As librarians, one of our favorite things to do is to help you find your next favorite book. We craft book lists, we talk to you at the desk, and, of course, we blog. Our children's librarians have been posting book reviews on their book review blog since 2007; here's their blog, by the numbers.
In my family the Fourth of July was a big deal. My family loved to celebrate the birth of the United States of America. We knew who the founding fathers were. Because of this I tend to pay attention to the many myriad of picture books that are published about Americana themes. Here are my top five favorite Americana picture books to get even the younger readers in the mood for any patriotic holiday.
John Hancock, Paul Revere, George Washington, and Ben Franklin are four of the most famous early American patriots. In this humorous picture book author and illustrator Lane Smith explains why these four men were so important. Smith also throws in a few tidbits for the adults who will tend to read this book to youngsters by comparing these patriots to another John, Paul, George and…Ringo who also made a historical impact.
One of the most beloved past presidents of the United States is Abraham Lincoln. Arguably he could be credited with holding this country together. In this biography Doreen Rappaport shows not only the great accomplishments that Lincoln was able to achieve, but she also includes actual quotes from speeches or writings of Lincoln. Readers can learn from his actual words just exactly what he thought and said. And to top it all off, the illustrations by Nelson are sure to keep young readers interested in this great man.
Thomas Jefferson and John Adams are both credited as being founding fathers of the USA. And at times they were great allies and friends. But there is also a history of the two patriots being frustrated and angry with each other. Jurmain tells younger readers about the impact that these two great men had on the young nation as well as explaining their whole history—including the quarrels and disagreements.
Granted, this isn’t a picture book about a particular founding father or patriot—but it is a picture book about an Americana legend. Yankee Doodle is a song that most children sing around holidays such as the Fourth of July. In this picture book twist Crankee Doodle is just that—cranky. His horse has to try to convince him to head to town and complete what children know should happen according to the song. Kiddos who especially love twists and silliness will enjoy reading this parody.
There are a lot of Americana books for young readers that are about the early days of the United States; but what about the American spirit that is still around today? This particular book is full of poems of all the many Presidents of the United States. They tell about all sorts of somewhat unknown facts (like how one particular president got stuck in the bathtub and had to get help to get out). With a variety of Presidents and time-periods young readers will learn that Americana picture books aren’t just about things that happened in the distant past—they can also be about what happened more recently
Electricity came to Provo in 1890. It started with generators at A. O. Smoot’s Provo Woolen Mills and supplied power for 16 street lights in Provo. The Woolen Mills had contracted with the city to provide electricity for three years (1). The Provo Tabernacle was wired for electricity and supplied with three chandeliers by employees of the woolen mills(2). During 1890 the Brigham Young Academy was wired for electricity and supplied with 10 electric lamps(3).
Sometimes the lights failed and the city wanted to re-negotiate the contract. So the streets of Provo went dark again in the spring of 1892 and for 6 months a period of re-negotiation ensued. In October the lights returned under a new contract containing a stipulation that the city was to be reimbursed for any lights that failed to burn(4).
Serious power arrived in Provo with the advent of Lucien L. and Paul N. Nunn, brothers who had established that hydroelectric power could be generated, transmitted, and used to power mining equipment in Telluride, Colorado. Arriving in Provo they proposed a power plant on the Provo River. Initially supportive, Provo objected when they heard the plans to construct an 80-foot dam in Provo Canyon. The Johnstown flood of 1889 had killed 2,200 and was all too present in recent memory. The fight went to the Utah Supreme Court and the dam was reduced to 16 feet. Nunn’s plant was completed in 1897. It generated 40,000 volts that were transmitted 32 miles to the mines in Mercur. This was the longest power transmission in the world at this time(5).
Nunn's Power Plant on the Provo River
The Nunn brothers expanded with lines to Eureka (1900) and Provo, interconnecting the Provo plant with another plant in Logan, and constructing the larger Olmsted Plant at the mouth of Provo Canyon (1903), the beginnings of a grid system in connecting with another power plant in Logan. Paul Nunn published a nice overview of the Nunn brother’s accomplishments in a 1905 article in Cassier’s Magazine(6).
Interior of the Provo Power Plant
Lucien Nunn was an ambitious, shrewd, and tenacious businessman. Although he never finished high school or college, he operated schools of electrical engineering at his power plants pairing education with work experience. Nunn developed a progressive educational model and went on to found the Deep Springs College in California in 1917.7 Nunn’s Telluride Power Company generated the power, but there were separate companies which retailed the power to the populace. Provo’s power by this time was supplied by A.O. Smoot’s Electric Company. They were located at 95 North Academy Avenue (now University Avenue) and carried a “complete line of all kinds of electric appliances such as lamps, shades, chandeliers, wire, bells, cord, flat irons, batteries, etc.”(8)
Reading books before bed has been known to foster parent-child bonds as well as prepare a child for sleep, but did you also know that recent research has shown many more benefits to adding reading into your child’s bedtime routine? Reading to or with your child helps stimulate brain activity, foster creativity and imagination, and promotes and develops language and literacy from an early age.
This research is highlighted in an article published by The New York Times, which asks several pediatricians and psychologists about the topic.
“When kids are hearing stories, they’re imagining in their mind’s eye when they hear the story,” said Dr. John S. Hutton, a clinical research fellow at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center. “It will help them later be better readers because they’ve developed that part of the brain that helps them see what is going on in the story.”
The child also develops a greater vocabulary and understanding of language through reading with a parent. In comparing the words found in books to the words used by parents talking to their children, researchers found that the picture books contained more “unique word types” that the child may not typically hear, and sometimes even complex sentences and rhymes.
So, not only does reading books with children help them hear more words, but at the same time, their brains are hard at work imagining things they associate with those words. Both creativity and logic are being developed all while you and your little one are sailing with Max to the land of the Wild Things, exploring the zany worlds of Dr. Seuss, or saying goodnight to the moon.
“I think that we’ve learned that early reading is more than just a nice thing to do with kids,” Dr. Hutton said. “It really does have a very important role to play in building brain networks that will serve children long-term as they transition from verbal to reading.”
It’s incredible to see what such a simple activity can do for a child. Come to the Library and pick out some books to read together tonight. We have a great list of perfect bedtime stories both you and your child will love.