Cover image for Nothing but miracles
Nothing but miracles
Whitman, Walt, 1819-1892.
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
Washington, D.C. : National Geographic, [2003]

Physical Description:
1 volume (unpaged) : color illustrations ; 25 cm
The author finds miracles everywhere--in nature, on city streets, and at home.
General Note:
"From Leaves of grass."
Reading Level:
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
PIC.BK. Juvenile Fiction Childrens Area-Picture Books
PIC.BK. Juvenile Fiction Picture Books

On Order



The author finds miracles everywhere--in nature, on city streets, and at home.

Author Notes

Walt Whitman was born on Long Island and raised in Brooklyn, New York, the son of a carpenter. He left school when he was 11 years old to take a variety of jobs. By the time he was 15, Whitman was living on his own in New York City, working as a printer and writing short pieces for newspapers. He spent a few years teaching, but most of his work was either in journalism or politics. Gradually, Whitman became a regular contributor to a variety of Democratic Party newspapers and reviews, and early in his career established a rather eccentric way of life, spending a great deal of time walking the streets, absorbing life and talking with laborers. Extremely fond of the opera, he used his press pass to spend many evenings in the theater.

In 1846, Whitman became editor of the Brooklyn Eagle, a leading Democratic newspaper. Two years later, he was fired for opposing the expansion of slavery into the west.

Whitman's career as a poet began in 1885, with the publication of the first edition of his poetry collection, Leaves of Grass. The book was self-published (Whitman probably set some of the type himself), and despite his efforts to publicize it - including writing his own reviews - few people read it. One reader who did appreciate it was essayist Ralph Waldo Emerson, who wrote a letter greeting Whitman at "the beginning of a great career." Whitman's poetry was unlike any verse that had ever been seen. Written without rhyme, in long, loose lines, filled with poetic lists and exclamations taken from Whitman's reading of the Bible, Homer, and Asian poets, these poems were totally unlike conventional poetry. Their subject matter, too, was unusual - the celebration of a free-spirited individualist whose love for all things and people seemed at times disturbingly sensual. In 1860, with the publication of the third edition on Leaves of Grass, Whitman alienated conventional thinkers and writers even more. When he went to Boston to meet Emerson, poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, essayist Oliver Wendell Holmes, and poet James Russell Lowell, they all objected to the visit.

With the outbreak of the Civil War, Whitman's attentions turned almost exclusively to that conflict. Some of the greatest poetry of his career, including Drum Taps (1865) and his magnificent elegy for President Abraham Lincoln, "When Last in the Dooryard Bloom'd" (1865), was written during this period. In 1862, his brother George was wounded in battle, and Whitman went to Washington to nurse him. He continued as a hospital volunteer throughout the war, nursing other wounded soldiers and acting as a benevolent father-figure and confidant. Parts of his memoir Specimen Days (1882) record this period.

After the war, Whitman stayed on in Washington, working as a government clerk and continuing to write. In 1873 he suffered a stroke and retired to Camden, New Jersey, where he lived as an invalid for the rest of his life. Ironically, his reputation began to grow during this period, as the public became more receptive to his poetic and personal eccentricities.

Whitman tried to capture the spirit of America in a new poetic form. His poetry is rough, colloquial, sweeping in its vistas - a poetic equivalent of the vast land and its varied peoples. Critic Louis Untermeyer has written, "In spite of Whitman's perplexing mannerisms, the poems justify their boundless contradictions. They shake themselves free from rant and bombastic audacities and rise into the clear air of major poetry. Such poetry is not large but self-assured; it knows, as Whitman asserted, the amplitude of time and laughs at dissolution. It contains continents; it unfolds the new heaven and new earth of the Western world." American poetry has never been the same since Whitman tore it away from its formal and thematic constraints, and he is considered by virtually all critics today to be one of the greatest poets the country has ever produced.

(Bowker Author Biography)

Reviews 2

Publisher's Weekly Review

Excerpting the bulk of a poem included in a late edition of Leaves of Grass, Roth (Happy Birthday Mr. Kang) describes a parallel between her own medium and Whitman's verse; she writes in an endnote that the poem "draws together diverse wonders of the world into a cohesive whole. For me this is the essence of collage." While Roth's argument is compelling and her work distinguished, the verbal and visual "collages" unfortunately do not add up to a cohesive picture book. Parted from the synthesis of the original poem, the version excerpted here is also parted from many of its meanings, and reads only serviceably, as a list of "miracles" experienced whether the narrator "wade[s] with naked feet/ along the beach/ just in the edge of the water,/ Or stand[s] under trees in the woods, " etc. The illustrations, however, are frequently dazzling, relying on Roth's expert blending and layering of thin, textured paper for highly nuanced, evocative land- and skyscapes. A particularly striking sunset image, for instance, incorporates a complex design and well-honed sense of color. The artist introduces a cat family (one child, two adults), who explore the world together, to unify the disparate scenes and to create something of a story line. While precise and detailed cuts suggest fur on the animals, their flat, almost cartoonlike appearance within otherwise subtly patterned compositions give the cats the appearance of floating against the backgrounds rather than inhabiting them. An ambitious experiment, if not wholly a success. Ages 3-6. (Oct.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

School Library Journal Review

K-Gr 2-In celebration of all of life's daily joys, this picture book uses a carefree cat family to illustrate a large segment of Walt Whitman's poem "Miracles" from Leaves of Grass. Roth emphasizes the pieced-together, free-verse structure of the poem through her bright, naive collage illustrations. This uplifting presentation can bring Whitman's poem to life for young audiences. The book concludes with the poem "Miracles" (1886 revision) in its entirety as well as notes about the poem's history and the artwork.-Julie Roach, Malden Public Library, MA (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.