About the Holiday
On this day in 1911 schools in Iowa first celebrated Constitution Day, commemorating the date in 1787, when our Founding Fathers signed the Constitution of the United States. in 1952 Citizenship Day was moved from May to coincide with Constitution Day. In addition to honoring our constitution, Americans are also encouraged to reflect on the rights and responsibilities of citizenship and what it means to be a U.S. citizen. We also recognize those who are taking steps to become U.S. citizens and all those who are seeking a better life here.
Thanks to Albert Whitman Books for Young Readers for providing me with a digital copy of A Vote is a Powerful Thing for review consideration. All opinions on the book are my own.
A Vote is a Powerful Thing
Written by Catherine Stier | illustrated by Courtney Dawson
Ms. Trask is teaching about elections and voting to her class. When she says that “‘a vote is a powerful thing…. Powerful enough to change the world,’” Callie pays particular attention, so she can tell readers all about it. In the election coming up in November, “one vote, combined with other votes…,’” Ms. Trask explains, “‘is what puts mayors, governors, senators, and even the president of the United States into office.’” To demonstrate the power of voting, Ms. Trask is going to hold a classroom election about an issue that she thinks will pique the kids’ interest.
Callie has already been introduced to the idea of campaigning and voting through her grandmother, who is working to save the local wilderness park, where, Callie says, “I saw my first mountain laurel in full bloom, my first turtle in a pond, my first swallowtail butterfly.” Ms. Trask goes on to tell the class that not only are elections about people, they’re about “‘important issues as well.’”
The next morning Ms. Trask reveals the issue that the class will vote on—where they’ll take their next field trip. The candidates are the cookie factory and the wilderness park. Some kids love the idea of the free samples at the cookie factor, while others like the walking trail at the park. As they discuss the options, Callie realizes that where the class goes is important to her. She raises her hand and asks if she can “‘campaign in support of the wilderness park.’” At home, she creates posters and writes a speech. Lynn is campaigning in favor of the cookie factory.
On election day, Lynn gives her speech first. She talks about what the class could learn about food and science—and reminds her classmates about the free cookies. Even Callie agrees that the factory is a good option. Then it’s Callie’s turn. She tells the class about how special the park is and describes some of the animals she’s seen. Callie also reveals what scientists say are the benefits of being outdoors.
After the speeches, everyone receives a piece of paper, writes their choice on it, and places it in the ballot box. As Ms. Trask holds up the last ballot, she congratulates Lynn and Callie on their campaigns. She says they both did such an excellent job “‘that the election is tied now, with just one vote left to count.’” She unfolds the slip of paper and reads…Wilderness Park.
On the day of the field trip, the kids explore the rocks and plants. They even see a fox. The kids are all excited and want to share the experience with their families. Their enthusiasm gives Callie hope that people will vote to fund the park during the town’s election. On voting day, Callie’s happy to stand next to her grandma at the polling place with a sign to “Vote Yes!” because she knows how valuable just one vote can be.
Extensive back matter discusses the concept of voting, who can vote, and how citizens vote as well as gives a timeline of United States voting rights from 1870 to 1990. A list of resources for further reading and research is also included.
Catherine Stier’s comprehensive and engaging story outlines facts about elections and the importance of voting—not only for candidates, but also about important issues—in an easy-to-follow and organic way. Stier’s use of two high-interest issues, both of which have educational merit, gives children a glimpse of the difficult choices voters are faced with. Callie’s appreciation for Lynn’s opinion and Lynn’s enthusiasm for the wildlife park field trip show readers that disagreements can be handled respectfully and amicably. Through her first-person storytelling that is rich with dialogue, Stier creates a personal narrative that will resonate with children, many of whom most likely have issues that are important to them. As the last vote counted breaks a tie, readers learn how important it is for everyone to vote.
Courtney Dawson’s bright illustrations of a diverse classroom learning about elections and voting give children snapshots of historical events in US voting history that may surprise them spur them to learn more as well as images that are recognizable from community activism. As Callie prepares her speech and posters, readers see the wildlife and scenery that makes the issue of the field trip so important to her and come to understand the time and effort that candidates put into their campaign. Clear images of the children—and later, their families—casting their ballots reinforces the concept of this valuable right. The final image can empower children to get involved in their own community or school to make a difference in issues that are important to them.
An excellent book to introduce the concept of elections and voting for candidates and issues, with many opportunities within the text and illustrations to initiate discussion, A Vote is a Powerful Thing would be a welcome addition to home, classroom, and public library collections.
Ages 4 – 8
Albert Whitman Books for Young Readers, 2020 | ISBN 978-0807584989
Discover more about Catherine Stier and her books, visit her website
Read a New Book Month Activity
Vote! Word Search Puzzle
Can you find the twenty words related to elections in this printable word search puzzle?
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