Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Review: Who Carved the Mountain?

Who carved the Mountain? The Story of Mount Rushmore by Jean L. S Patrick, illustrated by Renee Graef, 2005, Mount Rushmore History Association, 32 pages, hardcover.

Our family was delighted to visit Mount Rushmore recently, along with several other Love2Learn families. Since we live in South Dakota, Mount Rushmore books have prominent and permanent diplays in our library system's many branches. Who Carved the Mountain saw the inside of our weekly library bag many times and became our favorite Mount Rushmore picture book. When I saw the warm, familiar cover at the Mount Rushmore gift shop's window, I could not resist it: I went inside resolutely and by the time I came out, our family was the proud owner of a copy of this beautifully illustrated volume!

Who Carved the Mountain features the many people associated with Mount Rushmore in attractive, friendly and educational double-spread pages. There are twelve of these, depicting Doane Robinson who first thought of the project, artist Borglum, the four presidents, the project's workers and more. Pictured in warm colors and rich in detail, they are also described in verse and on an interesting-tidbits-full sidebar. The text on each page is just enough, providing both brief enough descriptions and meaty enough content. The verses are told in a first person perspective:
The Pointer

I am the pointer
I make the marks on the mountain

First, I work in Borglum’s studio
I measured the models of our presidents
And I multiplied each number by twelve.

I loved the math, the complicated math.
The mouths would be eighteen feet wide!

Next I climbed Mount Rushmore.
With a pointing machine and a paintbrush
I marked measurements on the rock.

The workers knew exactly where to drill
Because I made the marks on the mountain.

Who drilled the holes in the mountain?

Each set of verses lead up to next person to be described: the stone carver, the "power man", the presidents, Borglum and his son--they are all there. The sidebars offer a biographical sketch and curious and interesting facts about each one.

Illustrator Renee Graef, known to Catholic homeschoolers as the Laura Ingalls' picture books illustrator who captured so well the original Garth Williams pictures, and from Melissa Wiley's books' covers, did a fabulous job bringing the feeling of the Black Hills to her illustrations, as well as the historical and complex technical details of the carving. Her portraits of the four presidents sitting by their desks are also warm, rich and just lovely to enjoy.

Reviewed by Ana Braga-Henebry, M.A., and Nancy Gerdes

Available at your favorite bookseller.

Cross posted on Ana Braga-Henebry's Journal

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