For Spacious Skies: Katharine Lee Bates and the Inspiration for “America the Beautiful.”

Albert Whitman. Apr. 2020. 32p. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780807525302.
Gr 1-4–Katharine Lee Bates (1859–1929) was a scholar and an author in a time when most women were not encouraged to pursue careers outside their homes. After Bates’s father died at a young age, her mother raised Bates and her siblings alone. Bates graduated from Newton High School in Massachusetts and then enrolled in Wellesley College where she earned a Bachelor of Arts. She was part of the second graduating class (1880) and was honored as the class president and the class poet. From 1880 to 1925, she was an English professor at Wellesley and later became the chair of the English department. Bates was a prolific writer—she was the author of novels and textbooks, as well as poetry. Her most famous poem, “America the Beautiful,” was inspired by her travels across the United States. The poem was set to music by Samuel A. Ward in 1910. The song was a strong contender for the National Anthem. Baumert’s eye-catching artwork is reminiscent of the folkish aesthetic of early American paintings, which appropriately matches the narrative’s historical setting. This history of “America the Beautiful” would be a very interesting story to compare to the making of the “Star-Spangled Banner.”
VERDICT This picture book biography about a strong, smart woman and her contribution to American culture is a strong choice for elementary libraries.

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