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Greg McNeilly
Red, White & Verse

Adult; Poetry; (Market)

RED, WHITE & VERSE: Our Myths, Legends & Stories written by Greg McNeilly. America - The Beautiful, Brave and Bold. By depicting our nation’s long legacy of inspiring figures, landmarks, and events, this poetry collection enlivens modern perceptions of the stories all Americans are raised on. Even more notably, it rejuvenates our sense of connection to each other and our history. Written with his three children in mind, Red, White & Verse by breakout author Greg McNeilly forgets “an unflinching love and passion for the ideal of the American spirit.” This is a story of American heroism told through riveting verse that chronicles the most important occasions in the country’s history, from the first interactions with Pocahontas to the emergent activism of Federick Douglas to disastrous events like Pearl Harbor and September 11. Also encompassing the popularization of baseball, natural American gems like the Grand Canyon, the rise of Hollywood, and more, Red, White & Verse truly captures it all. With accompanying historical facts and hand-drawn ink illustrations, this collection of lyrical poems emphasizes the value of America’s mythos in a unique and compelling format that will resonate with every American, regardless of where they stand on the political spectrum.
McNeilly offers a collection of original verse exploring myths, heroes, and history. Clear-eyed about the past but deeply committed to the nation’s founding principles, McNeilly uplifts by celebrating a union that strives to become more perfect and “refuse[s] to accept the world as it is and instead strive[s] to shape it into the world it could be.” The result is a celebration of American figures, beliefs, and civic virtues with a big-hearted spirit that has, in the 21st century, gone out of fashion. Written in a steady, sturdy AA/BB form, paeans to George Washington, Benjamin Franklin, Thanksgiving, and the War for Independence are rousing despite the familiarity of the topics.

Contemporary readers may find more that surprises in poems on John Muir and Theodore Roosevelt, along with delightful odes to several national parks and natural wonders. McNeilly also features American economic dynamos, like Henry Ford and J.P. Morgan, to showcase the country’s get-the-job done ethos: “Work is the organized way we serve one another, //[...] In every humble endeavor, in each monumental task, // Lies the heart of America, beneath our star-spangled mask.” Though proudly patriotic, McNeilly acknowledges that “America is complex,” noting in the preference the shame of slavery and how resistance has met “each new wave” of the immigrants who “came to this continent in search of a better life and often, by brawn and brain, empowered by common values, created that life for themselves.”

McNeilly’s collection is educational, both in its subjects and its revival of a common-cause esprit de corps that has guttered in an age where digital media incentivizes division. Preceding each poem is a biographical or historical summary of the subject, and pen-and-ink illustrations are interspersed throughout. Along with these elements and the rhymed quatrain structure of his verses, McNeilly’s collection has substantial read-aloud value for children and would make for a fun introduction to American history that embraces the country’s greatness and aspiration for continual improvement.

Takeaway: Rousing poems celebrating America’s history, spirit, and potential..

Comparable Titles: Christopher Cole’s Patriotic Poetry, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow.

Production grades
Cover: A
Design and typography: A
Illustrations: B+
Editing: A
Marketing copy: A