CAPITAL by Lynn Curlee


by & illustrated by
Age Range: 8 - 12
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Meticulous illustrations accompany brief descriptions and histories of the buildings and monuments that form the heart of the nation’s capital. After discussing the founding, initial design, and 1814 burning of Washington, D.C., Curlee delivers thumbnail sketches of the Capitol, the White House, the Washington Monument, and the Lincoln and Jefferson Memorials. Moving chronologically in order of the beginning of building and geographically around the Mall, he deliberately situates each subject; maps of L’Enfant’s original plan and the Mall as it is now flank these presentations. Tidbits of history (e.g., that the Capitol served as a hospital during the Civil War and that Thomas Jefferson anonymously entered the contest to design the White House) join the occasional architectural cross-section to give a sense of both form and function of these buildings. In their clarity and simplicity, and with their deep-blue backgrounds, the illustrations clearly hearken back to Curlee’s earlier work, but this offering’s necessarily inclusive nature means that the work as a whole lacks the glorious specificity and unity of narrative of efforts such as Brooklyn Bridge (2001). Although this volume nominally covers five buildings, the Capitol receives the lengthiest and most enthusiastic treatment; one might wish that it had been the sole focus. In tone, the text takes on a reverence that never lets its reader forget that these buildings are monuments: “Painted a dazzling white, and with its noble profile, large windows, and lofty height . . . the Capitol dome is instantly recognizable. Triumphantly completed during the nation’s most terrible crisis, the great dome came to symbolize the Union itself.” Quotations from primary sources, some regrettably unidentified, embellish the text. In all, a worthy effort that cannot escape a certain hodgepodge effect. (Picture book/nonfiction. 8-12)

Pub Date: Jan. 1st, 2003
ISBN: 0-689-84947-8
Page count: 48pp
Publisher: Atheneum
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1st, 2002


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