Closer Readings Commentary

We the People Bookshelf: A More Perfect Union

We the People image with Bald Eagle
Photo caption

"We the People" image with Bald Eagle.

The We the People Bookshelf theme, “A More Perfect Union,” invites reflection on the idea of the United States as a “union,” a “One” as well as a “Many,” and includes EDSITEment lesson plans that complement the titles below.

Grades K-3

Tico and the Golden Wings—Leo Lionni

In this beautifully illustrated book, a bird comes to know himself and his own worth through selfless acts for others.

(Knopf Books for young Readers, 2007)
ISBN-10: 0394817494 / ISBN-13: 978-0394817491

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When Marian Sang: The True Recital of Marian Anderson—Pam Muñoz Ryan

Marian Anderson’s recital at the Lincoln Memorial was a dramatic moment in the nation’s long quest to rise above racial divisions.

Photo of Opera singer Marian Anderson performing at the Lincoln Memorial in 1939.
Photo caption

Photo of Opera singer Marian Anderson performing at the Lincoln Memorial in 1939.

(Scholastic Press, 2002)
ISBN-10: 0439269679 / ISBN-13: 978-0439269674

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A More Perfect Union: The Story of Our Constitution—Betsy and Giulio Maestro

The authors offer a clear and simple account of why and how thirty-nine men devised a Constitution that tied thirteen separate states into one United States of America.

(Lothrop Lee & Shepard, 1987)
ISBN-10: 0688068391 / ISBN-13: 978-0688068394

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Grades 4-6

Abigail & John—David Bruce Smith, Clarice Smith (Illustrator)

Abigail & John offers readers the opportunity to view prominent scenes in American history through the remarkable lives of one of the country’s most beloved couples—the Adams’s. Users will find lesson plan ideas and additional resources at the Grateful American Foundation website. 

(Simon & Schuster, 2019)
ISBN-10: 194849602X / ISBN-13: 978-1948496025

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Cesar: ¡Si, Se Puede! / Yes, We Can!—Carmen T. Bernier-Grand, David Diaz (Illustrator)

The life and times of César Chávez are vividly re-created in this collection of poems. Where most biographies stick to the facts of what a person did, this one also touches on the man's character and values. Children will learn about Chávez, but, more importantly, they will learn the important lessons he taught, and they will be able to apply them to their own lives.

(Marshall Cavendish Children’s Books, 2005)
ISBN-10: 0761451722 / ISBN-13: 978-0761451723

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Darby—Jonathon Scott Fuqua

It is 1926, and nine-year-old Darby creates a stir in her small South Carolina town by writing columns for the local newspaper urging whites to treat blacks as equals.

(Candlewick, 2002)
ISBN-10: 0763622907 / ISBN-13: 978-0763622909

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Eagle Song—Joseph Bruchac

Danny Bigtree, fresh from the Mohawk reservation, is taunted by his new Brooklyn schoolmates. The students move toward greater understanding and peace after they learn the story of Hiawatha, the Iroquois Peacemaker.

Cover image for Eagle Song by Joseph Bruchac
Photo caption

Cover image for Eagle Song by Joseph Bruchac.

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The Great Little Madison—Jean Fritz

This biography traces the events and ideas that led James Madison to become a great champion of a strong union and the Father of the Constitution.

(Putnam Juvenile, 1998)
ISBN-10: 0399217681 / ISBN-13: 978-0399217685

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Grades 7-8

Chains—Laurie Halse Anderson

This fast-paced novel reveals the heartache and struggles of a country and slave fighting for freedom. The characters are well developed, and the situations are realistic. An author's note gives insight into issues surrounding the Revolutionary War and the fight for the nation's freedom even though 20 percent of its people were in chains.

(Simon & Schuster Children’s Publishing, 2008)
ISBN-10: 1416905855 / ISBN-13: 978-1416905851

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Hitch—Jeanette Ingold

Out of work and out of money, Moss Trawnley signs up for a “hitch” in the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC), helping Montana ranchers facing Depression and drought.

(Harcourt Children’s Books, 1st ed., 2006)
ISBN-10: 0152047476 / ISBN-13: 978-0152047474

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Lincoln Shot. A President’s Life Remembered—Barry Denenberg

Noted children’s book biographer Barry Denenberg, award-winning illustrator Christopher Bing, and book designer Rich Deas collaborate on an intimate portrait of Abraham Lincoln. This arresting combination of Bing’s award-wining illustrations, plus archival photography and period typefaces and design is presented as a 19th century newspaper memorial edition.

(Feiwel & Friends, 2008)
ISBN-13: 9780312370138

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Warriors Don’t Cry—Melba Pattillo Beals

Melba Beals recounts her experience as one of the “Little Rock Nine,” the group of students who led the way to desegregation.

ISBN-10: 0671866389 / ISBN-13: 978-0671866389

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Grades 9-12

American Creation: Triumphs and Tragedies at the Founding of the Republic—Joseph Ellis

A brilliant examination of the period between the War of Independence and the Louisiana Purchase. Six stories, each centering on a significant creative achievement or failure, combine to portray often flawed men and their efforts to lay the republic's foundation.

(Knopf, 2007)
ISBN-10: 030726369X / ISBN-13: 978-0307263698

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Killer Angels—Michael Shaara

Michael Shaara won the Pulitzer Prize for this riveting and unforgettable novel about the Battle of Gettysburg.

(Ballantine Books, 2001)
ISBN-10: 0345444124 / ISBN-13: 978-0345444127

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Lincoln in His Own Words—Milton Meltzer

Historian Milton Melzer contributes context and commentary on the life and times, ideas, and achievements of Lincoln. Otherwise he lets Lincoln speak for himself.

First choice: Harcourt; 1st edition (October 1, 1993) ISBN-10: 0152454373 / ISBN-13: 978-0152454371
Second choice: Sandpiper; Reprint edition (January 1, 2009) ISBN-10: 0152064362 / ISBN-13: 978-0152064365

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Carver: A Life in Poems—Marilyn Nelson

Marilyn Nelson’s lyrical poems, complemented by black and white photographs, speak eloquently about the inspiring life and character of George Washington Carver.

(Front Street imprint of Boyds Mill Press, 1st ed., 2001)
ISBN-10: 1886910537 / ISBN-13: 978-1886910539

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Twelve Angry Men—Reginald Rose

This stage play, recounting the deliberations of a twelve-man jury in a murder case, examines the complexity of justice in a democratic society.

(Penguin Classics, 2006)
ISBN-10: 0143104403 / ISBN-13: 978-0143104407

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The Souls of Black Folk—W. E. B. DuBois

Looking back at Emancipation and its effects, DuBois’s proclamation that “the problem of the Twentieth Century is the problem of the color line” anticipates and advances the civil rights movement.

(Oxford University Press, 2007)
ISBN-10: 0192806785 / ISBN-13: 978-0192806789

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