Book Review: Sing Freedom! by Vanita Oelschlager and illustrated by Mike DeSantis

What a beautiful book! The illustrations are really well done and fit the text so very well.

Sing Freedom by Vanita Oelschlager and illustrated by Mike DeSantis is a perfect book to explain how freedom, once lost, is so very difficult to regain. This book covers a major political event very well, with just enough information to teach, but not too much to overwhelm. A glossary in the back gives more details on new people and places. Another page in the back shows the steps the illustrator takes to create the art, which is a fascinating peek into the artistry behind picture books. I can easily see this being a favorite page for those students who love to sketch. A bare-bones map of Europe shows all of the countries in relationship to each other, helpful in a time when geography is not taught any longer in many elementary schools.

Full disclosure: I knew practically nothing about Estonia, so I found this book very informative, even as an adult!

As a veteran middle school language arts teacher, one of the things I loved to do was to pair a picture book with a grade-level novel. For example, before reading Esperanza Rising, the story of a once wealthy Mexican girl who loses everything and must be secretly smuggled across the border with her mother and their trusted servants. Once in California she must learn things like sweeping and cooking as her mother works alongside their former servants picking and packing fruits and vegetables in the fields. Before reading, I would have the students read picture books of immigration and the difficulties people from war-torn countries faced both at home and here in their new home. Sing Freedom! would be a great picture book to pair with a YA novel about the Cold War and the Iron Curtain.

Interesting side note: the back jacket of the book tells of a film about the “Singing Revolution”. This would be a great cross-curriculum, multi-media experience to watch the film, read the book, and study the map of Europe, learn more about the break-up of the Soviet Union, and finish with learning the national song of Estonia, “Land of My Fathers.”

Thank you to NetGalley for allowing me read an e-book version of this book.

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