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Turning a Dream Into Reality – The Story Behind the Creation of Mount Rushmore

I had no idea that I could learn so much from a children’s picture book, but after reading Tina Nichols Coury’s book Hanging Off Jefferson’s Nose: Growing Up On Mount Rushmore ($16.99, Dial Books for Young Readers, ages 5 and up) with its fantastic, beautifully envisioned illustrations by Sally Wern Comport, I’m convinced.

Perhaps like me, you were on a cross country teen tour when you first laid eyes on Mount Rushmore National Memorial in the Black Hills of South Dakota. Or maybe you and your family were vacationing and taking in some of America’s most iconic landmarks. Whatever brought you to Mount Rushmore, I am sure it is something that you have not yet forgotten. Well neither could author Coury who was determined to share the story of “one little boy who grew up to complete one of America’s greatest monuments.”  I am so glad she did!

The book introduces us to young Lincoln Borglum, son of the renown sculptor Gutzon Borglum, and transports us back to the 1920s into his father’s art studio where he spent much of his childhood. Lincoln preferred sweeping up the studio or modeling for his father over socializing with other children his age. The family moved often for the elder Borglum’s commissions and forging friendships for a shy lad like Lincoln proved a lot less interesting than observing a master sculptor at work. 

When Gutzon Borglum shared with businessmen his idea to carve the faces of Washington, Jefferson and Lincoln into a South Dakota mountain, it was welcomed as a terrific venture.  What I did not know was that originally the monument was conceived with only the above mentioned three presidents and that it was President Calvin Coolidge who suggested the addition of Teddy Roosevelt.  I also was very surprised to learn that during the half-completed  carving of Thomas Jefferson it was discovered that the “rock under Jefferson’s face was unstable.”  The entire work had been for naught and had to be demolished and begun all over again.

There are so many other interesting facts that Coury has provided, but rather than go into too much more detail here, suffice it to say that we find out Lincoln eventually chose working alongside his father on the massive monument rather than attending university. The significance of  that choice was major as it was Lincoln, after his father’s death, who would be instrumental in continuing his father’s work and seeing it to fruition. 

While I do not picture 5 year olds reading this book on their own, I do envisage parents, older siblings and librarians happily sharing the story with them. With the publication of Hanging Off Jefferson’s Nose we now have a child-friendly vehicle from which to launch into our own impressions of this great monument depicting two Founding Fathers along with two other great presidents and for that alone we can be grateful. Happy Independence Day! 

– Reviewed by Ronna Mandel

A Most Beloved Queen

With today’s review, Debbie Glade takes us back to Tudor times.

A while back I reviewed author Kerrie Logan Hollihan’s great book, Theodore Roosevelt for Kids: His Life and Times. She has written another wonderful Chicago Review Press biography for kids – Elizabeth I: The People’s Queen ($16.95, Chicago Review Press, ages 9 and up), and what a fascinating read it is!

Elizabeth I was born in 1533 into the royal Tudor family. Her father was the notorious King Henry VIII and her mother, the ill-fated Queen Anne Boleyn. When Elizabeth was only 2-years-old, her father had Anne executed for treason. He quickly remarried just 2 weeks later to Jane Seymour, and Elizabeth was soon declared illegitimate and no longer considered royalty. After King Henry VIII passed away, Elizabeth’s young half brother, Edward became King Edward VI and Elizabeth was reinstated to the King’s Court. But Edward lived to be only 6-years-old, leaving Elizabeth’s half sister, Mary Tudor, next in line to become Queen. Mary believed Elizabeth was plotting against her and sentenced her to be imprisoned in the Tower of London. Queen Mary reinstated Catholicism as England’s church during her reign and earned the nickname, “Bloody Mary,” after executing 280 dissenters. Following Mary’s death from natural causes, Elizabeth I was next in line to become Queen of England.

Elizabeth I was fortunate enough as a young child to receive an excellent education by working with tutors hired to teach her brother and later with her own private tutors.  She eventually learned to speak many different languages including Greek, French, Latin and Italian and was skilled at riding horses and loved to hunt.

Readers of this book will discover why Elizabeth was so well loved and so commonly referred to as “The People’s Queen.” She was smart, strong-willed and refused to get married; because she feared her powers may be threatened by taking a husband. She ruled with authority and loved and honored the people of her country, and in return, the people of England loved and honored her. Her legacy includes reinstating Protestantism to her country, defeating the Spanish Armada and creating a defensive foreign policy. She remains one of England’s most celebrated Queens.

Like all of the Chicago Review Press books I’ve read, this one too offers 21 activities for readers. Among my favorites in this book are: creating your family’s coat of arms; making an Elizabethan cloak; carving a turnip and building a knight’s helmet (out of a milk jug.) There is also a Tudor family tree on page 23 of the book to help you sort out all the confusion of who’s who. There are also resources and a reading list for further study in the back of the book.

The Chicago Review Press kids series is ideal for the classroom as well as for curious readers who enjoy learning about fascinating famous world figures. The books are so well researched and written that parents and teachers will enjoy them as well. What I’ve said before about Chicago Press books for children is that they encourage you to think, inspire you to do great things and leave you yearning to research more about the subject.

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