Sooner or later, just about every American kid is required to memorize the Preamble to the Constitution of the United States. And until now, it was one of the more boring, meaningless assignments. But artist and political cartoonist David Catrow (Stand Tall, Molly Lou Melon
) has changed all that with his witty, clear-as-a-Liberty-Bell picture book. For him, the Constitution is "a kind of how-to book, showing us ways to have happiness, safety, and comfort." With laugh-out-loud cartoony illustrations, and the actual words of the Preamble as the only text, Catrow depicts a camping trip taken by a diverse, bumbling group of friends, demonstrating the rights and responsibilities the Constitution places on all Americans, young and old. In one especially winning picture, the kids' long-nosed, long-eared pooch provides "for the common defense," keeping lackadaisical guard over the camp as the three human friends yuk it up in silhouette inside the tent. Readers will never yawn at mention of the Constitution again! (Ages 8 to 12) --Emilie Coulter
From Publishers Weekly
Catrow (She's Wearing a Dead Bird on Her Head!), who doubles as a political cartoonist, writes in his amiable introduction, "When I paint my paintings and draw my cartoons, I can do them any way I want. Being able to do that makes me very happy and very free. And I think that's exactly what all those old guys with their big words and big ideas wanted," he says, referring to the authors of the Constitution and the liberty he enjoys as a result of their efforts. Following a casual glossary (e.g., "insure domestic tranquility" means "To make sure that we can all have a nice life and get along with one another"), he takes fresh liberties he uses the Preamble as text for spry, loopy cartoons chronicling three eccentric-looking kids and a spirited pooch on a backyard camping caper. The characters review a poster outlining rules for the evening ("establish Justice"); wearing a helmet and looking bored, the dog stands guard as the kids frolic in the tent ("provide for the common defense"). And everyone snuggles under a blanket ("and secure the Blessings of Liberty") while two parents survey the placid scene from a window ("to ourselves and our Posterity"). With his customary satiric flair, Catrow inserts plentiful tongue-in-cheek visuals: a saucepan bouncing off one child's head while she sits entangled in another child's rope hardly suggests "domestic Tranquility." This zany, patriotic paean offers kids lighthearted but meaningful incentive to reflect further on the relevance of those "big words" and "big ideas." All ages.