In this illustrated "family album," Caldecott medalist Alice Provensen offers a unique glimpse of the people who shaped America, from Pocahontas to Edgar Allan Poe to Martin Luther King Jr. This 60-page, oversized hardcover is rich with portraits of artists, enduring icons, outlaws, radicals, visionaries, composers, writers, inventors, and reformers. On the "Naturalists and Ecologists" page, Rachel Carson is joined by water analyst Ellen Swallow Richards, painter and ornithologist John James Audubon, and agricultural chemist George Washington Carver. While quotations from famous Americans mark every page, the book's focus is purely pictorial. The visual montages present an interesting jumping-off point for further exploration of some of America's rogues and luminaries.
"Like all families," Provenson writes in her introduction, "my American family has its rich uncles and poor relations, its atheists and believers, its scoundrels and bigots, its gifted and compassionate. Above all, these relatives are individuals, idiosyncratic and exceptional. In general I have been able to group them here by thought, by behavior, by métier.... Pictured on the end sheets, front and back, are individuals who defy classification--Americans who are known for a single or unique act, invention, comment, work of art, tragedy, or who are somehow larger than life and have come to represent our myths and legends, our fantasies and our foibles." (Age 9 and older)