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WALT WHITMAN by Barbara Kerley Kirkus Star


Words for America

by Barbara Kerley & illustrated by Brian Selznick

Age Range: 9 - 14

Pub Date: Oct. 1st, 2004
ISBN: 0-439-35791-8
Publisher: Scholastic

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)