America the Beautiful Hardcover – May 12 2003
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Skilled watercolor and gouache artist Wendell Minor sets the lyrics to one of America's favorite songs to pictures in this lovingly patriotic tribute.
It's hard to imagine a better primer on the history or meaning behind "America the Beautiful" than this--Minor's elegant, evocative illustrations back up each line of Katharine Lee Bates' breathless prose, and an informative introduction by Minor and bios on both Bates and composer Samuel Augustus Ward provide ample background on the song's journey to cultural cult status. Surely, this is a "heartland"-centric homage, but that's no doubt the nature of the song. The images display an older, idealized America, one of absent teepees and endangered buffalos ("For purple mountain majesties/Above the fruited plain!") and white girls in covered wagons ("A thoroughfare for freedom beat/Across the wilderness"). But Minor also alludes to future hope, with a climbing space shuttle ("O beautiful for patriot dream") and the fallen WTC commemorated in lights ("Thine alabaster cities gleam/Undimmed by human tears!").
Minor proved his artistic chops in the likes of Shane and a John James Audubon biography, and those skills get put to doting use here, in a primer appropriate for young patriots everywhere. (Ages 4 to 8) --Paul Hughes
K-Gr. 3. Using the four verses of "America the Beautiful" as a text, this picture book celebrates the beauty and variety of the American landscape in a series of majestic scenes. Each borderless, double-page spread illustrates a phrase or stanza from the song with a watercolor-and-gouache painting. Just as they represent different places in the country, the paintings also portray different moments in time. Buffaloes graze as smoke rises from a nearby teepee; the Wright brothers' flyer skims above the sand; and two towers bathed in bluish-white light rise above the New York skyline. Minor's richly colored, well-composed paintings reflect the song's grace, dignity, and idealism, but just as impressive is his care in selecting locales that fit the song's phrases. The closing pages offer short biographies of lyricist Bates and composer Samuel Ward, the song's words and music, and an illustrated guide to each spread. A series of landscape paintings (sometimes with figures, but no real characters) may not sound like an inviting approach to a children's picture book, but these paintings are varied and accessible enough to hold a primary-grade audience, especially when the text is sung. Carolyn Phelan
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved
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Today, I received the books and I was AMAZED.
The book, "America the Beautiful" is BEAUTIFUL. What is even more beautiful is that Chris Gall shares in the preface how a framed copy of Katharine Lee Bates' verse, written in her own hand, inspired him so much as an artist as he was growing up.
Gall bestows a MAGNIFICENT tribute to his great-aunt's stirring song. Each line of Bates' meaningful verse is paired with a beautiful illustration by Gall. These works of art depict a nation blessed with God-given gifts; a nation built on justice, optimism, hope, and a shared love of America's land.
After viewing this book, which is pristinely made with thick paper and rich colors, I intend to buy several more as gifts. There are wonderful images of the Statue of Liberty, Pike's Peak, immigrants, the Apollo II, and my very favorites - the firemen of Sept. 11th, and the WWII Tuskegee Airmen.
Because "America the Beautiful" is not just a book which is great for artists or children or to grace the coffee table (although that is where MINE is going!), it is a work of art - which magnificently stirs the patriot within us all...
The sixteen stunning pictures were engraved on clay-coated board which makes them very graphic rather than watercolor soft and I enjoyed the little design touches here and there, for instance a picture of some Shoshone Indians in a boat passing a very streamline looking waterfall or a small town snow scene with the buildings placed at different angles to each other.
The choice of image is also refreshing, to illustrate 'A thoroughfare for freedom beat. Across the wilderness!' has a family with their Airstream parked in the open landscape or 'Thine alabaster cities gleam, Undimmed by human tears!' showing a window cleaner eating his lunch and sitting on one of those Art Deco eagles on the Chrysler Building. This kind of originality and warmth comes across from each picture.
The book is well produced and it occurs to me that these illustrations are so good and all the same size that they are worth framing, depending on one's favorites.
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