I was thinking about the banners, Hata-jirushi (旗印), that my ancestors used on the battlefield during medieval Japan. It would have our clan name via the kamon, or logo if you will. The banners would denote the regiments of an army within a particular samurai clan.
image from Wikipedia
Flags around the world are a symbol of leadership, to identify friends from foes, and to serve as a rallying point. Flags are associated with war but also with causes and geographic areas.
In the days before the Internet, phones, television, and radio, messages were sent by flags. Ships communicated with one another by spelling out words with flags. Some wordless flags used images to convey meaning.
from Our Flag Was Still There by Jessie Harland
Today, I wanted to explore flags in picture books. I’m also giving away a copy of A Flag for Juneteenth. To enter, please fill out the Rafflecopter at the bottom.
What books would you add to this list? Thanks for your suggestions.
9 Picture Books about Flags
That Flag by Tameka Fryer Brown, illustrated by Nikkolas Smith
Tameka Fryer Brown gives space and grace to show two means of the Confederate flag. For the Black community, it is a symbol of white supremacy. For white Southerners, it is a symbol of Southern pride. Two best friends, Keira and Bianca, are forced to reckon with the Confederate flag displayed in front of Bianca’s house after visiting a Black history museum. For Keira’s family, the Confederate flag is a symbol of violent oppression, racism, and hate crimes. For Bianca, the flag her family hangs is a symbol of Southern pride. Things come to a head when a Black couple is murdered outside of their home. At a candlelight vigil, Keira is surprised to find Bianca’s family in attendance. This book is perfect for starting conversations about racism, flags and their symbolism, and U.S. history. What stories are told? What stories are true? And where do we go from here? [picture book, ages 6 and up]
A Flag for Juneteenth by Kim Taylor
What a brilliant idea for author and illustrator Kim Taylor to create quilts as illustrations for this book about Juneteenth, including the creation of the Juneteenth flag since flags were all sew creations! She tells the story of Juneteenth and what happened in Texas on June 19, 1865. The Juneteenth flag is a symbol of freedom and a story quilt, which was often used as a map to help enslaved people escape, is truly the perfect connection and symbol for this important new Federal holiday. [picture book, ages 4 and up]
Pride: The Story of Harvey Milk and the Rainbow Flag by Rob Sanders, illustrated by Steven Salerno
The Pride flag was the work of Harvey Milk, the first openly gay elected official. He wanted a joyful symbol to combat Hitler’s upside-down pink triangle that was forced upon gay people in Nazi Germany to shame them. Harvey’s friend, Gilbert Baker, came up with the rainbow flag, and it was unfurled on June 25, 1978, at a march to protest inequality and unfair laws. Tragically, Harvey was assassinated five months later, but, because of his death, his Pride flag and event gained momentum. Harvey’s dream for equality, pride, hope, and love is symbolized in the Pride flag. This is a dream worth fighting for. [picture book, ages 3 and up]
Rainbow: A First Book of Pride by Michael Genhart, illustrated by Anne Passchier
Michael Genhart teaches us the meanings behind the colors of the rainbow flag in this picture book for very young readers. [picture book, ages 1 and up]
Granddad’s Pride by Harry Woodgate
Milly and her Grandad find his old Pride flag in the attic, and she learns about Pride parades and what they stand for. Even though Gramps has passed away, it brings back good memories and they are inspired to start their own village Pride parade. Many people in the village help out and their event is a wonderful celebration of inclusivity. When it starts to rain, nature offers her own rainbow and it seems like Gramps is there after all. [picture book, ages 3 and up]
Blue Sky White Stars by Sarvinder Naberhaus, illustrated by Kadir Nelson
With spare prose, Kadir Nelson shows the connection between the diversity of America’s people, history, landscape, and patriotic symbols. [picture book, ages 4 and up]
Our Flag Was Still There: The True Story of Mary Pickersgill and the Star-Spangled Banner by Jessie Harland
There is a gigantic flag hanging in the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History in Washington D.C. created by seamstress Mary Pickersgill, her female relatives, and a Black indentured female servant named Grace Wisher. This was the flag referred to in the anthem, “The Star-Spangled Banner”, by Francis Scott Key. But this isn’t the part of the story that I find the most interesting.
Mary became an entrepreneur because she needed to provide for her daughter, Caroline, after her husband died, leaving her with no means of income. She used her sewing skills to create a business, Pickersgill Flags and Ensigns, that employed other women in her same situation, including other female relatives and an indentured Black female servant named Grace Wisher. At this time, women did not work outside the home nor own businesses so she was unusual in her success in creating her own company. She was also probably the only business that could create a flag of this size in such a short timeframe, a mere six weeks.
I would recommend pairing this book with Long May She Way which tells this same story from the perspective of her daughter, Caroline, who was thirteen years old at the time. [picture book, ages 4 and up]
Long May She Wave: The True Story of Caroline Pickersgill and Her Star-Spangled Creation by Kristen Fulton, illustrated by Holly Berry
Our Flag Was Still Here tells the story of how the first American flag was sewn from the perspective of Mary Pickersgill, but this picture book gives credit to her daughter, Caroline Pickersgill, who was thirteen years old at the time when she was instrumental in the creation of the American flag that inspired “The Star-Spangled Banner” anthem by Francis Scott Key. It became a symbol of freedom from the British.
In this picture book, we also learn a little more about the indentured servant, Grace Wisher, who was also thirteen years old, as well as the other women who worked on this flag. In a way, flags also are a symbol and means of financial freedom for the Pickersgill women, and an inspiration for women empowerment in business. [picture book, ages 4 and up]
The Flag Book by Moira Butterfield
Fascinated with flags as a form of communication? Learn about flags that represent countries all over the world as well as all the ways flags are used to communicate. [nonfiction picture book, ages 5 and up]
A Flag for Juneteenth GIVEAWAY!
I’m also giving away a copy of A Flag for Juneteenth. To enter, please fill out the Rafflecopter below. I can only mail to U.S. and A.F.O. addresses.
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Food for the Future: Sustainable Farms Around the World
- Junior Library Guild Gold selection
- Selected as one of 100 Outstanding Picture Books of 2023 by dPICTUS and featured at the Bologna Children’s Book Fair
- Starred review from School Library Journal
- Chicago Library’s Best of the Best
BEST #OWNVOICES CHILDREN’S BOOKS: My Favorite Diversity Books for Kids Ages 1-12 is a book that I created to highlight books written by authors who share the same marginalized identity as the characters in their books.