How to Bake an American Pie


Written by Karma Wilson, Illustrated by Raúl Colón

Margaret K. McElderry Books, 2007

Here’s how to bake an American pie (first ever made on the Fourth of July):

The plot in a nutshell:  The recipe for America.

First you preheat the world with a desire to be free and prepare a melting pot by a shining sea. Use fruited plains as the crust and add enough grain for everyone to share. Be sure you’ve measured meekness and might correctly, then balance it with courage, liberty and justice. Stir in waterfalls and freedom, and even though there’s already a lot in it, there’s still more to add. It needs the spice of the different cultures of its people and all the lands they came from. Add forgiveness, faith, hope and love and top it with a spacious blue sky. Allow it to rise and finish it with fifty stars. Now it’s done and ready to serve and there’s always enough for anyone who stops by.

Using elements of “America the Beautiful” and the United States Constitution, author Karma Wilson creates a perfectly patriotic story to share on Independence Day. On her website, Ms. Wilson tells us that she was inspired to write this story while watching the Iraqi people reacting to the statue of Saddam Hussein being pulled down during the 2003 invasion. It gave her a new appreciation for the freedom that we enjoy as American citizens and that appreciation resulted in this book, which carries a dedication to the US troops who continue to defend that freedom. The whole thing is written in rhyming verse that is great to read aloud.

Melting pot

That’s a lot of flavor!

Raúl Colón’s illustrations, in ink and watercolor, are a warm slice of Americana. The bakers for this American pie are represented by a dog and cat and they are shown in a myriad of locations, including the Statue of Liberty and Mount Rushmore. Of course, there are plenty of reds, whites and blues in the artwork, but there are lots of other colors, working together to underscore our country’s diverse heritage. Yes, I’ll admit there’s a certain amount of cliché at work here, but with all the ways that our country seems to be going crazy around us these days, it’s nice to be reminded (even with a cliché) that we have a lot to be thankful for, too.

And what did we learn?  What I take away from this book is that our country is not just the land, but also the dreams, hopes, skills and memories of all the people who have lived here.


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