Wednesday, March 18, 2020

Non-Fiction Picture Books Tell Stories

   Visit Alyson Beecher on Wednesdays for Non-Fiction Picture Books at Kidlit Frenzy -- hashtag #nfpb2020! Thanks to her hosting and sharing and those who add their posts, you can discover and celebrate terrific nonfiction picture books! 


Several vertical double pages
 highlight the beauty
of the French's sculptures!
            With Shawn Fields' marvelous pen and ink sketches, Linda Booth Sweeney tells this story of a boy who grew up on a farm, then small towns in Massachusetts who became a famous sculptor whose work can be found in many places, foremost in our capitol. He didn't do well in school, loved being out in nature observing and drawing birds. The story shares that one time he carved a turnip into a frog and his parents noticed his talent as he discovered what he was going to do in his life. He did different studies in art. When the family moved to Concord, he took art lessons from May Alcott, Louisa May Alcott's sister. His first commission, at age twenty, was of the "Minuteman" leaving his plow, found now at The Old North Bridge. He went to Italy to study with a famous sculptor. Thus, he began this artist life.
             Knowing his journey to this culminating monument of Lincoln, the book also becomes the story of Lincoln. By the time it was to be created, Daniel was already famous and his friend, Henry Bacon, an architect that had been chosen as the designer of the memorial, wanted French to create the statue. That part itself is fascinating.

             The back matter is extensive. It includes the author's and illustrator's notes, a Daniel Chester French Timeline, a brief piece titled "Dan the Maker", a page of the history of The Lincoln Memorial, a list of French's creations and their location, and a resource list.
              I loved that Sweeney began the book as a story, with Field's drawings of a boy and a girl listening. They are there several times in the book and at the end. It's a nice touch.

           I've been to Washington, D.C more than once in my life, traveled the many steps to all the museums and monuments. One favorite memory is when I went with students, middle-grade age, and of course, they were often ahead of me and my colleagues, eager to get to the "next" destination. This time we were to rendezvous at The Lincoln Memorial. My students and I kept field journals of all the places visited, notes and sketches. When we arrived at this special place, the students were sprawled on the floor under the sculpture of Lincoln, looking up, sketching, reading the quote, in awe. That was years ago and we had learned a bit about Daniel Chester French, but not this story by Linda Booth Sweeney. I wish we had had it then. This memorial gives a sense of calm when one is there. I'm glad I have visited and have these memories.


  1. I had this book in my stack for a long time. For some reason, the cover didn't draw me in. But when I finally opened it up, I was captivated. I kept reading passages to my family. I've always loved the Lincoln Memorial, but now I want to go back and look again.

    1. It was just on the shelf at my library or I don't think I would have known about it, Annette. It is a really special book. I am happy to have read and shared it. Thanks!


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