Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Jellybeans: A Fourth of July Story

In Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Jellybeans: A Fourth of July Story, Heather French Henry brings us once again into the world of young Claire and her dog, Pepper.

It's 4th of July morning, and Claire complains she doesn't have any freedom because of Mom's rules, such as no jellybeans right after breakfast. Upset, she takes Pepper outside to go play with her friend, Robbie.

Claire doesn't find Robbie, but her neighbor, General Jones, is there. In greeting the General, she tells him she is unhappy. Inquiring into her troubles, he tells her: "This is the date the patriots signed the Declaration of Independence for 'life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.'" Claire questions, "Independence is freedom, isn't it?" The General explains, "Yes, it's the freedom to find happiness."

Claire complains to General Jones about Mom's rules. He reassures her "You have to learn how to be free, Claire. Your mom makes good rules. That's what the Declaration of Independence is about - good rules for a free country." Robbie then arrives with a bang, throwing some poppers on the ground, which startles Pepper. Claires asks him to throw them somewhere else so he doesn't scare Pepper. General Jones points out it's a good rule...

Later, a lightening storm arrives. General Jones makes a comment about Ben Franklin. Mom calls Claire to come inside, and advises Robbie to get home before it rains, too. Claire doesn't want Robbie to have to learn, but the General gently reminds her about "good rules".

While Claire is in her room, she sees Ben Franklin outside with a pair of kites. He invites her to go work on the Declaration of Independence with him. They fly away to Colonial America. Claire sees British soldiers and patriots, one of whom is Robbie. Upon arriving in Philadelphia, Claire sees some men looking over a large paper. Thomas Jefferson, who looks like General Jones, reads what they've been working on:

"We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights; that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of jellybeans..."

This makes Claire giggle. "You can't say 'jellybeans.'" Mr. Jefferson explains that jellybeans make him happy. Claire points out that not everyone feels the same way, "and the Declaration is for everybody." Claire is inspired: "Life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness." Ben then takes Claire back home.

Mom wakes Claire up from her dream. Claire tells her mother:

"What a day, Mom! First I learned about rules for freedom, from General Jones. Then I flew to Philadelphia with Mr. Franklin and helped with everyone's freedom."

Later, everyone is outside watching the fireworks, and Claire and Robbie get to have some jellybeans.

Included at the back of the book is "A Brief History of the Fourth of July".

This book is recommended for children ages 5 to 9. For this age group, it's a simple story to help them begin to understand how America came to be, and that to be a free society, we all need to follow good rules. Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Jellybeans would make a nice addition to a young child's library.