Rushmore

Lynn Curlee, Author Scholastic $17.95 (48p) ISBN 978-0-590-22573-1
Curlee (Into the Ice: The Story of Arctic Exploration) presents a fascinating behind-the-scenes look at the making of Mount Rushmore. South Dakota's state historian first came up with the idea of carving figures into the Black Hills during the 1920s, a notion that was quickly taken up by one of the state's senators as a way to pay tribute to history and draw more tourists to his remote state. The original plan--to carve figures representing the Old West--was swept aside by the sculptor commissioned for the project, the egotistical but talented John Gutzon de la Mothe Borglum. Curlee's story of Borglum's 17-year involvement in the arduous project brims with details of the politics surrounding the monument--a grassroots campaign to include Susan B. Anthony rather than Theodore Roosevelt as the fourth dignitary featured; the uproar that ensued when Borglum attempted to change Calvin Coolidge's condensed history of the United States, which the sculptor originally planned to inscribe on the monument--as well as the logistics involved (each morning the crew had a 40-story climb to the precipice to begin work; by the job's completion, they had blasted 450,000 tons of rock). The stark, flat feel of the acrylic paintings in stony shades of gray and blue mirror the dignified aura of their subject. Exploiting each spread, Curlee conveys the sensitivity in the faces of the giant chiseled sculpture while simultaneously demonstrating a sense of scale, with the sculptor rappelling from the nose of Washington or a worker examining Roosevelt's cheek. If readers have not yet made the trip to the Black Hills, Curlee's account will likely spur them on to visit. Ages 7-10. (Apr.)
Reviewed on: 03/30/1998
Release date: 04/01/1999
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Hardcover - 48 pages - 978-0-590-22201-3
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