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Painting the American West

by Lita Judge & illustrated by Lita Judge

Pub Date: Sept. 1st, 2009
ISBN: 978-0-670-01132-2
Publisher: Viking

This story of Thomas Moran’s bold adventure as part of Dr. Ferdinand Hayden’s 1871 exploratory expedition to Yellowstone chronicles his challenges in his first foray into the wilderness and briefly summarizes his resultant success as a painter. Judge gently but humorously acknowledges his inauspicious beginnings: Never having ridden a horse, he jury-rigged a pillow over his saddle, much to the amusement of Hayden and the rest of the team. Together with an adventuresome photographer, he scaled mountainsides to find exceptional sights to sketch and then bring to life on canvas—a feat that helped lead to the establishment of Yellowstone National Park, the nation’s first. Faux journal pages help to move the narrative along, accompanied by imagined field sketches. The author’s watercolors effectively capture the monumental landscapes, accommodating at the end a gorgeous reproduction of Moran’s colossal painting of the Yellowstone’s canyon. The author explains in a note that she read the journals of Moran and the others on the Yellowstone team and studied his sketches and paintings to bring verisimilitude to her account, then added some fictionalized conversations. Inspiring. (Picture book. 7-9)