2009-11-25 / Book Review

‘I See America!’ Presents History, Culture In Free Verse And Collage


I See America!
Written and illustrated by
Elizabeth G. Uhlig
Marble House Editions, paperback,
36 pages
ISBN 978-0-9815345-7-2

Just in time for Thanksgiving, Elizabeth G. Uhlig has published I See America, a free verse paean of praise for the country she loves, written for children age seven through 12.

Uhlig has traveled abroad extensively, journeys she recounts in her lively memoir Before We Met, and so is uniquely positioned to appreciate the qualities that make America the most special and wonderful country on earth. She uses materials from her own collection of archival artwork, scraps of paper, small shiny objects, ribbons, buttons, and photos to create collages to illustrate her wonder, admiration, and gratitude for the American way of life.

The poem begins on a folio page usually devoted to dedications, appropriate since Uhlig has made the entire work a dedication to her native land. “Where dinosaurs once walked, you can explore./For this is America.” starts with a refreshing absence of hyperbole. Uhlig’s invitation to discover America’s physical wonders continues, then touches on the first Thanksgiving and the American Revolution. She then continues her exploration of the country’s natural wonders, exploring the coastlines, the southern states and the farmlands that have made the United States the best-fed country on earth. She discusses in a few, well-expressed lines, the spirit that led the frontiersmen to push the boundaries of the known and pays homage to the Native American cultures and geological wonders of the Southwest. She also notes the space encompassed by the ordinary back yard, the astonishing delights of which are limited only by the imagination of whoever beholds it.

A city girl herself, Uhlig does not shortchange “the swirling galaxy of cities” that drew so many of our forbears to an urban landscape where they became truly American. She notes that we who call ourselves Americans have our roots in many other countries and cultures, citing Germany, India and China as examples of disparate societies who came to a New World “where people hope to find simple contentment and a happy homecoming”, “…celebrate our holidays”, “Work, play, and learn/and enjoy the comforts of home.”

The lines of Uhlig’s poem are interspersed among the collages that serve to illustrate the book, the components of which are too many and varied for description. Suffice it to say that any child perusing this book—or any adult so fortunate as to be permitted to share in it—will find fresh marvels on every page and something new in each illustration, no matter how many times they leaf through the pages of I See America!

While it may be too late to make I See America! a gift for Thanksgiving 2009, it would still be a good stocking stuffer for the December holidays. Indeed, this book has a timeless, universal appeal that can be felt all year round. I See America! is a valuable addition to any child’s bookshelf; adults, especially those who enjoy collages or illustrations that put one in mind of an afternoon spent going through photo albums, scrapbooks and rummaging through such treasured relics as a greatgrandmother’s button box will enjoy exploring it as well.

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