"I'm an American" by Darshana Khiani, illustrated by Laura Freeman
c.2023, Viking. $29.99. 48 pages.
Big loud booms.
Crackles from the skies and pretty colors falling from the stars. That's what makes an Independence Day celebration, but what makes you an American? Is it the way you honor the flag, or the clothes you wear, or is it the get-togethers you have with family? In the new book, "I Am an American by Darshana Khiani, illustrated by Laura Freeman, kids from many cultures tell you what they think.
You love parades and firecrackers and having fun in the park. You love Independence Day and cookouts and red, white and blue. Does that make you an American?
A belief in democracy and the right to vote is one thing that many people think makes them an American. Irish immigrants once believed that being an American meant "access to food, water, and shelter" for everyone. For others, it meant the opportunity to dream and reach for happiness. It still means knowing that you're safe.
In America, everyone has the freedom to worship the God they believe in. Anyone can hold "tight to your tribal-nation identity," even when the government makes it hard to do so. Black Americans know that being an American means wanting everyone to be equal under the law, with the expectation of being treated as such.
Once, more than 160 years ago, German citizens left their country and came to the U.S. to build new lives, and their descendants are now Americans. Mexican and Filipino immigrants hope to teach others about their cultures to "improve our community for everyone." Japanese Americans held hope for justice following World War II. LGBTQ people want an America where they can "be themselves" and make their own families.
America has always been "made of indigenous people and immigrants" and our differences "make us stronger." Native people made sure the European newcomers survived, centuries ago. Chinese Americans built railroads, German immigrants created farms. Jewish Americans and Indian immigrants started businesses. It was a group effort then and even today, "we make our country great" together.
Ask any group of kids what makes us a part of this country, and you'll get a group of different replies. Come to think about it, some grown-ups may struggle with that question but "I'm an American" offers a nice wide answer.
Page after page of this important book shows kids another rock on which America was built, along with a small story of a specific group of people and how those essential tenets affected them as they settled into their new homes. Author Darshana Khiani doesn't just tell the happy stories, however; some of the wrongs that have happened throughout American history are shown here, along with a character-driven aftermath of each event. Illustrations by Laura Freeman tie all these tales together nicely.
This book is perfect for kids ages 4 and 5 as a read-aloud, and older kids will appreciate the author's extra information in the back of the book. For a child who loves their country, "I'm an American" helps make a big loud noise.