Long May She Wave: The True Story of Caroline Pickersgill and Her Star-Spangled Creation by Kristen Fulton, Illustrated by Holly Berry – Review by Elizabeth Brown
Long May She Wave: The True Story of Caroline Pickersgill and Her Star-Spangled Creation (Margaret K. McElderry, 2017), written by Kristen Fulton and illustrated by Holly Berry, is a beautifully written nonfiction picture book which tells the true story of young Caroline Pickersgill and what she created – the American flag which became the object of inspiration for the “The Star-Spangled Banner,” the United States’ national anthem. Kristen Fulton weaves magic into each line of text, threading phrases from the anthem into the story along with powerful alliteration and the layering of sewing and stitching terms which bring this exceptional story to life. All the while, the author gives the reader an accurate portrayal of Caroline and her family as they create their American flag. The author’s voice is precise in its telling, possesses a lyrical quality and is adept at recalling Pickersgill’s story for all children to learn about Caroline and cherish this great symbol, our flag. Kristen Fulton’s back matter also helps in learning more facts about the flag and Pickersgill’s life. She also included the words of “The Star-Spangled Banner” at the end.
Another strong element in Fulton’s writing is action. Through Fulton’s narrative, the reader sees the making of the flag in all the steps and details. The reader can visualize and experience what it must have felt like for Caroline to toil all day in the heat, making the large flag which would be so important, and how her family helped her to sew this great piece of history.
Additionally, Fulton creates tension in the story through her exceptional writing. The reader can feel the worry and fear that Caroline felt, wondering if her flag would still be flying high come dawn after the attack by the British. Fulton has the keen ability to pull the reader through the story with drama and at the same time, she never loses touch with her most important character, Caroline and her experiences in the book.
Holly Berry’s illustrations lend themselves well to the text. Berry’s artwork matches the style of the times and helps highlight and showcase the American flag with luminous red, white, and blue. Her use of greys, black, and browns for the fighting and gun powder contrast her use of oranges and yellows which depict the fire and blasts of the explosions and cannons. The use of double spreads in the book show the flag at crucial moments in the story and effectively portray the drama and the importance of Caroline and her flag in United States’ history.
Long May She Wave offers so much to young readers: history, recognition brought to young Caroline through this story, and of course, Fulton’s strong writing. But most of all, this book offers hope. It shares Caroline’s story and illuminates how one person can make a difference. It illustrates the story of how our flag is a symbol of freedom as well as inspiration. Children, parents, teachers, and librarians will enjoy Long May She Wave and look with much anticipation to Kristen Fulton’s next books.
Elizabeth Brown is a writer, screenwriter, producer, and college writing professor. She has an MFA in Creative Writing from Goddard College. Elizabeth is represented by Sean McCarthy Literary Agency, and her debut picture book, DANCING THROUGH FIELDS OF COLOR: THE ART OF HELEN FRANKENTHALER, will be published Spring 2019 by Abrams. Her website is www.elizabethmbrown.com. Twitter: @ebrownbooks