Through the Looking Glass Children's Book Reviews

Walt Whitman: Words for America

Walt Whitman: Words for America

Barbara Kerley
Illustrator:  Brian Selznick 
Nonfiction Picture Book
For ages 7 to 10
Scholastic, 2004   ISBN: 978-0439357913

Walt spent practically his entire life loving and using words. When he was just a boy he began to work as a typesetter in a newspaper office and not many years later he began to publish his own newspaper, the Long Islander. Walt was a keen observer and he soon began to carry homemade notebooks around with him in which he would write down impressions that he had of the people and the sites that he saw as he went "rambling" about the cities and countryside. This note taking then turned into poetry writing. More than anything Walt wanted to write poems for the "common people" but many Americans did not appreciate Walt's unconventional writing style and the topics that he chose to write about.

When the civil war broke out Walt was too old to enlist and yet he felt he had to do something to help. After visiting his injured brother in Virginia Walt went to Washington and stayed there for month after month, caring for and comforting the injured in the hospitals there. Though seeing the injured and the dying tore at his heart Walt insisted on staying by the bedsides of the war wounded. During this time he saw President Lincoln many times as the President rode by on his horse and Walt came to truly appreciate what this remarkable man was trying to do to save America.

Walt wrote many poems about the civil war and one his most famous poems "O Captain! My Captain!" in which he mourned the death of Abraham Lincoln, catapulted him into the national limelight.

This extraordinary book captures the quiet, gentle and loving nature of Walt Whitman -poet, humanitarian, and writer. We see that Walt was one of those special people who spent much of their lives giving to others and who made the world a better place because they were in it.