Words for America
Scholastic Press, Hardcover, 9780439357913, 56pp.
Publication Date: October 1, 2004
Did you know that poet Walt Whitman was also a Civil War nurse? Devastated by his country dividing and compelled to service by his brother's war injury, Walt nursed all soldiers-Union & Confederate, black & white. By getting to know them through many intense and affecting experiences, he began to see a greater life purpose: His writing could give these men a voice, & in turn, achieve his greatest aspiration--to capture the true spirit of America. Dramatic, powerful, & deeply moving, this consummate portrait of Whitman will inspire readers to pick up their pens & open their hearts to humanity.
In addition to The Invention of Hugo Cabret, Brian Selznick is the illustrator of the Caldecott Honor winner, The Dinosaurs of Waterhouse Hawkins, and The New York Times Best Illustrated Walt Whitman: Words for America, both by Barbara Kerley, as well as the Sibert Honor Winner When Marian Sang, by Pam Munoz Ryan, and numerous other celebrated picture books and novels. Brian has also worked as a set designer and a puppeteer. When he isn't traveling to promote his work all over the world, he lives in San Diego, California, and Brooklyn, New York.
Booklist<br></br>November 15, 2004<br></br><br></br>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 0 (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 0 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 Astronomer0 , reviewed 0 on p.583. --Jennifer Mattson Copyright 2004 Booklist <br></br><br></br><br></br><br></br>Kirkus STARRED<br></br>Review Date: SEPTEMBER 15, 2004<br></br>A visual and textual portrait of America's most revolutionary and celebrated poet. Kerley distills Whitman's wide-ranging biography, centering on the significant themes of his life: his passion for words, America, and the common man, as well as his torment over race, democracy, and the Civil War. Beginning with the iconic 1855 cover portrait, brash, yet melancholy, the effect is outsized stateliness in which "you will feel every word . . . " and illustration. Depicting Whitman as both a literal and metaphorical journeyman, Selznick paints him hiking with the pages of his habitual notebooks floating around him, each with a word from his poetry, graphically bursting the boundaries of convention. A dramatic page-turn introduces the Civil War, the axis of Whitman's career and the nation's anguish. Two galleries of portraits based on actual daguerreotypes project the heroism of Whitman's mythic common man as encountered in military photos and in hospital wards. A cultural force rendered with power and immediacy for a new generation. (notes, sources, poetry excerpts) (Nonfiction. 9-14) <br></br><br></br><br></br>Horn Book Magazine<br></br>(November 1, 2004<br></br>(Intermediate) Focusing on the Civil War years, this movingly illustrated picture-book biography introduces one of America's most prominent writers to elementary school readers. Beginning with Whitman's work as a printer's apprentice, the story moves quickly through his early writings to his work in hospitals during the Civil War, his admiration for Abraham Lincoln, and the poetry that stemmed from his experiences. In well-crafted prose, Kerley stresses the poet's love of words and his compassion for the common people. Selznick extends the text with glorious colored-pencil drawings -- double-page spreads as well as miniatures set off with ample margins. We see the young Whitman immersing himself in crowds and delightedly running naked on the beach, and, as an older man, interviewing slaves and sharing a campfire with soldiers. The quoted lines are carefully chosen for the audience, and more complete versions of the poems are included in the back matter, which also features author's and illustrator's notes, sources, and a bibliography. Whitman lovers everywhere should give joyful thanks for this splendid presentation. Copyright 2004 of The Horn Book, Inc. All rights reserved. <br></br><br></br><br></br>School Library Journal<br></br>STARRED November 1, 2004<br></br><br