Vaunda Micheaux Nelson

Happy Independence Day: Our America

On Juneteenth we celebrated freedom and honored the sacrifices made to end slavery in our nation.  I’m proud of that.  Now, the Fourth of July, the anniversary of the day our country declared its independence, is upon us.  ’Tis the season to appreciate our beautiful country.

July 13th would have been the late Ashley Bryan’s 101st birthday.  I think of him often.  To honor Ashley and our country, I recommend the lovely picture book My America, written by the marvelous Jan Spivey Gilchrist and co-illustrated with Ashley’s wonderful art.

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Gilchrist’s simple, yet powerful, poem uses the repeating phrase “Have you seen my . . .” to inspire us to look closely at all that our amazing nation offers us — the beauty and diversity of its landscape, its waters, its creatures and its people.  Illustrating alternate pages in a kind of picture book duet, she and Ashley use different, yet consistently majestic, styles in this uplifing book.  My America (HarperCollins Publishers, 2007) is a stunning tribute.
I also highly recommend two other books that excite an appreciation for our world.  Both are finely illustrated by Ashley Bryan.

What a Wonderful World, written by George David Weiss and Bob Thiele, published by Atheneum Books for Young Readers, 1995.

All Things Bright and Beautiful, based on the hymn by Cecil F. Alexander, published by Atheneum Books for Young Readers, 2010.