America at War
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America at War

by Lee Bennett Hopkins, Stephen Alcorn

In this ever-timely collection of more than fifty poems and paintings divided into eight sections, one of America's most distinguished poets and anthologists, Lee Bennett Hopkins, and internationally acclaimed painter and printmaker Stephen Alcorn trace emotions of warfare from the American Revolution to the Iraq War.

Warfare has taken — continues to take &


In this ever-timely collection of more than fifty poems and paintings divided into eight sections, one of America's most distinguished poets and anthologists, Lee Bennett Hopkins, and internationally acclaimed painter and printmaker Stephen Alcorn trace emotions of warfare from the American Revolution to the Iraq War.

Warfare has taken — continues to take — a tremendous toll on every man, woman, and child in our society as war weaves itself into the fabric of our shared past, present, and future. Raw emotions and results of warfare are expressed here through voices of beloved poets such as Langston Hughes, Carl Sandburg, Walt Whitman, Denise Levertov, and e. e. cummings — and are movingly combined with voices of newer poets, including several soldiers who had courage to write poetry from front lines.

America at War exposes effects of war through hearts of poets and eyes of the artist, paying fitting tribute to those who have served, those now serving, and those who have given their lives so we all may live in peace.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly

As Hopkins (editor of Hand in Hand: An American History Through Poetry) takes pains to emphasize in his introduction, this anthology of 50-some poems is not about war itself but the "poetry of war" and the "emotions of warfare." Arranged in sections corresponding to eight wars, from the American Revolution to Vietnam, the Persian Gulf War and the current war in Iraq, the entries include classic choices (Stephen Crane, Walt Whitman) and orthodox subjects (a rousing call to "press on" during the Battle of Bunker Hill; the unease of the Civil War drummer boy on the eve of a battle), as well as famous poems used unexpectedly, like Langston Hughes's "Dreams" paired with a picture of an eagle (possibly "broken-winged" like the bird in the Hughes poem) holding an olive branch, in the Iraq War section. Over half of the poems have been commissioned for this book, however, and most of them sound prosaic next to their more distinguished antecedents ("A young widow trudges home,/ her pockets bulge with wild mushrooms./ Dare she eat them?/ What else can she feed her four hungry children?"). It may be Alcorn's metaphor-laden watercolors, with their heavy irony and bold graphics, that hold the audience's interest longest. Ages 8-up. (Mar.)

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Children's Literature - Elizabeth Fronk
American wars are viewed through poetry divided into sections covering the American Revolution through the current Iraq War. The poetry comes from well known poets such as Walt Whitman and Stephen Crane and reveal war's anguish and confusion. Other poems are written especially for this collection, such as Jane Yolen's "Alphabet" about concentration camps. Some poems are not specifically about war but fit the time period, as does Langston Hughes' poem "Youth." Each poem has a colorful, dramatic watercolor illustration that captures the poem's idea or theme. However, some illustrations appear a bit melodramatic or may not show enough diversity. Yet, the bright colors and grand strokes to convey wars' complexities outweigh the lack of diversity. A brief description about the wars and the United States' involvement introduces each section of poems. The lack of explanation about the current Iraq War is striking. One may argue about the selections and illustrations here, but this is a good beginning to discuss various American wars and the power of poetry and art to express difficult and complex subjects. Middle school and high school students can use this as a starting point to express their own ideas about war. Reviewer: Elizabeth Fronk
School Library Journal

Gr 5-8- The veteran anthologist has selected 54 poems and divided them chronologically into eight sections representing major American conflicts. Each section is prefaced with an abbreviated description of the war. The poems do not always reference a specific conflict, but were chosen to convey its "emotional impact." Thus, Sir Walter Scott's lines from "Lady of the Lake" address an exhausted Revolutionary soldier, and Langston Hughes's "Dreams" concludes the Iraq War section. Contemporary (and near-contemporary) poets, from J. Patrick Lewis to Jane Yolen to Denise Levertov, are well represented, as a majority of these poems were commissioned for this collection. Earlier authors-from Walt Whitman to Carl Sandburg-also make a strong showing. A few of the poems are infused with the exultant rhetoric of war but many are small narratives or vignettes in which families ache and grieve, soldiers long for home. The full-color expressionist watercolors, with their bold line and large elongated figures that curve and angle, dominate the cream pages. Their details often set the accompanying words in a specific time. Their dramatic compositions with their recurring and creatively arranged iconography of war further dramatize and expand the poets' words. Their flaw is in the scarcity of brown and Asian faces in roles other than runaway slaves or victims. Laura Robb's Music and Drum: Voices of War and Peace, Hope and Dreams (Philomel, 1997) and Eloise Greenfield's When the Horses Ride By: Children in the Times of War (Lee & Low, 2006) touch on Native American experiences-a genocide that Hopkins's collection does not include. Still, the selections and art here, with theirvarying accessibility, make this a good choice for a wide range of ages and studies.-Nancy Palmer, The Little School, Bellevue, WA

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Kirkus Reviews
Some 55 poems memorialize America's wars from the Revolutionary War through the Iraq War, touching on both bravery and sacrifice, emphasizing, according to anthologist Hopkins's introduction, "the emotional impact." Illustrator Alcorn uses iconic imagery and proportions informed by the great American muralists of the last century to deliver a quietly emotional punch. Many of the poems are reprints of well-known masters (Whitman, cummings, Teasdale), while others are newly commissioned from the ranks of today's children's poets (Rebecca Kai Dotlich, Betsy Franco, Jane Yolen). The poems vary from elegiac to angry; some are piercingly incisive, while some do not directly address war at all. This is perhaps one of the book's great weaknesses; two of the Civil War poems revolve around the Underground Railroad, not combat. Most mystifying is the placement of two Langston Hughes poems, "Youth" (World War I) and "Dreams" (Iraq War); both seem oddly out of place. Another cavil is the omission of dates of composition of the poems, a device that would help readers understand both context and historical changes in perspective. A worthy but flawed effort. (Poetry. 8-12)

Product Details

Margaret K. McElderry Books
Publication date:
Sales rank:
Product dimensions:
9.80(w) x 10.80(h) x 0.60(d)
Age Range:
8 - 12 Years

Meet the Author

LEE BENNETT HOPKINS is a distinguished poet, writer, and anthologist whose poetry collections include the highly acclaimed Hand in Hand: An American History Through Poetry, illustrated by Peter Fiore, and My America: A Poetry Atlas of the United States, and America at War, both illustrated by Stephen Alcorn. Mr. Hopkins’s numerous awards include the University of Southern Mississippi Medallion for “lasting contributions to children’s literature” and both the Christopher Award and a Golden Kite Honor for his verse novel Been to Yesterdays: Poems of a Life. He lives in Cape Coral, Florida.

Born in the United States, Stephen Alcorn spent his formative, teenage years in Florence, Italy, where he attended the Istituto Statale d'Arte, an experience that infused his work with an appreciation for history and a passion for experimentation in a multitude of mediums. Since then he has embraced an equally broad spectrum of themes and subjects, including the interpretation of literary classics, interpretation of poetry, nineteenth-century American history, and notably, the African-American experience — resulting in a stream of award-winning projects for adult, young adult, and young readers alike. America at War is Alcorn's fifth collaboration with Lee Bennett Hopkins.

Mr. Alcorn lives with his wife, Sabina, and four cats in an eighteenth-century farmhouse in the heart of Cambridge, New York, surrounded by the pastoral farmland of Washington County. An overview of his work may be viewed at

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