactly what it is we are celebrating. Told in easy to understand rhyme, “The colonists were angry, because they had no say, when the British king gave orders, three thousand miles away.” Kids will learn in simple language how, as colonists of Great Britain, Americans refused to be burdened with more taxes levied by King George III without representation. When the British marched on Lexington and Concord, fighting broke out. Soon the seeds of independence were sown, “So their leaders met in Philly, in June and in July. They picked some men to tell the king, “We must be free – here’s why!” The American Revolution or the War of Independence was bravely fought under the guidance of its leader, General George Washington and the rest as we say, is history.

“On the Fourth of July, in seventy-six, after a long and heated morn, The Declaration was approved, and the U.S.A. was born.”

Happy 4th of July everyone! 🇺🇸

  • Reviewed by Ronna Mandel
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