America the Beautiful
by Katharine Lee Bates, Wendell Minor (Illustrator)

Synopsis

Traversing the entire nation, from New York City to Pikes Peak, from the Oregon coast to the Florida Everglades; encompassing multiple eras, from Pilgrims to wagon trains, from the Wright Brothers to NASA - this is a patriotic journey across land and time.

“America the Beautiful” has been stirring hearts for generations, and now acclaimed artist Wendell Minor pairs Katharine Lee Bates’s classic poem with spectacular visual accompaniment. His stunning paintings of American landscapes and historical moments celebrate our nation - from sea to shining sea.

Review

From School Library Journal
Grade 1-5-This pictorial salute to the many facets of our country's physical landscapes and historical moments is a good way to introduce young listeners to Bates's 19th-century poem and, through the music of Samuel Augustus Ward, to a classic patriotic song. Following an author's note that clarifies some background information on the poem and Minor's approach to his illustrations, each spread proceeds to feature one to two lines of verse accompanied by an oil painting, rich in color and precise in detail. The art itself tells a story, both in time and space, moving from a pilgrim family's quiet New England town to the roar of a NASA space shuttle, from a solitary farm amid the wheat fields of Kansas to the Manhattan skyline. Readers can trace our country's founding, Westward expansion, Kitty Hawk, and 9/11 (represented by the twin beams of light). Just as importantly, they can see the variety of physical features, from vast oceans to rugged mountains, from unending meadows to quiet streams. Short biographical notes on both Bates and Ward (accompanied by copies of the handwritten poem and the original hymn), four pages of pictorial notes, and a map of the U.S. delineating each illustration's exact location are appended. Unlike Neil Waldman's America the Beautiful (Atheneum, 1993), this version offers all four verses. Use it with primary grades to introduce the song and with intermediate grades to discuss the historical perspective and geographical information behind the paintings.
Nancy Menaldi-Scanlan, LaSalle Academy, Providence, RI
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Booklist
K-Gr. 3. Using the four verses of "America the Beautiful" as a text, this picture book celebrates the beauty and variety of the American landscape in a series of majestic scenes. Each borderless, double-page spread illustrates a phrase or stanza from the song with a watercolor-and-gouache painting. Just as they represent different places in the country, the paintings also portray different moments in time. Buffaloes graze as smoke rises from a nearby teepee; the Wright brothers' flyer skims above the sand; and two towers bathed in bluish-white light rise above the New York skyline. Minor's richly colored, well-composed paintings reflect the song's grace, dignity, and idealism, but just as impressive is his care in selecting locales that fit the song's phrases. The closing pages offer short biographies of lyricist Bates and composer Samuel Ward, the song's words and music, and an illustrated guide to each spread. A series of landscape paintings (sometimes with figures, but no real characters) may not sound like an inviting approach to a children's picture book, but these paintings are varied and accessible enough to hold a primary-grade audience, especially when the text is sung. Carolyn Phelan
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

From Publishers Weekly
Pairing Katharine Lee Bates's famous 1895 poem with majestic watercolor panoramas, Wendell Minor creates a breathtaking visual journey to some of the country's diverse landscapes and monuments in America the Beautiful. He takes readers from coast to coast in full-bleed spreads, highlighting many of America's famous landmarks, from a space shuttle launch against a vivid Florida sky to a serene, golden Kansas wheatfield. The realistic paintings stretch across the centuries as well, including one of the 1627 Plimoth Plantation and another depicting the New York City skyline post-Sept. 11, 2001 (alongside the verse, "Thine alabaster/ cities gleam/ Undimmed/ by human tears!" the nighttime skyline shows the two memorial beams of light where the World Trade Center towers once stood). Concluding pages explain each illustration's location and significance. Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.

From Northwest Baby & Child Newspaper
Based on the poem by Katharine Lee Bates, which was later made into a song honoring our vast country, America the Beautiful (Putnam, 2003, $16.99) boasts stunning illustrations by Wendell Minor, paired with the classic lyrics. The song plays out across the pages with “spacious skies” and “amber waves of grain” brought to life in full color. This is an excellent way to introduce children to the sights and sounds of America.

From Brigham Young University
In an American culture where sophistication, cynicism and excessive preoccupation with “political correctness” run rampant, how refreshing to open the covers of a book that celebrates America with unabashed patriotism. Katharine Lee Bates’ stirring poem, which has captured the hearts of Americans for generations, is fittingly adorned with beautiful double-page watercolor and gouache paintings by one of America’s premier artists, Wendell Minor. Not only do the paintings celebrate memorable locales from coast to coast and border to border, but they capture historical moments along the way, from an early pilgrim settlement through westward expansion by wagon train along the Oregon trail, to the “alabaster cities gleam” of New York City with twin beams of light memorializing the twin towers destroyed on September 11, 2001.

Enhancing the color-filled presentation of the text is an index of locations painted, with brief information about each, illustrated by a colorful vignette from the larger painting. A double-page map of the United States that follows pinpoints each location by number. Biographical sketches of Bates and Samuel A. Ward, composer of the music, along with a facsimile of ne of Bates’ handwritten copies of her poem add further interest. Young readers with piano training will enjoy playing the song from a reproduction of an early church hymnal edition.

“America the Beautiful” is a fitting tribute to the grandeur of a great country and to those earlier Americans who have left the legacy we so enjoy today. Young readers’ hearts will be stirred as they turn its pages and inevitable sing the patriotic song that is Afmerica’s favorite.


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