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Walt Whitman: Words for America
     

Walt Whitman: Words for America

by Barbara Kerley, Brian Selznick (Illustrator)
 

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 and Confederate, black and white. By getting to know them through many intense and affecting experiences, he began to see a greater life purpose: His writing could give

Overview


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 and Confederate, black and 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, and in turn, achieve his highest aspiration--to capture the true spirit of America. Dramatic, powerful, and deeply moving, this consummate portrait of Whitman will inspire readers to pick up their pens and open their hearts to humanity.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

Distinctions and Praise for Walt Whitman: Words for America: (partial listing)

Sibert Honor Book
ALA Notable Book
New York Times Best Illustrated Book
NCTE Notable Children's Books in the Language Arts
CBC/NCSS Notable Social Studies Trade Books for Young People
Parents Choice Silver Award Winner

• "A cultural force rendered with power and immediacy for a new generation." -- Kirkus Reviews, starred review

• "Whitman’s eloquent voice resonate[s] through the pages, and bountiful source notes remove any doubt of these talented collaborators' affection and admiration for their subject--their enthusiasm is convincing and contagious. -- Publishers Weekly, starred review

• "Brilliantly inventive paintings add vibrant testimonial to the nuanced text . . . [an] unabashedly glowing tribute." -- School Library Journal, starred review

"Whitman lovers everywhere should give joyful thanks for this splendid presentation." -- Horn Book

Publishers Weekly
The creators of The Dinosaurs of Waterhouse Hawkins open this innovative, intriguing biography with an anecdotal look at the poet's early years as a printer's apprentice in Brooklyn, where his love of words was born. By the age of 19, Walt was writing and printing his own newspaper. With a lyricism and an ardor that echoes Whitman's own, Kerley writes of his passion for both language and for "rambling," the latter luring him onto Manhattan's city streets ("in these ordinary Americans he saw the true spirit of the nation") as well as the countryside (in "every leaf and blade of grass, he felt America's grace and vigor"). The heart of this story centers on the wrenching though inspiring effects the Civil War had on Whitman who, too old to enlist in the Union army, traveled to Virginia to stay with his wounded younger brother, then spent years caring for other hospitalized, often dying soldiers-the source of some of his most memorable verse. The elegant design of the paper-over-board volume features a die-cut cover image of the poet that echoes the dust jacket of the original 1855 edition of Leaves of Grass, as well as text set in Whitman's favorite typeface (also used in Leaves) arranged in vertical or horizontal panels-or set directly into the art. Selznick's versatile illustrations encompass a stark realism (sepia-toned daguerreotypes of Civil War soldiers, based on actual photographs) and surreal whimsy (as Whitman walks in the country by moonlight, the sky above is filled with open notebooks bearing words from his writing). Copious quotes from his poems and correspondence let Whitman's eloquent voice resonate through the pages, and bountiful source notes remove any doubt of these talented collaborators' affection and admiration for their subject-their enthusiasm is convincing and contagious. Ages 7-10. (Oct.) Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Children's Literature
Incorporating many actual quotes from Whitman's correspondence, poems, and other writings into text and pictures, this book is a bold introduction to the person who changed poetry forever. Kerley respects the reader but makes Whitman and his times understandable for those with a rudimentary knowledge of the Civil War, Lincoln, and the havoc wreaked by the War Between the States. Some of the most moving passages and illustrations are ones that convey the poet's compassion for injured soldiers dying far from ones who love them. Whitman's love of all humankind, his sensuous enjoyment of nature, his outreach, and the composition of his poem "O Captain, My Captain" are included. The text ends with the open-handed invitation: "Whoever you are now I place my hand upon you that you be my poem." In extensive author and illustrator notes, both creators reveal the sources of their inspiration, cover more completely the trajectory of Whitman's life, and give the reader a deeper sense of Whitman's admiration for Lincoln. It is especially telling to see what Selznick drew upon to create his powerful images and montages and children will look again with deeper appreciation after reading these notes. In an effort not to shortchange Whitman's poetry, Kerley has included eight longer excerpts from "Leaves of Grass." As an introduction to "The Good Gray Poet," this book succeeds on every level. Older readers who wish to learn more about Whitman should search out Catherine Reef's 1995 biography, Walt Whitman. 2004, Scholastic, Ages 9 to 14.
—Susan Hepler, Ph.D.
School Library Journal
Gr 4 Up-An exuberant picture-book biography that focuses on Whitman's formative years and his selfless work as a Civil War nurse. Delightfully old-fashioned in design, its oversized pages are replete with graceful illustrations and snippets of poetry. The brilliantly inventive paintings add vibrant testimonial to the nuanced text. Kerley likens the poet's restless energy to the nation itself: "Walt wrote poems as free-ranging as his big robust country. More than anything, he hoped to become the voice of America." When the conflict begins, the artist supplies a somber-hued gallery of soldiers posed in their uniforms. As the war wears on, Kerley notes the fondness Whitman held for his embattled president, whom he'd often see on the streets of the capital. Forced to return home because of his health, he heard news of the war's end, and a few days later, of Lincoln's death. Kerley observes that at this point Whitman turned again to poetry to help himself, along with the nation, resolve his grief and turn toward peace and rebuilding. There are several excellent biographies for older readers that serve the needs of report writers. Libraries will want to add this unabashedly glowing tribute as well for the infectious zeal both author and illustrator bring to their subject and his writings, excerpts of which can be found woven seamlessly into the text and the art.-Marilyn Taniguchi, Beverly Hills Public Library, CA Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
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)

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780439357913
Publisher:
Scholastic, Inc.
Publication date:
10/28/2004
Pages:
56
Sales rank:
1,391,954
Product dimensions:
9.00(w) x 12.00(h) x (d)
Lexile:
AD970L (what's this?)
Age Range:
7 - 10 Years

Meet the Author


Barbara Kerley's award-winning biographies—including WHAT TO DO ABOUT ALICE? and THE EXTRAORDINARY MARK TWAIN (ACCORDING TO SUSY), both illustrated by Edwin Fotheringham, and THE DINOSAURS OF WATERHOUSE HAWKINS and WALT WHITMAN: WORDS FOR AMERICA, both illustrated by Brian Selznick—are consistently praised for their lively prose, meticulous research, and artistic presentation style. Kerley lives in Portland, Oregon. You can visit her online at www.barbarakerley.com.

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 Muñoz 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.

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