"As an economic depression spread dark wings across the country, people filled the streets, feeling scared and angry and alone." Sound familiar? These were conditions in the United States in the 1890's, as described by Nancy Churnin in her biographical picture book about Katherine Lee Bates, For Spacious Skies.
Katherine Lee Bates, most famous for her poem that became a well-loved song, "America the Beautiful," strove for reforms to improve conditions for women and workers.
For Spacious Skies emphasizes Bates' desire for education and opportunity. Bates felt the power of words at an early age and was able to channel that power in her speaking, writing, and teaching.
In 1893, she stood at the top of 14,115-foot Pikes Peak, awed by the scenery that unfolded below her, inspired to write her famous poem. It was nationally published and loved, but she never took payment for it. It was a gift to her country.
Author Churnin helps readers understand the person behind the poem--a gracious, determined woman who used her education and words to unite a country. The Author's Note, Timeline, and Selected Sources fill in the story. Illustrator Olga Baumert enhances the theme by showing the beauty of "amber waves of grain," Pikes Peak, and Bates herself.
While much divides us these days in the U.S., I think we can agree that "from sea to shining sea," the U.S. offers much natural beauty. May Bates' spirit of service inspire us all to use our talents to make the U.S. the best it can be.What beautiful places are your favorites? Let me know in the comments.
Many thanks to Nancy Churnin and Darlene Beck-Jacobsen for gifting me a copy of For Spacious Skies through commenting on Darlene's blog.
Happy birthday, USA! Enjoy this version of Katherine Lee Bates' poem sung by Ray Charles: