Unite or Die: How 13 States Became a Nation
Product Code: 91905
Binding Information: Paperback
Ages: 8 - 11
Availability: In stock
The thirteen ORIGINAL colonies! Together again! One night only!
The children of Forest Lake Elementary School trod the boards in a dramatic reenactment of how the United States Constitution came to be. After the Revolution, the young United States was anything but united. The states acted like thirteen separate countries, with their own governments, laws, and currencies. It took bravery, smarts, and a lot of compromises to create a workable system of government under the new constitution.
Full of facts about our fledgling democracy, the call for a national government, and the Constitutional Convention, this book presents American history with personality, good humor, and energy. This show is not to be missed.
Jef Czekaj’s exuberant illustrations capture the excitement of opening night and the elation of the birth of a nation.
Enjoy these downloadables:
Click here to download a reader's theater forUnite or Die
Click here to read author Jacqueline Jules' post about Unite or Die on CLCD's blog.
If you like this book, you'll love these:
Kirkus Reviews - January 1, 2009Memorable for the contrast between the melodramatic title and Czekaj's funny cartoon series of popeyed children putting on a low-budget stage play, this account of our Constitutional Convention should leave even less attentive readers with some idea of what the resultant document is all about. The curtain rises on players in state-shaped costumes running around shouting, "Hooray! Freedom!" In subsequent scenes they fall to squabbling ("I know what's best for me") under the weak Articles of Confederation, recognize the need for change and gather (all but Rhode Island, that is) in sweltering Philadelphia for long, secret negotiations--nearly failing to reach consensus until Connecticut propses the Great Compromise over the nature of the two legislative houses. "Who will be the first to sign? George Washington, of course!" A lively way to kick off discussions of how the Constitution works and why it's still a living document, especially with readers too young to tackle Jean Fritz's Shh! We're Writing the Constitution (1987).
The Bulletin of the Center for Children's Literature - March 1, 2009The abandonment of the Articles of Confederation in favor of a federal Constitution probably ranks among the more soporific U.S. history topics, particularly for grade-school students. Jules gives it a surprisingly engaging twist in this picture-book treatment, which features a cast of schoolkids putting on a play in which the arguments for and against adopting a Constitution and the details of equitable representation and individual rights are hashed out in kid-friendly dialogue: "My citizens are just as important as yours!" "We're not going to let you big states bully us!" The cartoon players sport a Simpsons-style wide-eyed and gape-mouthed zaniness that should keep even middle-schoolers amused, and even the homemade costuming and onstage antics offer hints of individual state positions on various issues--Rhode Island, absent from the Constitutional Convention, is asleep on the boards, while Virginia agonizes over whether she is primarily a Virginian or an American, and the Garden State of New Jersey balances a flower pot on her head. An afterword supplies extra commentary on the process and document, and notes in Q & A format refer to pages in the text where a little extra elucidation is in order. A bibliography of children's materials is appended, and a national archives URL is included with an encouraging "Read the Constitution for yourself!"
Booklist - January 15, 2009In this brightly illustrated picture book, children dressed in chunky, state-shaped costumes act out a play called "Unite or Die," which dramatizes problems that sprang up after the American revolution and the resolution at the 1787 Constitutional Convention. Bound only by the Articles of Confederation, the little states begin by bickering about issues such as currency, borders, and trade. At the Constitutional Convention, they hammer away until they have created an entirely new federal government. Though the subject may not seem well suited to a picture-book format, Jules does a good job of presenting the essential ideas simply, And Czekaj's droll, cartoon-like illustrations may appeal to some students beyond the primary-grade range. Amusing remarks as well as bits of information are relayed in speech balloons, while each double-page spread a few sentences of text introduce the main ideas, as a narrator would. The book concludes with four pages of notes and a bibliography. An original presentation of a pivotal point in U.S. history.
School Library Journal - April 1, 2009This presentation is written as if it were a school play about the 13 colonies becoming a nation. Told through colorful comic-book illustrations, it stars students dressed as states humorously explaining the path to the writing of the Constitution. The brief text is accompanied by speech balloons expressing the states’ multiple, often competing, views. Anecdotes such as Ben Franklin being a big talker, George Washington’s and Ben Franklin’s special chairs, and the secrecy of the meetings add interest and reveal the historical figures as being real people. Even then there were concerns about the press reporting on governmental procedures. The vividly colored spreads will hold the interest of even middle school students and would be useful to introduce how our form of government was created. Students will enjoy presenting this book as reader’s theater. Further information about the proceedings of the Continental Convention of 1787 is included in an afterword, and the notes section answers important questions not explained in the text. This is a great book to use along with Lane Smith’s John, Paul, George, and Ben (Hyperion, 2006).
Children's Literature - May 1, 2009History can sometimes be confusing to children, especially if there are facts that are hard to keep straight or remember; however, if the facts are made interesting and fun, children will remember them better. The author has taken the facts of the first thirteen states and written them in a unique form to help children remember what happened. Readers will learn, through the genre of a play, the known--and not so well known--facts about the first thirteen states. There are thirteen characters, played by children, representing the states. The illustrations show the reader each part of the play, how the characters are dressed, and each scene. Many details are given about the states but are in the form of the characters talking, discussing, and arguing back and forth to get their point across. Children will see the expressions on the faces of each state represented and learn from the dialogue as well as other words on each page. There are extra notes included in the back to give more interesting details about the story. Teachers would benefit from having this book in their classroom. They may even try to adapt it and perform a class play of their own.
Mother Reader - March 2, 2009I’m not sure how I’ve made it through my daughters’ elementary school years without one class play. Sure, I’ve pulled together costumes for Bug Day (second grade), Colonial Day (fourth grade), and Greek Myth Day (sixth grade), but never a class play. Is it just my school or is the country losing this tradition of homemade costumes, adoring parents, and uncomfortable children?
Well, not in the book Unite or Die: How Thirteen States Became a Nation, where author Jacqueline Jules uses the setting of a class performance to convey historical information. The homemade costumes are on display, as kids wear the thirteen original states around their torsos and ill-fitting wigs over pigtails. The adoring parents are in the front row clapping like Tinkerbell’s life is at stake. As for the uncomfortable children, I’m sure that New Jersey is annoyed that she has to carry a garden plant on her head. (I’m guessing that is a tribute to New Jersey as the Garden State, and also guessing that the artist chose not to tackle the slogan “Virginia Is for Lovers.”)
The kids take us through the time after the Revolutionary War, when America had won its freedom but had yet to become a country. With all the states having separate governments and leaders, they needed to find a way to resolve conflicts between them and make decisions as a nation. Through a narrator’s text and dialogue from the “states” and “statesmen,” the reader learns about the process of forming our government. An afterword and notes section answer additional questions. The cartoons by Jef Czekaj will feel familiar to kids, and keep the illustration fun. I do think that the illustrations could have gone funnier and taken better advantage of the performance aspect — I wanted to see the kid who holds his sign upside down or who knocks over the scenery. Maybe next time.
The book’s style makes a complicated topic more accessible and enjoyable. It’s perfect for classroom use and covers a subject that all American kids will study, even if they don’t have their own class play.
Abby the Librarian - April 27, 2009So, you know all about the American Revolution, right? And you know how in 1776, the Declaration of Independence was signed. And then we became a country, right?
Er... no. Not really. At all.
But that just shows you how much I remember from junior year American History (sorry, Ms. Fischer).
The American Revolution officially ended in 1783 with the signing of the Treaty of Paris. Here was the United States of America!
But... they had a problem.
Each of the thirteen states had its own government. It had its own currency. Traveling between the states was like traveling to a different country. There was no central government to negotiate international trades or help the states if they got into trouble.
Something had to be done. And that something was the Constitutional Convention in 1787 where delegates from twelve of the thirteen states came together to build a new government.
Unite or Die gives a great overview of the Constitutional Convention. Jacqueline Jules's concise text explains why we needed it. It explains what issues the delegates discussed and what they debated. And it explains how our Constitution was created and designed to grow with us as a nation.
And the information is presented through children performing a school play. Some of the kids are dressed up as states, some as forefathers. Jef Czekaj pays great attention to detail and includes small things that kids will love to notice. The effect is similar to The Scrambled States of America (which I also loved).
An afterword presents more info and a great section of notes clarifies items presented throughout the book in an accessible way. A bibliography is included.
This is a great introduction to the Constitution and to American government. It's accessible and fun and I'll take pleasure in recommending it. The SLJ review suggests pairing it with Lane Smith's John, Paul, George, and Ben and I'll heartily second that.
Maw Books Blog - July 4, 2009Unite or Die, How Thirteen States Became a Nation by Jacqueline Jules and illustrated by Jef Czekaj is a perfect book to sit down with this holiday weekend with your kids and learn exactly how the constitution was created. And trust me, perhaps my own recollection of history is rusty but as an adult I learned a lot from this picture book.
After the revolutionary war and America's declaration of independence from England, thirteen states each governed themselves independently, similar to small countries. Did you know that each state used it's own currency? Not I. But I do now. Soon realizing that a strong national government was needed the Constitutional Convention was called and for four hot months an in upmost secrecy, delegates from the thirteen states hammered out the foundation for the current model of government in the United States and on September 17th, 1787 the United States Constitution was signed.
The text from Unite or Die is concise and informative. Jules explains the background of the United States, why a national government was needed, how and which issues the delegates debated and how the constitution was created as a living document, intended to be fluid and changing for a nation that was still growing with issues not yet discovered.
The rest of the story is told in the form of a school play, which stems from Jules own experience as a elementary school librarian who wrote such a skit for her own students to celebrate Constitution Day. Thirteen child cast members each represent a state and they literally fight it out on stage in their homemade costumes in front of their adoring parents. There is a lot of amusing and informative bubble text which fills in gaps from the text. Jef Czekaj is a popular Nickelodeon illustrator and although as a parent, it's not a style I particularly like, kids will enjoy the familiar style.
Jules also includes an afterword and notes about particular statements made throughout the book. A bibliography is also included for further study on the Constitution.
So what fun facts did I come away with? Benjamin Franklin traveled to Independence Hall in a sedan chair carried on poles by four men because at 81 he was to old to ride in a carriage. The meeting was held in secrecy so the delegates could discuss issues freely without worrying about the press or public reactions. It was Roger Sherman who saved the day and turned the meeting around when he presented the Great Compromise: every state, regardless of size, would have two representatives in the Senate, and representation based on population in the House of Representatives. And originally, the vice president would be the runner up in the election. Can you imagine?
Unite or Die is the type of book that kids won't even realize that they are learning. I love sneaky books.
Happy Independence Day!
Jen Robinson's Book Page - August 9, 2009Unite or Die: How Thirteen States Became a Nation reminds me a bit of Schoolhouse Rock. It takes important historical information about the United States, and conveys it in a fun, fresh format. Unite or Die grew out of a skit that the author, Jacqueline Jules, wrote for her students to celebrate Constitution Day (September 17th) in 2005. The story is told as a play, with elementary school students dressed up as the thirteen states, acting out the events of the forming of the constitution in 1787. The cast is a multicultural bunch, demonstrating an array of skin tones and ethnicities. I celebrate this - I think makes the book welcoming to a wide range of students.
Jules' method of using a play to tell the story works well, and keeps the historical material from ever feeling dry. Jef Czekaj's cartoon-like illustrations add quiet humor to every page. For example, Rhode Island didn't send a delegate to the convention in 1787. The picture shows the boy dressed as Rhode Island looking the very picture of belligerence. The girl playing New Jersey, for some reason, has a plant on her head. It's all fun. I also think that the graphic novel feel of the illustrations will make the book intriguing to kids.
And yet, Jules manages to get a tremendous amount of information across about how the states found a way to work together, and how democracy works in action. She conveys the necessity of the states working together, and the challenges that the delegates faced, always using the "kids as states" to keep things relatively light-hearted. The book is never preachy. An afterword and series of notes fill in some of the details, and a bibliography is provided for those looking to delve further into the creation of the constitution.
So, it turns out that a bunch of squabbling kids provide a pretty fair representation of the behavior of the new states after the Revolutionary War. And putting kids into a constitutional play offers an excellent way to learn. Unite or Die is a quality title, and receives my highest recommendation. It doesn't sacrifice the reader's enjoyment for education, or vice versa. This is a must-have title for schools and libraries.
Children's Literature - September 1, 2009The children of Forest Lake Elementary school are putting on a school play that depicts how the United States Constitution was formed, bringing 13 separate states together to create one nation. The book begins on the night of the performance with the curtains closed. The audience waits in their seats for the play to start. When the curtains open, the play introduces the signing of the Treaty of Paris, which ended the American Revolution and gave the 13 colonies their independence from England. The book continues to tell about the establishment of the Articles of Confederation and the weakness of the country as a whole under this document. As the play progresses, the children tell about a meeting of the 55 delegates, also known as the Constitutional Convention, where the foundation for the Constitution was created. This historically accurate children's book provides details and specific facts about the Constitution and the people who attended the convention. This book would be an excellent resource for students to read independently. Because the book is written as if the reader is an audience member at the play, it does not lend itself to being easily read aloud because of all the aside dialogue that is used. Reading this book would be a fun way for students to learn about the Constitution because the dialogue that is used by the children in the play expresses the thoughts and emotions of the American people in a way that is easily relatable.
Eclectica Magazine - October 1, 2009For a very humorous look at Revolutionary history, look no further than Jacqueline Jules' elementary school take on the Constitution, Unite or Die. Using a grade school classic, the play!, she brings a cast of cardboard constructed, state-shaped kids onto the stage to tell the story of how the colonial delegates came to form a single nation. There is a lot of drama here as everyone bickers over states rights vs federal and suffers identity crises ("Who am I, a Virginian or an American?"). Jules lays out some specifics (rarely presented in the discussion of this topic) such as whose ships would have the right to sail the Potomac (Virginia or Maryland), the Shays Rebellion and the many different proposals presented at the 1787 Constitutional Convention (which Rhode Island refused to attend—"I don't want anything to do with this suspicious nonsense!") Step by step the author patiently lays out how our system of government was formed through "a great compromise" and how laws are passed. Between this and Schoolhouse Rock, I can't imagine how a child wouldn't get a grip on the legislature process.
Another note on Unite or Die is the cartoon-like illustrations from Jef Czekaj. The kids are very funny—from loud mouths to crazy hair to one little girl representing New Jersey who insists on wearing a potted plant on her head. The best part though is that they are every shade and hue you would expect in the modern classroom and George Washington is portrayed by an African American child which quite frankly, made me grin with sheer joy. Overall the book is very funny both in words and pictures, yet also earnest and true. Homeschoolers grab this one for sure and teachers, make it a staple in your classroom.
Provo City Library Childrens Book Review - December 15, 2009Jules gives us a perfect example of good nonfiction writing for children. It's not an easy thing to do. Unite or Die tells the story of the summer of 1787 when the thirteen colonies (actually twelve, Rhode Island didn't participate) met in Philadelphia to revise the Articles of Confederation. Sounds dry, but Jules writes it as a play that thirteen children are presenting to an audience. It's very well done, the book I mean, although I'm sure the play would be a big hit. There's an Afterword and Notes at the end by the author which are quite informative and interesting.
4IQREAD - December 17, 2009This book is a playful comic book style introduction to the political process that resulted in the development of the Constitution of the United States. It adeptly explains how the state delegates met to discuss the problems created when thirteen separate state governments, each with their own rules and monetary system try to trade with one another. Representatives of five states agree to convene another meeting to discuss creating a form of federalized government to enable them to trade more easily. Dialog balloons enable the interjection of amusing fictionalized comments expressed during the process. Created within the framework of a class play with a multicultural cast enables a process that was actually taken on by 55 white men to seem more inclusive. Children wear costumes that identify their state by their abbreviations; it would have been helpful if the map of the states had included these abbreviations.
Yellow Brick Road - January 31, 2010The American Revolution was merely a beginning. The story of how compromise among the diverse states brought unity is cleverly presented as a school play. "This accessible introduction to the drafting of the Constitution features exuberant illustrations and an engaging style suitable for readers' theater."