The powerful artwork by Chris Gall gives new meaning to the words of Katharine Lee Bates' poem "America the Beautiful." Yes, that's the same poem that was put to music by Samuel A. Ward and has become one of our country's most beloved songs. Interestingly, Chris Gall is the great-great-grandnephew of Katharine Lee Bates, and according to the book's introduction, he "...grew up with a copy of her powerful poem, written in her own hand, hanging in the living room..."
The artwork reminds me of WPA murals. According to the book's notes, the illustrations "...were done by hand engraving clay-coated board, then digitizing with Adobe Illustrator for adjustments and color." Despite techniques very different from those of WPA paintings, Gall's work shares the same larger-than-life, dramatic feel of those early works. In describing Bates' poem, which she wrote in 1893, Gall states, "The unabashedly, affirmative lyrics speak of a nation blessed with God-given gifts and stunning landscapes - a nation built on law, idealism, and brotherhood."
Gall's illustrations of the two verses span time and place. They include Pike's Peak, the Lewis and Clark expedition, a 1930s farm scene, the Statue of Liberty, the Tuskegee Airmen in World War II, the heroes of September 11, 2001, the connection of the East and West Coasts by railroad, the launch of Apollo 11, newly arrived immigrants, and scenes of ordinary people at work and at play.
America the Beautiful is a beautifully designed, 32-page long, hardbound book. Both the dust jacket and the book's cover feature the same striking illustration of a lighthouse. The pages of the book are thick and smooth. The inside front and back covers feature a copy of Bate's poem in her own handwriting. At the end of the book is a page of information about each of the illustrations, and a page with the first verse of "America the Beautiful" set to the music of Samuel A. Ward. I would recommend America the Beautiful for all ages.