September 3, 2012
Hanging off Jefferson’s Nose by Tina Nichols Coury, illustrated by Sally Wern Comport
Did you know that mountain carver was a profession? I’d never thought about it until I read this book and discovered that sculptor Gutzon Borglum, the man who created Mount Rushmore, was the only mountain carver in the world.
When he was contacted to create a mountain sculpture in the Dakotas, his potential clients wanted a sculpture of Wild West figures, something they were sure would bring in tourists. Borglum convinced them to go with Presidents.
But this isn’t just the story of Gutzon Borglum. It is the story of his son, Lincoln. What a perfect name for this tale!
Lincoln was a shy boy who traveled all over the world with his family, moving from place to place along with his father’s work. Lincoln was with his father in Rapid City when the older Gutzon met with the businessmen who started the ball rolling on Mt. Rushmore. He watched as his father sketched his vision out, right there on the table cloth.
I had never considered what went into creating a sculpture as vast as Mount Rushmore but Coury covers the planning, the set backs and the various stages. She describes the bunkhouses and workshops constructed near the mountain as well as the various jobs that Lincoln learned. Lincoln was determined to help in every way he could. He worked as a pointer, learned to use a jackhammer as a driller and even how to set charges as a powder man. It isn’t surprising that Lincoln earned the respect of the men on his father’s crew.
Although Sally Wern Comport’s final images were acrylic and pastel, her work, like the mountain she depicts, passed through several stages including drawings, mixed media digital and then the paintings. How appropriate!
History buffs, kids who like to create things and artists will find something to love in this close up look at one national treasure.
For those of you interested in the steps an author goes through in creating a book manuscript, I’ve included an interview with the author below. Tina Nichols Coury was interviewed by author Lee Wind at the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators conference in LA (August, 2012).