O Beautiful for Spacious Skies

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Yoked together like a pair of contrary mules, Bates's 19th-century patriotic poem and Thiebaud's 20th-century irony-tinged art tug in opposite directions. At first, Thiebaud's bold, representational paintings complement ``America the Beautiful'' with reasonable artistic license: two trees against a fiery sunset represent ``spacious skies'' and ``amber waves of grain''; blue-black cliffs suggest the ``purple mountain majesties.'' But the struggle to match subsequent verses with appropriate imagery intensifies as RV's and semis zipping through a salt flat signify ``a thoroughfare for freedom beat across the wilderness'' and rather macabre women's masks illustrate ``God mend thine every flaw.'' The components here seem diminished, not enhanced, by their pairing. All ages. (Oct.)
Children's Literature - Meredith E. Kiger
The words of course are beautiful, but Thiebaud's paintings are breathtaking. The combination of the art and poem has been criticized by some as being strange, but I feel that kids need to see interpretations other than the ordinary ones. The afterword contains information about the artist, the poet, the origins of the poem, and a guide to museums that house the artist's works.
School Library Journal
Gr 1 Up-A pairing of contemporary art with evocative poetry. Bates was an early feminist whose great love of this country was the inspiration for this optimistic ballad written before the Great Depression and the World Wars. Thiebaud's paintings ``chronicle those objects and landscapes of our lives that are overlooked and taken for granted, but whose style and manner are telltale signs of who we are.'' He is a seasoned artist with works in many major galleries in the U.S. Boyers includes well-written, insightful biographies of the poet and the artist at the end of the book. While this is an interesting artistic concept and serves as a showcase for some great modern art, the sequencing of visual material is more akin to the hanging of an exhibit than the intentional flow of images from page to page. Though a bit jarring, it is also refreshing, and offers an interesting choice for larger collections.-Alexandra Marris, Rochester Public Library, NY
Ilene Cooper
Sara Jane Boyer, the book's editor, begins with an introduction that states the aims of this attractive yet esoteric illustrated version of America's unofficial anthem: "Think of this book as a conversation that you and I and the artist and poet each have with one another . . . And the next time you see a painting, a drawing, or a photograph, think of what words you might want to pair with it." Boyer has chosen to match the words of "America the Beautiful" with the contemporary paintings of Thiebaud. His art for this book has elements of both the abstract expressionist movement and the works of Edward Hopper, and it takes a free-floating, occasionally whimsical approach to the poem's verse. There are impressive landscapes, but then the line "O beautiful for Pilgrim feet" is illustrated by a full-page picture of ladies' high heels facing a page showing one pair of men's black wingtips. This book will be most interesting as an imaginative exercise and most useful for art and writing classes; its audience will be special yet appreciative.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780811808323
  • Publisher: Chronicle Books LLC
  • Publication date: 2/29/2000
  • Pages: 32
  • Product dimensions: 9.84 (w) x 11.80 (h) x 0.43 (d)

Customer Reviews

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 22, 2005

    The Beauty of Words and Art

    The joining of two creative minds from two very different times and prespectives is a delight with Wayne Thiebaud's glorious illustrations. Each page is ablaze with color and richness to match the words of Katharine Lee Bates. I have this book in my art class and the children's responses are alive and thought provoking. Every time I glance through it, I end up in a creative mind set as well as enthranced. As you might notice, my writing doesn't give justice to the book's credit. Enjoyed by all ages, and a true treasure of Wayne Thiebaud's genius.

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