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America the Beautiful    by Katharine Lee Bates & Chris Gall order for
America the Beautiful
by Katharine Lee Bates
Order:  USA  Can
Little, Brown & Co., 2004 (2004)
* * *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

Chris Gall is the great-great-grandnephew of Katharine Lee Bates, the woman who wrote the American national anthem. His bold illustrations give a strong context to its familiar words. America the Beautiful begins with Gall's one page introduction to the history of the anthem, including the poet's inspiration for her work on Colorado's Pike's Peak in 1893.

Chris Gall speaks of the poem's 'soaring optimism' and calls it 'a reminder of all that we have, and of all that we need to preserve.' His illustration of FDNY firemen is very touching, along with the lines 'Who more than self their country loved / And mercy more than life!' A NASA Saturn V rocket takes off to the tune of 'O beautiful for patriot dream / That sees beyond the years' and a rural fall scene (with a grandfather and child fishing together) matched the words 'America! America! / God shed His grace on thee'.

The book ends with comments on the choice of artwork for each verse, highlighting aspects like the country's agricultural heritage, changes of seasons, immigration, the railway, Sacajawea, the Statue of Liberty and Lady Justice. And this treasure of a picture book closes appropriately on the printed music for the anthem.

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