Nonfiction – Unite or Die!

The scene (literally) is set: it’s 1783 and the new American nation is struggling to come to terms with the Articles of Confederation. A bold decision is made: the Articles will be junked completely in favor of a new Constitution. But what powers will the Constitution grant, and how will thirteen very different states ever manage to agree?

This book is set up as if it were a school play, complete with audience members. The states are represented by children dressed up in state costumes. (It is only as I was writing this that I suddenly realized that the girl playing New Jersey has a flowerpot on her head to represent the Garden State. Clever.) The students re-enact and reinterpret the major changes enacted by the Constitution, as well as the difficulties and compromises required to write the document.

Many people tend to forget that the Constitution was not our original governing document. This extremely child-friendly book provides an engaging and dynamic look at a subject that could easily be quite dry. Most pages feature an unknown narrator make a statement of fact about the government or situation, at which point the “states” talk to each other with word bubbles to add information or explain their thinking or objections. I am often suspicious of books that try to cartoonize history. This book manages to be that rare beast that is able to pull off excellent cartoonwork with interesting text to create an overall package that is both appealing to children and educational.

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