The Definitive Guide to

Sweet Land of Liberty

Written by Deborah Hopkinson and illustrated by Leonard Jenkins
- Bookroo Rating
Goodreads Rating - 4.0 / 5.0
List Price
Target Age
Book Type

What Does Bookroo Think of This Book

“A moving historical tale of small actions that lead to making this land one of sweet liberty. ”

As a schoolboy in Virginia, Oscar Chapman tastes his first bitter moments of prejudices. Using the school money earned from a candy pull, he happily buys a gold-framed photograph, unknowingly of Abraham Lincoln, to decorate the school. After being expelled as a consequence, and experiencing other injustices with some friends, he yearns to take a stand. Following his life as an attorney, an opportunity arises for him to help singer Marian Anderson, who has won many fans in Europe, “yet in America, her own country, doors were still closed to her because of her race.” This story, informative yet well-told, is one of many people coming together to make a stand and thereby change the world; from a teacher and school board member on Oscar’s side during his youth, to Walter White, to Harold Ickes and even President and Eleanor Roosevelt. Culminating with an incredible turnout of 75,000 people at the Lincoln Memorial to hear Marian sing, this book gives importance to small actions leading to great results. The illustrations are extremely unique, though somehow fitting, in their mixed media format on chipboard. While the words speak to important historical details, the vibrant and stylized illustrations keep this firmly in the realm of enjoyable children’s stories, with swirls of graffiti-esque color adding a level of chaos and confusion that abstractly portrays the dissonance of the prejudices of the time period. The faces of the people depicted are created with just enough realism to feel a connection with them.

What's This Book About

Publisher Summary

This inspiring story of little-known civil rights champion Oscar Chapman reminds readers that one person can truly make a difference. On Easter Sunday 1939, Marian Anderson performed at the foot of the Lincoln Memorial for a crowd of over 75,000 people. The person largely responsible for putting her there was a white man, Oscar Chapman. When Chapman learned that Marian Anderson was not allowed to sing at Constitution Hall because of the color of her skin, Chapman helped produce a landmark concert that?for at least one evening?bridged the color divide to bring a city and much of the nation together. Award-winning author Deborah Hopkinson tells the inspirational story of Oscar Chapman’s lifelong commitment to ending bigotry. Illustrator Leonard Jenkins’s remarkable illustrations recreate a bygone era and pay tribute to remarkable real-life people and a magical moment in modern history. An author’s note provides additional historical context.

What Kind of Book is Sweet Land of Liberty

Quotes from This Book

  • "Yes, Oscar had seen injustice all around him. And now he was being treated unfairly too."
  • "Oscar laughed. Stirring things up was exactly what he aimed to do."

What Questions Should I Ask My Child

  • Oscar is bothered by the injustice he sees and experiences in his youth. How does this influence the choices he makes as an adult?

  • A young girl cries as she listens to Marian Anderson’s song. Have you ever felt an emotion so strong that it made you cry?

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Book Lists That Include Sweet Land of Liberty

Book Lists › America
Children's Books About America
Book Lists › civil rights movement
Conscientious Children's Books About Civil Rights
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Who Wrote Sweet Land of Liberty

Deborah Hopkinson

Deborah Hopkinson is the award-winning author of numerous critically acclaimed picture books, middle grade fiction, and nonfiction. She lives in Oregon with her family and menagerie of pets.

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Who Illustrated Sweet Land of Liberty

Leonard Jenkins

Leonard Jenkins received his BFA from the American Academy of Art in Chicago. In addition to illustrating several children’s books, he has taught art at universities and after-school programs.

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What Has Deborah Hopkinson Said About This Book

  • Learning about Oscar Chapman helped me to realize how much things that happen to us as children can change our lives. Sometimes we go on to change other lives. And every once in a while, we might even change the course of history.

    Author's Note
  • Marian Anderson’s powerful rendition of America, often known by its first line, My Country, ’Tis of Thee, is available at If you listen carefully, you can hear her change the lyrics, singing “To thee we sing,” instead of the traditional “Of thee I sing.” Marian Anderson knew well that America had much work ahead to “let freedom ring.”

    Author's Note

What Has Leonard Jenkins Said About This Book

Nothing yet! 🤷 You should let Leonard Jenkins know that we want more details from them about Sweet Land of Liberty!

Deborah Hopkinson's Book Dedication

For Anne, Will, Lydia, and Charlotte, who love to read--and sing.

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Book Details

ISBN 10:
ISBN 13:
Publication Date:
October 1, 2019
Text Details:
Text Typeset in International Typeface Corporation's Stone Serif; titles and initial capitals typeset in Letraset's Revue.
Illustration Details:
Illustrations created in mixed media on chipboard.