nonfiction nuggets… the who and how of Mount Rushmore

Who Carved the Mountain?: The Story of Mount Rushmore, by Jean L.S. Patrick, illustrated by Renée Graef

The noses on George, Tom, Teddy and Abe are 20 feet long — if you’ve got 8 foot ceilings, that’s two-and-a-half rooms tall.  And their mouths are 18 feet across. Each eye has a large shaft of granite left standing in the center, which catches the light and makes the eyes glint with life.  400 men and women worked on this famous stone monument, at wages ranging from 55¢ an hour for the lowly call boys, to $1.50 an hour for the chief carvers.  Up, up, up the stairs they would climb — 700 steps — every morning, to get to the top of the cliff where they reported for work.

The story of how the massive granite outcropping in the Black Hills of South Dakota became a national monument visited by over 3 million people each year, spans almost 20 years and includes hundreds of people.  The initial dreamer (who had quite a different plan in mind), the sculptor, craftsmen doing all sorts of jobs such as pointer, driller, steel nipper, cook, and powder monkey, schoolchildren raising money, a U.S. President to dedicate the land…a mighty big crew for an enormously big project.

This book tells its main story in simple, broad strokes, filling in the colorful details in sidebars packed with interesting tidbits of information. The main text is suited to a fairly young listener; the sidebars are for 9 or 10 year olds and up.  Page by page we meet the people responsible for the monument, as well as the four presidents themselves.

Graef’s illustrations very much enhance all of this.  In fact, they make up the bulk of the book.  The paintings are large, warm,  richly-colored landscapes and portraits.  Each presidential portrait shows him surrounded by items of particular significance such as Jefferson’s revolving bookstand and Roosevelt’s Nobel Peace Prize.  The tools and methods of the various craftsmen are also illustrated very helpfully.  Nice, informative book on the heels of Presidents’ Day.

Here’s the Amazon link:  Who Carved the Mountain?: The Story of Mount Rushmore