Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Miss Lady Bird's Wildflowers by Kathi Appelt




65. Miss Lady Bird's Wildflowers
by Kathi Appelt
illustrated by Joy Fisher Hein
children's book, 2005
finished 12/5/12







December 22 is the 100th anniversary of Lady Bird Johnson's birth. She was born Claudia Alta Taylor, though she was always known by the nickname given her as a baby by her nanny.



 She grew up in great comfort but also in great sadness. Her mother died from falling down the stairs when the little girl was only six years old. A neighbor told the lonely child a story about her mother. 




Her father did his best taking care of her, but finally called in her Aunt Effie to help with raising Lady Bird. From her aunt, she learned an appreciation of flowers. Aunt Effie planted daffodils and when the first one bloomed each year, Lady Bird would sing it a song, and say it was a princess. As the book goes along, we see her strong love of the natural world both in her hometown and later when she goes away to college. When she meets and marries the future President of the United States, Lyndon Baines Johnson, the reader learns that Lady Bird was especially taken with the flowers in Mexico, where they spent their honeymoon.




When Lyndon is elected to the Congress, and the couple moves to Washington, Lady Bird is saddened by the 'dismal' city landscape. She worries about children growing up in such surroundings as she remembers 'how beautiful flowers and trees had helped her thrive.' After her husband becomes President she takes this feeling still further. 'She knew from her own experience that beauty would help the country recover' from the sadness of John F. Kennedy's assassination.
Thanks to her boundless energy, and with the urging of the president, the Highway Beautification Act was passed by Congress. Because of that law the landscapes along the interstate highways of our great land were cleared of signs and rusted cars. The roadsides were blanketed in native wildflowers.
I can hardly believe there was a time when such sights as this were common along the roads.



This is a wonderful, wonderful book. I hope that the former First Lady saw it before she died in 2007. I learned so much about Lady Bird. The writing is engaging, and the illustrations are excellent. Miss Lady Bird's Wildflowers would make a perfect Christmas present for a child, or an adult. I am very pleased to say that Blue Slip Media has offered a giveaway of the book.

I will do a drawing a week from today, on Wednesday, the 12th. If you would like to be entered to win a copy please let me know in a comment on any post today through Tuesday, the 11th, or you may email me. The only thing is that the winner must be in the US or Canada.  

The author has put together a fun and instructive PDF, found here, of activities to help celebrate Lady Bird's birthday.

 As a special treat here are the Sweetback Sisters doing Texas Bluebonnets. (not the Texas state song version)



32 comments:

  1. I learned a lot about her just by reading your thoughts. all this time I thought she was nicknamed after a bird or such, not a bug!! I can't imagine the sides of the roads being littered with junk, but I do think billboards come close to being labeled as such!!

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    1. I know the term 'ladybird' for 'ladybug' from British books. And there's a really creepy rhyme which begins 'ladybird, ladybird fly away home.'
      Billboards can't be on the interstate either, just like trash alongside. But the side roads can.

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  2. Nan, I remember this all unfolding as a teen and how proud I was of her, and what a difference she made to the highways and an awakening to wildflowers in general. Its such a joy when our first ladies raise our awareness this way. Thanks for the book review too, and that fun music!
    xx
    julie

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  3. Nan, I'd love to read this. Thanks for the chance to win it!

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  4. Nan, thanks for sharing your thoughts about this great book and one of my favorite First Ladies. You know how much I love the wildflowers that bloom here in the spring and Lady Bird is one of the reasons I love them so much - our highways are awesome in good wildflower years. Love me my bluebonnets!

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    1. This is a lovely and informative book.

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  5. I thought it was strange that her nickname was Lady Bird because that's what the American lady bugs are called in England.
    Sweet story. The wildflowers, especially the bluebonnets, are beautiful along the highways in Texas.
    Ann

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    1. She's someone who really made a difference in the world.

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  6. I remember the first time I drove along the Interstate through Texas (took forever to cross that vast land!) and saw Ladybird's wild flowers growing in profusion on the road sides. I was overcome with admiration for her efforts.

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  7. Dear Nan,
    I LOVE Ladybird Johnson so much. She is one of my heroes. I did a post about her recently on my blog. Did you know that they will be coming out with US Postal Forever stamps in her honor this month? I have pictures of some of them on my post, including one that is her beautiful White House portrait. I would LOVE to win this book in your giveaway!
    I can remember so much the junkyards in Georgia having to be removed or else, disguised by tall bushes...it impressed me greatly that this little sweet Southern woman could do so much.

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    1. Isn't it just amazing about the junkyards.

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  8. A beautiful, beaufitul book indeed! I am sure Kay (Georgia Girl with an English Heart) will love it!

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  9. Nan, thanks for this post. I admired Lady Bird as a teenager and this book is a wonderful tribute to her.

    Jean

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  10. As a Garden Club member, with state and national affiliations, I can attest to the revered status Lady Bird Johnson has for her gracious gift to us all in bringing back the wildflowers, and an appreciation for them, and that our interstate highways are no longer littered but, instead, reflect their own natural beauty. This was a lovely post, Nan. I've seen the book, but do not own it. Hmmm. This may be my chance. Thank you.

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    1. It is a dear book for adults and kids.

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  11. What a great book Nan! I was always intending on reading biographies of all the first ladies but never did do it.

    Hugs from Holland ~
    Heidi

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    1. I'm not sure there are biog. of all of them. But they would be interesting. A whole different take on society.

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  12. This is a beautiful book and Ladybird Johnson was a beautiful woman, in every way, who gave a great gift to all the people of the United States of America. I have loved wildflowers since I was a toddler growing up in a family that all loved them. Such a blessing.

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    1. You might be interested in the Dec. 8 post - a book about her in her words.

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  13. What a gorgeous and beautiful book Nan! I'm so glad that you brought it to my attention. My favorite months of the year in Texas are the wildflower months and I love driving through the state and seeing all of the flowers. My mom and I always joke and say "Thank you Lady Bird for making our state so beautiful." I've always wanted to visit her designated park in Fredericksburg (about 5 hours south of us) but there just never seems to be enough time when we're traveling.

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    1. I love to think of you and your mom saying that.

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  14. Wonderful post. I have always admired Lady Bird and think of her whenever I admire roadside plantings (and believe me, I remember when the highways looked like the one in that picture.) I too hope she got to read this book.

    I heard an interview on some NPR show yesterday with the guy who has written a book called (I think) "An oral history of Lady Bird Johnson." They played some excerpts of her voice in his interviews; it was great to hear and now I have two books about her that I want to read.

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    1. It really floors me to know that it was once okay for such sights along the roads.
      Yes! I heard it, too and wrote about it on the Dec. 8 Saturday Sally post. Great minds.

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  15. PS: Just read the comment above and we were lucky enough to visit that park in Fredericksburg as well as the LBJ birthplace in Texas. Great memories!!

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  16. Nan, thank you for your lovely review of our MISS LADY BIRD’S WILDFLOWERS, book. My heart is filled with happiness reading all of the delightful comments.
    Yes, Lady Bird loved our book about her amazing life. Below I’ve copied part of two of three letters she wrote to Kathi and me.

    The first letter was sent in care of our editor, Rosemary Brosnan.

    “Dear Ms. Brosnan,

    What a charming book Ms. Kathi Appelt and Ms. Joy Fisher Hein have created! Please convey my admiration and appreciation to them for directing their talent to a story about a little girl of Long ago who grew up wanting to preserve Nature’s Bounty for all little boys and girls.

    I have ordered copies from the Wildflower Center so I will have enough for all my great-grandchildren and since it seems to be raining babies in our family (eight with another expected in the fall!), enough to have one for each future “Great-Grand!”

    With gratitude and best wishes,
    Lady Bird Johnson” March 28, 2005


    This is my cherished letter Lady Bird sent to me about my art while I was working on our book.

    “Dear Ms. Hein,

    The too-often-gray days in recent weeks were suddenly brightened as I opened your lovely letter and the delightful pictures you enclosed. Thank you for using your talented hand to create such loveliness. The beautiful wildflowers spoke to my heart, bringing please to me, as I know they shall to others, who view your work.

    With my appreciation and good wishes,
    Gratefully,
    Lady Bird Johnson” April 10, 2002


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    1. I am so very happy you stopped by, and shared those wonderful, wonderful letters. Such a gracious woman. I just love this book.

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