The Biggest (and Best) Flag That Ever Flew

Brief Description: A girl helps her mother sew the huge flag flown over Fort McHenry during the War of 1812. The flag inspired Francis Scott Key to write the poem that became America’s national anthem.

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Date Range: 1814

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Original Publication: 1988

Suitable for Grades: K-3rd

Target Audience: Picture Book

Librarian's Review

A cute and true story as told by a young Caroline Pickersgill (of unspecified age) who helps her widowed mother make a living by sewing flags for the many ships in Baltimore Harbor. During the War of 1812, some soldiers from nearby Fort McHenry ask her to sew a huge morale boosting American flag to signal to the people (and the British) that Baltimore is still safe. The ensuing scenes, illustrated with paintings by Charles Geer, show Caroline and her mother furiously gathering material (200 pounds!), sewing late into the night, and piecing the flag together at a large nearby building. The finished flag, thirty feet by forty feet, is then shown flying over the fort across the harbor.

When the British arrive the ensuing battle, as depicted by Geer, is dark, scary and loud. Many people leave the city, but Caroline and her mother stay to witness the day-long battle. By the next morning, the British have abandoned the fight. And, as another witness writes “our flag was still there.” Francis Scott Key’s poem later becomes the lyrics to America’s National Anthem. On the last page we learn that the original flag is now an exhibit in the Smithsonian Museum of American History. This reader, for one, would love to visit it!

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