When I Heard the Learn'd Astronomer

Overview

Leave time for wonder.
Walt Whitman's "When I Heard the Learn'd Astronomer" is an enduring celebration of the imagination. Here, Whitman's wise words are beautifully recast by New York Times #1 best-selling illustrator Loren Long to tell the story of a boy's fascination with the heavens. Toy rocket in hand, the boy finds himself in a crowded, stuffy lecture hall. At first he is amazed by the charts and the figures. But when he finds himself overwhelmed by the pontifications of ...

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Overview

Leave time for wonder.
Walt Whitman's "When I Heard the Learn'd Astronomer" is an enduring celebration of the imagination. Here, Whitman's wise words are beautifully recast by New York Times #1 best-selling illustrator Loren Long to tell the story of a boy's fascination with the heavens. Toy rocket in hand, the boy finds himself in a crowded, stuffy lecture hall. At first he is amazed by the charts and the figures. But when he finds himself overwhelmed by the pontifications of an academic, he retreats to the great outdoors and does something as universal as the stars themselves...
he dreams.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
The illustrations in Long's latest effort call to mind his work in I Dream of Trains; both have an ethereal quality that pulls readers utterly into the story's world. Shadowy and soft-edged, in moody autumn colors, the images are paired here with a short verse from Walt Whitman's Leaves of Grass, itself a resonant exploration of inner life. Long casts a redheaded boy in the role of narrator, and conveys his obsession with the galaxy through the boy's bedroom with its star-studded bedspread, lampshade and hand-chalked artwork. A wordless spread depicts his entry into a formidable building with his parents, where he attends a lecture by a "learn'd astronomer." Full-bleed paintings reveal the boy's curiosity as he explores his surroundings, but once the speaker begins, the child slumps in his seat: "How soon, unaccountable, I became tired and sick." He slips outdoors "in the mystical moist night-air," which gradually revives him. Long signals the boy's growing awareness of the celestial vastness by progressing from tight, intimate images (the boy contemplating a globe) to large-scale panoramas (the boy gazing upward in awestruck reverie, the stars-literally-reflected in his eyes). Children's doodles (math notations, scribbled stars) scattered throughout, add a playful note and also underscore the boy's fascination with the skies. The book's almost reverential pacing matches the rhythm of Whitman's poem and, in effect, forces young readers to slow down and savor the words. Long creates both an inviting introduction to poetry for children and an inspired paean to their dreams. All ages. (Nov.) Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Einstein stated, "We should take care not to make the intellect our god; it has, of course, powerful muscles, but no personality." These sentiments are echoed in Whitman's Leaves of Grass poem "When I Heard the Learn'd Astronomer" (1900), illustrated here with warm, nostalgic acrylic paintings. In his sun-, moon-, and star-filled bedroom, a young, space-obsessed boy dons a tie in preparation for hearing a "learn'd astronomer" speak at a local museum. In the first of several wordless spreads, his family approaches the imposing, columned building where the scholar's lecture will be. But once inside the stuffy auditorium, the boy feels tired and sick and wanders off into the "mystical moist night-air" where he ambles silently beneath his beloved night sky. Endearing pencil sketches of celestial bodies, doodled by the illustrator's sons, sneak into the design and further demonstrate the charm of idle musings that trump lifeless charts and diagrams any old day. Adults may appreciate this more than children, but it's a lovely tribute to Whitman's poem nonetheless. (Picture book. 8-10)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780689863974
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster Books For Young Readers
  • Publication date: 10/26/2004
  • Pages: 32
  • Sales rank: 332,219
  • Age range: 5 - 9 Years
  • Product dimensions: 12.20 (w) x 10.00 (h) x 0.50 (d)

Meet the Author

Loren Long illustrated President Barack Obama’s Of Thee I Sing; the newest version of The Little Engine that Could; Madonna’s second picture book, Mr. Peabody’s Apples; Nightsong by Ari Berk; and the Barnstormers series. He also illustrated Frank McCourt’s Angela and the Baby Jesus and is part of the Design Garage for Jon Scieszka’s Trucktown series. Loren’s work has appeared in Time, Sports Illustrated, Forbes, The Wall Street Journal, and The Atlantic. He lives with his wife and two sons in Westchester, Ohio. Visit him at LorenLong.com.

Walt Whitman (1819-1892), arguably one of America's most influential and innovative poets, was born into a working-class family in West Hills, New York, and grew up in Brooklyn. His Leaves of Grass, from which "When I Heard the Learn'd Astronomer" comes, is considered one of the central volumes in the history of world poetry. While most other major writers of his time enjoyed a highly structured, classical education at private institutions, Whitman forged his own rough and informal curriculum, and his brief stint at teaching suggests that Whitman employed what were then progressive techniques — encouraging students to think aloud rather than simply recite, and involving his students in educational games.

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Sort by: Showing all of 2 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted April 7, 2005

    A great book!

    This book was great! I knew the author; his sons go to my school and he came and showed us how he got his ideas for his paintings. Loren based this little boy in the story off a 3 grade boy at our school, and they amazing look exactly the same! Long is very talented, and the thought of putting a poem, especially one of Whitman's, in a children's story is ingenious.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 11, 2004

    An amazing book

    This book has beautifully luminous paintings which illustrate Walt Whitman's poem celebrating wonder over science. A little boy in coat and tie becomes restless at a science lecture and goes outside to marvel at the night sky filled with stars. I love the idea of using a children's book to introduce one of the greatest American poets to children. The poem comes from Whitman's book, LEAVES OF GRASS.

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Sort by: Showing all of 2 Customer Reviews

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