Purple Mountain Majesties: The Story of Katharine Lee Bates and America the Beautiful

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Colorful, lively, and carefully researched, here is a picture book about the trip west that a young Wellesley professor took, which resulted in an expression of hope for America's spiritual life that has stirred citizens of all ages ever since. In l893, when she was thirty-four, Katharine Lee Bates was invited to teach summer school in Colorado Springs. Crossing the country, and exploring the Rockies, she was forcefully moved by a realization of the nation's great physical blessings. Most glorious scenery I ever ...
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Colorful, lively, and carefully researched, here is a picture book about the trip west that a young Wellesley professor took, which resulted in an expression of hope for America's spiritual life that has stirred citizens of all ages ever since. In l893, when she was thirty-four, Katharine Lee Bates was invited to teach summer school in Colorado Springs. Crossing the country, and exploring the Rockies, she was forcefully moved by a realization of the nation's great physical blessings. Most glorious scenery I ever beheld, she wrote after a journey to the top of Pikes Peak. Later that day, she composed four stanzas of verse that eventually became the words of America the Beautiful. Capturing the essence of Katharine's imagination, idealism, and humor, Barbara Younger's graceful text provides an intriguing glimpse of American history and women's history. Stacey Schuett's expansive, heartfelt illustrations, glowing with color, bring readers close to canyon and sky, prairie and mountain.

A brief biography of the author and college professor whose travels across the United States inspired her to write the poem which became the song "America the Beautiful."

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Younger's first children's book tells the little-known story of the making of one of America's favorite patriotic songs. In the summer of 1893, 34-year-old Katharine Lee Bates, who taught English literature at Wellesley College, set out by train from Massachusetts for Colorado Springs, where she had agreed to deliver a series of lectures. Bates took copious notes while crossing the varied terrain, making stops at Niagara Falls and the World's Columbian Exposition in Chicago. With frequent quotes from Bates's diary, Younger chronicles, at times in excessive detail, the highlights of the teacher's trip, among them the "rich amber wheat fields of the Great Plains" and the Colorado Rockies, which "shone purple in the sun." How these vistas inspired the poem that became "America the Beautiful" makes a quaint story, though some readers may find it a rather rambling path. Schuett's (Somewhere in the World Right Now) appealing folk art brims with period particulars--such as beribboned hats and full-shouldered dresses, travel chests and home furnishings--as well as sprawling renderings of those natural wonders that well deserve Bates's tribute. The complete lyrics of the song appear only on the dust jacket. A pleasant sliver of Americana. Ages 5-9. (June)
Children's Literature - Judy Katsh
Both a biography of a young woman and a history of a song that many believe should be our national anthem, this richly illustrated book brings into focus an America of long ago. Katharine Lee Bates, an East Coast teacher and poet, was asked to do some guest teaching at a college in Colorado. It was on her train trip West that Ms. Bates took her first up-close look at the wild and majestic land that she was to immortalize in song. The informal writing style and full-page Americana illustrations of this book will make readers comfortable as they accompany Ms. Bates on her journey. Music teachers will welcome this book as a history of song. History teachers will welcome this book as a treasury of turn of the 20th Century artifacts and trends. Writing teachers will welcome this book as a tribute to writing and rewriting and revising. And lovers of the hymn written in tribute to America's natural splendor will resoundingly just welcome this book.
School Library Journal
Gr 2-4--A picture-book look at the origins of a beloved song and at the woman who wrote the words. In 1893, Katharine Lee Bates of Wellesley College traveled west by train to be a visiting lecturer at a college in Colorado Springs. Stopping at Niagara Falls and at the World's Columbian Exposition in Chicago, she jotted impressions along the way. The stunning scenery of Colorado inspired her to write a poem in praise of all she had seen and about the American ideals she held dear. The verses were published and later set to music. After several revisions, the song known today as "America the Beautiful" was composed by Samuel Ward. This fictionalized snippet of history will be of interest to children studying patriotic songs. The writing is serviceable and succinct with occasional quotes from Bates's diary. Full-color paintings show Bates enjoying her journey and offer some stunning views of mountains, hills, and plains. The complete lyrics of the song can be found on the back cover; unfortunately, no score is included. An additional purchase for music or Americana collections.--Beth Tegart, Oneida City Schools, NY
Horn Book Magazine
"Katharine Lee Bates loved words," and this handsome picture book recounts the fateful summer of 1893, in which the Wellesley College professor of English traveled by train to lecture at a college in Colorado Springs. Inspired by the majestic scenery-particularly as viewed atop Pikes Peak-Bates began the poem that would become the beloved patriotic song. Younger draws on archival materials and family corres-pondence to sketch the vivacious and sometimes quirky temperament of the poet/teacher and selected events of her life. Following a brief opening page on her childhood in Falmouth, Massachusetts, the book moves quickly into her adult life and the significant journey. Schuett's full-page and double-page paintings add green, blue, and brown to the amber, gold, and purple hues mentioned in the verses to create appealing and informative pictures of turn-of-the-century life, the mountains and plains, and even an alabaster city. Splendid views of the train and the panorama of Niagara Falls are followed by a visit to the World's Columbian Exposition held in Chicago that year. The author takes this occasion and others to explain the social climate of the times: "African-Americans were provided refreshments and rest rooms only in the Haiti Building. Native Americans appeared in a side show. And no women had been invited to participate in planning the fair." But Bates's poem "envisioned a country where people would join together out of their best selves to make life better for everyone." Within a few short years, the poem had been set to several tunes and become widely popular. Little is told of Katharine Lee Bates's later life; the story of personal inspiration has a closing focus on the song with no conclusion to the biography. The complete verses to "America the Beautiful" (revised version) appear only on the back cover of the book, without music.
Kirkus Reviews
In 1893, when she was 34, Wellesley English professor Katharine Lee Bates took a train trip from Boston to Colorado Springs to teach summer school. She kept a diary, as she had since she was nine, and wrote down odds and ends of observation and poetry when she could. She saw Niagara Falls, stopped off to visit a friend and see the World's Columbian Exposition in Chicago, where she marveled at Mr. Ferris's Wheel and the gleaming white buildings. While in Colorado, she briefly glimpsed the top of Pike's Peak, and the beginning of poem began to form. Combined with her other jottings, it would become "America the Beautiful," set to a hymn by Samuel Ward. Using original sources, Younger makes a living character out of Bates, whose quirks and full-bodied charm gracefully flow from the letters and diary excerpts. Schuett's illustrations, with their slightly exaggerated forms and saturated colors, capture not only the "fruited plains" and "alabaster cities" but vistas of Bates's hometown of Falmouth, and intimate scenes of her cozy bedside table and the parlor where she welcomed guests. A wonderful historical endnote will be appreciated by those who think they are too old for picture books, or those working on school reports. Put this on display near Barbara Cooney's Miss Rumphius (1982) and Michael Bedard's Emily (1992). (Picture book/nonfiction. 7-10)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780756789848
  • Publisher: DIANE Publishing Company
  • Publication date: 5/28/2005
  • Pages: 29

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