cover image My Fellow Americans: A Family Album

My Fellow Americans: A Family Album

Alice Provensen. Harcourt Children's Books, $19.95 (64pp) ISBN 978-0-15-276642-9

Provensen (The Buck Stops Here) curates a highly personal gallery of American historical figures in this eclectic, large-format volume. ""Not all these Americans are honored in our national imagination, but they live in mine,"" she explains in an author's note. She groups her subjects by their careers, callings or causes they championed, labeling her assemblages with headings like ``American Architects: The Shapes of Democracy'' or ``The Magnetic West: Pathfinders, Settlers, & Image Makers.'' Provensen renders their likenesses in India ink and oil in her characteristically candid style, but the words or phrases with which she embellishes these portraits may puzzle young readers (e.g., Elizabeth Gurley Flynn, described as ``the proletarian Joan of Arc,'' says, ``We want bread and roses too''; Alice Paul, founder of the National Woman's Party, rides in a vehicle labeled ``Prison Special''). Quotations from individuals associated with the various themes run at the bottom of each busy page, but their meaning may also elude the young, as when Susan Sontag comments on the purpose of art. The author concludes this curious book with five pages of ""Observations & Reflections"" that offer (in a tiny typeface) an informal, subjective commentary on each biographical cluster. All ages. (Oct.)