Celebrate America! Fall Books Take Young Readers on a Cultural, Historical, and Geographical Tour of the US

By Karen Williams. Karen Williams has a masters degree in children's literature. | The Christian Science Monitor, November 4, 1994 | Go to article overview

Celebrate America! Fall Books Take Young Readers on a Cultural, Historical, and Geographical Tour of the US


Karen Williams. Karen Williams has a masters degree in children's literature., The Christian Science Monitor


THREE-QUARTERS of a century ago, the Newbery and Caldecott medals for children's literature were years away from being awarded, contemporary classics like "Charlotte's Web," by E.B. White, had not yet been published, and kids-only bookstores were nonexistent. But these have now become familiar as National Children's Book Week - this year from Nov. 14 to Nov. 20 - marks its 75th anniversary. The anniversary celebration's theme, "Read Across America," inspires this selection of fall books that honor the art, history, and geography of the United States. Art and poetry books

In the late 1800s, Katharine Lee Bates wrote "America the Beautiful," the poem that is almost a national anthem. Her timeless words jump to life in this dramatic pairing with bold, colorful works by contemporary artist Wayne Thiebaud. The juxtaposition of these two artists' mediums in O Beautiful for Spacious Skies creates powerful, thought-provoking images.

To illustrate Celebrate America in Poetry and Art, editor Nora Panzer has selected some 60 paintings, sculptures, drawings, and photographs from the vast resources of the Smithsonian's National Museum of American Art. Works from such artists as George Catlin, Winslow Homer, and Red Grooms are evocatively paired with poems by Emily Dickinson, Carl Sandburg, Maya Angelou, and others. Divided into topic-based chapters, this anthology explores the texture and tempo of America life. Picture books

Karla Kuskin has written a boisterous read-aloud with City Noise. A city-dwelling girl picks up a tin can and, holding it to her ear like a seashell, hears jazzy urban rhymes and rhythms: "Buying Selling/Laughing Yelling/Running Wheeling/Roaring Squealing." Renee Flower's colorful and chaotic art is as appealing as the text.

Belinda Rochelle's When Jo Louis Won the Title is the perfect book for any child who's ever been embarrassed about his or her name. Jo Louis doesn't want to start school because she'll have to answer the question, "What's your name?" Her grandfather lovingly tells her about his trip to Harlem on the night her name- sake - the great boxer Joe Louis - won the title. As it turns out, that was a special night in the history of Jo's family because her grandparents met during the celebration of the Louis championship. Expressive paintings by Larry Johnson illustrate this warm, affirming story.

New England writer Mary Lyn Ray has added another charmer to her body of works with Alvah and Arvilla. This farming couple from Maine has been farm-bound for 31 years because they have so many animals to tend. Now, Arvilla has the idea to travel cross-country to see the Pacific Ocean. How do they do it? By taking all the animals - and there are quite a few - with them. Barry Root's delightful paintings are a perfect match for Ray's dry humor.

George Washington's Cows, written and illustrated by David Small, features cows, pigs, and sheep. With droll rhymes and clever illustrations, the reader is treated to some fanciful shenanigans of animals Washington might have owned at Mount Vernon. His cows dress in gowns, his pigs cheerfully take over for absent servants, and his sheep count stars and give lectures. All this causes consternation for Washington, who decides that he might just have to quit farming and find another calling. Books for older readers

In The Glory Field, Walter Dean Myers creates a fictional epic about the Lewis family that spans 250 years. The "glory field" is eight acres of South Carolina farmland named for Moses Lewis's joyful cry after his release from slavery. …

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