Sunday, January 22, 2006

Miss Lady Bird's Wildflowers: How the First Lady Changed America

Appelt, Kathi. 2005. MISS LADY BIRD’S WILDFLOWERS: HOW A FIRST LADY CHANGED AMERICA. Ill. by Joy Fisher Hein. New York: HarperCollins. ISBN 0060011076 [Suggested Grade Levels 2-5]

Using illustrations by Joy Fisher Hein, Kathi Appelt creates a touching story about Lady Bird Johnson. Growing up in East Texas was lonely for Lady Bird (who was born Claudia Alta Taylor), because her mother died before Lady Bird’s sixth birthday. When her aunt came to help care for her, Lady Bird was introduced to nature and thus began to develop her love for wildflowers. This love continued as she moved away to attend college in Austin. Later, when she became Mrs. Lyndon B. Johnson and moved to Washington, D.C., Lady Bird was able to express her love of wildflowers, while acting as a tour guide to visitors of the capital city. She noticed her lovely flowers of Texas were missing from D.C. (“. . . the dismal parks were nothing more than concrete slabs, dirty streets and shabby lawns”), and she sought to change this. With the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, Lyndon B. Johnson became President and Lady Bird had to take on the role of First Lady. In this role, she began to make a difference in the lives of Americans. Because of Lady Bird Johnson, we now have the Highway Beautification Act, and flowers bloom on roadsides all across the country. She even established the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center in Austin, which thousands of people visit each year. Lady Bird saw the establishment of the center as giving back and letting others “experience a moment of natural beauty.”

Children can look for the different types of wildflowers mentioned in the book in their hometowns. Older readers could take photographs and make a scrapbook showing where each flower is found.

Books about flowers:
Wellington, Monica. ZINNIA’S FLOWER GARDEN. ISBN 0525473688
Lobel, Anita. ALISON’S ZINNIA. ISBN 0688088651

By Paige A. Poe

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