It is difficult to recommend many of the children’s books written on or about “The Star-Spangled Banner” as most rehearse received myths about both flag and song. Among the most frequent errors is that Key wrote the poem and that another later linked text to tune. In fact, Key knew the tune well and wrote the lyrics to fit the melody intentionally. Other books claim that Key drafted the text on an envelope he had in his pocket, yet letters in 1814 would have been written on a piece of paper that was folded and sealed–not placed in separate envelopes. Envelopes were not yet much used and we’re all handmade until the 1840s. Similarly some books observe the missing star in the famous garrison flag now in the Smithsonian and surmise that a cannon ball ripped through the bunting or more generally that the flag was damaged during the battle. In fact, the enormous flag was not flying over Fort McHenry during the battle as it was raining at the time and such a large wet flag would have shattered its wooden pole. Instead a smaller battle flag was flown, with the garrison flag not ascending the pole until the next day. The missing star as well as squares of the stripes were cut out of the flag later and given away as souvenirs.
The books below avoid many of the common pitfalls and can be used as learning tools at home or in the classroom. To recommend a book you like, please email firstname.lastname@example.org and we’ll review it for inclusion in the list. Publishers are welcome to mail us a copy to review if they wish. We will only comment on books we can endorse.
Francis Scott Key and “The Star-Spangled Banner” by Lynea Bowdish with illustrations by Harry Burman (Mondo Publishing, 2002)