One of my favorite ways to build up anticipation for the holidays is to get a bunch of books and read them for weeks in advance. Then we read them for weeks after — or, well, maybe sporadically all year long — to process the holidays and remember them and look forward to them coming back again.

So of course we’ve been getting ready for the Fourth of July this year by reading books. Here are our two favorites:

Hats Off for the Fourth of July
Hats off for the Fourth of July by Harriet Ziefert, illustrated by Gustaf Miller

A small town parade marches through the pages of Hats off for the Fourth of July. I love the rhythm and repetition — this book just feels good to read. My son especially loves the cowboy page (“Yee Haw!” he says if I don’t read it fast enough), and the motorcycle page which he also recites. (“Music and vroom! Music and vroom. The motorcycles need plenty of room.”)  We checked it out from the library to get ready for our own local Fourth of July parade, and I’m starting to think we might want to order our own copy.

Happy 4th of July Jenny Sweeney
Happy 4th of July, Jenny Sweeney! by Leslie Kimmelman, Illustrated by Nancy Cote

In Happy 4th of July, Jenny Sweeney!, Jenny chases her dog Rags through their small town, trying to get him bathed and beribboned as the whole town gets ready for the Fourth of July. We see people hanging flags, a firefighter washing his truck, a family celebrating having just become citizens, an older veteran getting dressed in his uniform, the mayor writing her speech, a family outside grilling, band members practicing their instruments, and finally the big parade, which Jenny and a clean Rags help lead. And after dark, everyone watches fireworks over the town lake. We like to look for Rags on every page — he’s always up to something.

For next year I have my eye on picture books of patriotic songs: America the Beautiful, another America the Beautiful, and My Country ‘Tis of Thee. I also liked the look of The Star-Spangled Banner, which is beautifully illustrated with scenes from the Revolutionary War, but we might wait until our kid is out of the toddler/preschool years for that one.