AMERICA THE BEAUTIFUL
Katherine Lee Bates, , illus. by Chris Gall. . Little, Brown, $16.95 (32pp) ISBN 978-0-316-73743-2
In his first picture book, Gall offers an innovative interpretation of this classic paean to our blossoming country, penned in 1893 by his great-great-great-aunt. Finding his own inspiration in this legacy (a copy of the lyrics—reproduced on the book's endpapers—hung in his childhood home), this skilled artist creates striking, boldly hued graphics by hand engraving clay-coated board and then digitizing with Adobe illustrator. Gall blends primitive and sophisticated elements to convey a three-dimensional look. His artwork celebrates the diverse contributions of all Americans. For the refrain, "From sea to shining sea," he depicts Sacajawea and her son traveling the Missouri River with Lewis and Clark in 1805; members of the first African-American flying unit, known as the Tuskegee Airmen, surround their WWII plane for "O beautiful for heroes proved/ In liberating strife." He also includes more recent images, such as the firemen of 9/11 hoisting the flag at Ground Zero for "Who more than self their country loved/ And mercy more than life!" In rural, family scenes, a couple rides a tractor through "amber waves of grain" in the 1930s, and parents and child survey the "purple mountain majesty" of Pike's Peak. This affecting composite portrait of the country Bates so eloquently serenaded provides a spirit-lifting accompaniment to her rousing lyrics. All ages.
Reviewed on: 04/19/2004