cover image Purple Mountain Majesty

Purple Mountain Majesty

Barbara Younger. Dutton Books, $16.99 (40pp) ISBN 978-0-525-45653-7

Younger's first children's book tells the little-known story of the making of one of America's favorite patriotic songs. In the summer of 1893, 34-year-old Katharine Lee Bates, who taught English literature at Wellesley College, set out by train from Massachusetts for Colorado Springs, where she had agreed to deliver a series of lectures. Bates took copious notes while crossing the varied terrain, making stops at Niagara Falls and the World's Columbian Exposition in Chicago. With frequent quotes from Bates's diary, Younger chronicles, at times in excessive detail, the highlights of the teacher's trip, among them the ""rich amber wheat fields of the Great Plains"" and the Colorado Rockies, which ""shone purple in the sun."" How these vistas inspired the poem that became ""America the Beautiful"" makes a quaint story, though some readers may find it a rather rambling path. Schuett's (Somewhere in the World Right Now) appealing folk art brims with period particulars--such as beribboned hats and full-shouldered dresses, travel chests and home furnishings--as well as sprawling renderings of those natural wonders that well deserve Bates's tribute. The complete lyrics of the song appear only on the dust jacket. A pleasant sliver of Americana. Ages 5-9. (June)