Through the Looking Glass Children's Book Reviews

Walt Whitman

Walt Whitman

Nancy Loewen
Illustrator:  Rob Day 
For ages 12 and up
The Creative Company, 1994   ISBN: 978-0886826086

All too often when we read a biography about a famous person we cannot help feeling that the person being described must have been completely unlike ourselves. We feel that the person was somehow better than us, and without flaws or faults. In this celebration of Walt Whitman's life and work we discover that as a young man Walt moved from job to job. Some of his employers even felt that he was terribly lazy. He was a young man without a great deal of direction, a young man who had the skills to be a good printer and writer but who did not stick to anything for very long. He was a young man who we can all identify with because he, like us, had his weaknesses.

What is interesting is that although Walt may indeed have been "lackadaisical," he also managed to get a lot done. He wrote a great deal, gave speeches, and did what he could to support the abolitionist movement and the Free Soil Democrats.

Then, when he was in his thirties, Walt's life took a different turn. Disillusioned by politics and politicians, he began to explore the lives of his fellow Americans on a very personal level; and he wrote down what he learned, saw, and heard in his trusty notebook, which went everywhere with him.

From his writings in his notebook, Walt began to write the poems which would fill the pages of his book, Leaves of Grass. The poems broke countless rules which many people in America at that time felt were necessary. Walt did not care. He wrote in his own style and he showed the world that poetry can take many forms. The subject matter can be controversial, and the format can be prose-like. Poetry can be anything the poet wants it to me.

In this beautifully presented book the author tells the story of Walt Whitman with great skill and sensitivity. Throughout the book readers will find examples of his poetry and his prose writings which will help the reader to better understand what this remarkable man was like. Period photographs of Walt Whitman and his world are found throughout the book, and gorgeous photographs of leaves provide the perfect backdrop for his poems and his articles.

This is one of the books in the "Voices in Poetry" series. Other poets featured in this series include E.E. Cummings and Robert Frost.