4 Books that Teach Us About Patriotic Songs

Labor Day Children’s Books

For Labor Day most Americans are attending parades hearing patriotic songs that we all have known since childhood. Here are my favorite children’s books that describe the stories behind some of my favorite songs.

 My Country, ‘Tis of Thee: How One Song Reveals the History of Civil Rightsby Claire Rudolf Murphy

Everyone knows the words to “My Country, ‘Tis of Thee.” What most don’t realize is that this iconic song has been a beacon of change for hundreds of years. Generations of protesters and civil rights pioneers have created new lyrics, beginning in royalist Britain and continuing through conflicts in colonial times, the American Revolution, the suffragist and labor movements, and the struggles for black and Native American civil rights. With spectacular illustrations by Caldecott Honor–winning artist Bryan Collier, My Country, ‘Tis of Thee offers a fascinating insight into the American fight for freedom.

The Story of The Star-Spangled Banner by Patricia A. Pingry

Suitable for ages 4 to 8, this title tells the story of how Frances Scott Key observed the Battle of Baltimore in September 1814 and was so moved by the sight of the flag still flying at dawn that he wrote the poem that became our national anthem. It includes the words to the first verse of ‘The Star-Spangled Banner.’

We Shall Overcome: The Story of a Songby Debbie Levy

It only takes a few words to create change. It only takes a few people to believe that change is possible. And when those people sing out, they can change the world.

“We Shall Overcome” is one of their songs. From the song’s roots in America’s era of slavery through to the civil rights movement of the 1960s and today, “We Shall Overcome” has come to represent the fight for equality and freedom around the world.

This important book, lyrically written by Debbie Levy and paired with elegant, collage-style art by Vanessa Brantley-Newton, pays tribute to the heroic spirit of the famous song that encompasses American history.

Out of Slavery: The Journey to Amazing Graceby Linda Granfield

“Amazing Grace” is as resonant and familiar a hymn as they come, heard in churches across the country and even politicians.

Amazing grace, how sweet the sound,
that saved a wretch like me.
I once was lost, but now am found,
Was blind but now I see.

The Englishman who wrote “Amazing Grace,” John Newton, sailed boats full of captured slaves from Africa to South Carolina in the 1700s. In 1747, his ship was caught up in a brutal storm. He prayed for salvation, found God, and promised to leave the slave trade — and later became a fervent abolitionist. (Previously titled Amazing Grace: The Story of the Hymn)

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