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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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Top customer reviews
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.
I loved how the author presented this biography. I felt closer to the reality of this great poet. The illustrations were amazing!
The reason I didn't give this five stars was one of my biggest gripes of books like this. If the information on the last few pages was important it would have larger font so that parents, grandparents, and children could read it together. I managed to read the first two pages but got a headache trying for more.
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