Walt Whitman: Words for America

by Barbara Kerley and Brian Selznick

Poet Walt Whitman was larger than life, and the surreal art in this picture-book... read more

Poet Walt Whitman was larger than life, and the surreal art in this picture-book biography perfectly depicts the intense range of emotions of the “voice of America” in the mid to late 1800s. Barbara Kerley quickly sums up the details of Whitman’s young life, demonstrating his love affair with language and poetry, his fascination with the common people, and his passionate appreciation for the potential of America. She then focuses on the period of his life during which he made the most contributions to his country, both in words (his poetry) and in deed (his actions during the Civil War). Although Whitman was too old to fight, he was tireless in providing love and support to wounded soldiers through visits to battlefields and hospitals. The story of the Civil War as seen and experienced by Whitman is told through excerpts of his poetry, which, like the country itself, was large, unwieldy, and lawless. His style was wholly unique, ignoring traditional rules of rhyme and rhythm. The end matter turns this engaging read into an extraordinarily useful informational book, including more background historical information, a selection of more complete poems, and sources. (Ages 11–15)

© Cooperative Children's Book Center, Univ. of Wisconsin - Madison, 2005

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