February 24, 2018

The Advocate's Toolbox

Pick of the Day: We Are America: A Tribute from the Heart (Audiobook)

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We Are America: A Tribute from the Heart. By Walter Dean Myers. CD. 33:51 min. with hardcover Close up of Statue of Libertybook. Live Oak Media. 2012. ISBN 978-1-4301-1112-2. $29.95.
Gr 3 Up–The sweeping scope of Myers’s free verse poems (HarperCollins, 2011) is captured beautifully and interpreted dramatically on this CD by a diverse cast of narrators. This eminently patriotic book celebrates free expression and attempts to paint with word pictures the depth and breadth of the varied American experience. Rarely are all ethnicities given voice in a treatise on American freedom, liberty, and values, but the panorama of people who built America is well represented here. In fact, the book alone, without the CD, falls flat with its oddly-proportioned, crowded murals in a sea of white space. It is only with the soaring music, stirring sound effects, and talented team of multicultural readers that this book’s meaning and powerful purpose come to life. When a Native American voices Tecumseh’s words to the accompaniment of reed flute and eagle flight, listeners understand their intent. From Jimi Hendrix’s guitar riff to the sound of boxes of tea being dumped in Boston Harbor, meaning is enhanced. Not a young child’s picture book, the complicated concepts, vocabulary, and mature images are best for older students. Charles R. Smith Jr.’s book, I Am America (Cartwheel, 2003), is a better fit for earlier grades. Annotated quotations and art notes provide helpful references, as do the author’s and artist’s prefaces. Useful for biography units or civics classes, the chorus of voices, music, and sounds tell the unique story of America and its people in 33 breathless minutes. Truly inspirational.–Lonna Pierce, MacArthur and Thomas Jefferson Elementary School, Binghamton, NY

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