- Age Range: 7 - 10 years
- Grade Level: 2 - 5
- Lexile Measure: AD970L (What's this?)
- Series: New York Times Best Illustrated Children's Books (Awards)
- Hardcover: 56 pages
- Publisher: Scholastic Press (October 1, 2004)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0439357918
- ISBN-13: 978-0439357913
- Product Dimensions: 9 x 0.5 x 12 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 18 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,200,953 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Walt Whitman: Words for America (New York Times Best Illustrated Children's Books (Awards)) Hardcover – Multi Pack, October 1, 2004
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From School Library Journal
Starred Review. Grade 4 Up–An exuberant picture-book biography that focuses on Whitman's formative years and his selfless work as a Civil War nurse. Delightfully old-fashioned in design, its oversized pages are replete with graceful illustrations and snippets of poetry. The brilliantly inventive paintings add vibrant testimonial to the nuanced text. Kerley likens the poet's restless energy to the nation itself: "Walt wrote poems as free-ranging as his big robust country. More than anything, he hoped to become the voice of America." When the conflict begins, the artist supplies a somber-hued gallery of soldiers posed in their uniforms. As the war wears on, Kerley notes the fondness Whitman held for his embattled president, whom he'd often see on the streets of the capital. Forced to return home because of his health, he heard news of the war's end, and a few days later, of Lincoln's death. Kerley observes that at this point Whitman turned again to poetry to help himself, along with the nation, resolve his grief and turn toward peace and rebuilding. There are several excellent biographies for older readers that serve the needs of report writers. Libraries will want to add this unabashedly glowing tribute as well for the infectious zeal both author and illustrator bring to their subject and his writings, excerpts of which can be found woven seamlessly into the text and the art.–Marilyn Taniguchi, Beverly Hills Public Library, CA
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Gr. 4-8. Although Whitman is most known for poetry "as free-ranging as his big, robust country," much of this treatment focuses on the writer's Civil War experiences providing company and small comforts to wounded soldiers. Lines of poetry elucidate Whitman's thoughts about the war, with the full text of the poems or sections of poems appearing at book's end. It's no surprise that this hasn't the instant appeal of Kerley and Selznick's The Dinosaurs of Waterhouse Watkins (2002). The vicissitudes of a poet's life are of less inherent interest to young readers than dinosaur bones, and what whisper of excitement there is in Whitman's biography, Kerley downplays by focusing on his war-scarred twilight years rather than his reverberating "barbaric yawp" against starchy literary tradition. Like his collaborator's narrative, though, Selznick's contributions reflect a keen passion for research, right down to the subtle references to early editions of Leaves of Grass in the book's typeface and design. Try this sophisticated offering on readers who won't quail at the lengthy text and who will be less likely to skip the dense, illuminating endnotes. Younger readers may profit more from the more straightforward presentation of Whitman's words in Loren Long's excellent When I Heard the Learn'd Astronomer, reviewed on p.583. Jennifer Mattson
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved
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My favorite page is the one directly after the Civil War spread. It contains the portraits of Civil War soldiers. What makes this special is that each picture is based on an actual photo of real people, and the one portrait in color is really Whitman's brother George (I am using the same picture in my Masters Project). Each painting of the portrait really captures the expression of the soldiers. My other favorite painting is the close up of Whitman's face as an old man at the end of the book. The sparkle in his eye captures the sparkle in the man's entire life.
This is a fantastic book that I highly recommend. You should look at it as an experience - it is not a complete biography of America's famous poet, but an interactive experience between the important events in his life and the paintings that convey meaning and significance. I am very happy I came across this book, and I think everyone who buys and reads this book will also be impressed.
Secondly, he was the humblest and had the most giving of servant's hearts. After learning of an injury his brother had received and witnessing firsthand the broken and hurting soldiers, this touched him to give himself over to their care. He spent years in hospitals giving personal care, tending wounds, sitting, listening, and crying with these fallen heroes. He wore himself down to exhaustion and wished he could do more for all of them together and each one individually.
This simple children's book brought me to tears more than once. I truly felt like I was able to look deep into this man's heart and be inspired to be an even better me. Who will I touch and at what depths will I go to reach many or even just one? Each person has a story, needs, and is significant. Who will you stretch out to reach today?
Scholastic sent me the above book for review purposes. It will allow me to keep the book. I have no other connection to and have received no other compensation from Scholastic Books.
Aside from the circular picture of Walt standing with a cocky fist on his hip, your first image in this book of the man displays him at the tender age of 12. Working carefully as a typesetter for a newspaper (comparisons to Ben Franklin seem obvious at this point), Walt began his career as a poet with a job that put him into direct messy contact with all kinds of letters and words. In addition to creating his own newspaper at 19, Walt read fantastical stories for his own amusement. You see him as a young man rushing through the streets of Manhattan fully clothed and along the beaches of Long Island buck naked (tastefully, of course). As Walt grew, his concern for fellow human beings, including the slaves of the South, did as well. He published "Leaves of Grass", traveled the country, then became involved with the war between the states. It's the Civil War that takes up most of Walt's life in this book. Whether he was tending to those wounded in battle, debating his own feelings towards President Lincoln, or collapsing from the exhaustion of working too darn hard, the book follows Whitman hither and thither. By the end Whitman truly became the poet of the people, giving the world poems that have remained deeply embedded in the human psyche, whether we know it or not.
As with their previous collaboration, Kerly and Selznick follow up their book with a long and extended section of additional facts about Mr. Whitman. They talk about how they become interested in the project, where their research took them, and how they feel about the man. They offer addition info on his life (preferring not to mention the whole homosexual aspect, I guess), Lincoln's life, and what Walt's life was like after the war. They also include eight poems, some complete and some just important snippets. It makes for a truly comprehensive picture book, I can tell you.
The book itself, however, is a visual delight. There are some truly gutsy moves being made within its pages. At one point you see only a bright blue sky containing a yellow sun and fast moving clouds containing the words, "Whoever you are now I place my hand upon you that you be my poem". At another point Selznick takes the photographs of the wounded holding slates and puts a word from a Whitman poem on each and every one. I was pleased to note that the authentic daguerreotypes that Selznick has reproduced here include black as well as white soldiers (something not every illustrator would think to include). Finally, in a truly cute move, Selznick just barely includes the two oranges and paper crane he found at Whitman's grave in the picture of the same.
As picture biographies go, this one is wordy but worth it. Kerley knows how to write an exciting tale and Whitman makes for a remarkably exciting personality. He's one of those heroes you aren't ashamed to call as such. A wonderful addition for anyone whose juvenile Whitman section seems a bit lacking.