Kids are smart. And observant. Even our littlest children know that right now, there’s a lot of talk about what it means to be American, who’s a “real” American, and what kinds of values America stand for. And it’s complicated, but that doesn’t mean we should avoid talking about it at home or in school.

The way I see it, if your children are old enough to start saying the Pledge of Allegiance in preschool, or make flag crafts on the 4th of July, they’re certainly old enough to start to understand what exactly they’re pledging to or celebrating.

Which is why I’m absolutely in love with the next in the series of delightful What Does It Mean to Be…?  books, the brand new What Does it Mean to Be American?

Related: All the best children’s books of 2018 to kickstart your 2019 reading list

What Does it Mean to Be American by Rana DiOrio and Elad Yoran asks great questions of kids, like what they can do to make America even better

Written by author, entrepreneur and mom Rana DiOrio along with former US Army paratrooper turned military cyber-securiity expert and dad of four, Elad Yoran, the result is truly something special.

It’s also a spectacular example of what happens when two people from opposite sides of the political spectrum, with very different backgrounds, put their heads together in friendship and good faith to find the ideals that unite them.

(Yes, very meta. But I think that’s in part what makes this collaboration so cool.)

Like all the books I’ve adored from indie publisher Little Pickle Press (What Does It Mean to be Kind, What Does it Mean to Be an Entrepreneurand most recently, Love is Love) What Does It Mean to Be American dives into a complex topic with thoughtful, accessible prose that kids will enjoy, and” to give caring adults the opportunity to start meaningful conversations,” the authors have included a very helpful discussion guide in the back.

And hey, maybe it will even start meaningful conversations among adults, too.

What Does it Mean to Be American: Beautiful new children's book by Rana DiOrio and Elad Yoran

The book opens with lighthearted suggestions that being American doesn’t mean loving fast food, eating apple pie, or even living in the United States — then goes on to offer a series of ideas about what it does mean, by highlighting the values that this country was built on.

Like believing that all people are equal and should have the opportunity to be happy. That we have the freedom to choose whom we love. That we honor those who protect and serve, and we help people in need. That we value creativity and imagination and invention and exploration. That we respect natural resources. That we balance pride in our accomplishments, with humility about what we still have to learn.

It’s likely nothing you don’t know, and nothing you’d disagree with, and yet, it really hits you hard when you see it spelled out so clearly and succinctly for an audience of children.

I actually choked up when I arrived at the illustration of a US naturalization ceremony; if you’ve never attended one, it’s one of the most powerful experiences I’ve ever had as a native-born citizen. Nina Mata’s artwork (she also illustrated Laurie Hernandez’s She’s Got This)brought back all the raw emotion and excitement and tears and flag-waving in the wildly diverse Brooklyn courtroom that day.

In fact, even if kids can’t read a word by themselves, they’ll feel pages pop with the diversity and inclusion that makes America so special — even if it may also subtly remind us adults that we’re not quite there yet in a lot of places.

Related: 5 terrific children’s books about activism to help raise activist kids

What Does it Mean to Be American review: New picture book by Rana DiOrio and Elad Yoran

But that’s okay. Because one of America’s strongest values is to continue learning and improving, right?

That’s why I just love the book’s ending, which implore kids to “fill your heart with love for who we are” and to consider how you “can make the greatest nation in the world even better.”

Because they can. And they will.


Learn more at the website and preorder What Does it Mean to Be American? by Rana DiOrio and Elad Yoran right now from our affiliate Amazon for an April release. It’s already Amazon’s number one new release in its category. 

Also check out some of our other favorite titles from indie publisher Little Pickle Press, like What Does It Mean to be Kind, What Does it Mean to Be an Entrepreneur, and most recently, Love is Love.