CM . . . .
Volume VI Number 14 . . . . March 17, 2000
As Frederick had written in his articles, New York was teeming with immigrants. Many lived in poverty, breathing foul air and living in squalid, crowded, unhealthy tenements. A movement to create a park in the city had begun years before, but had stalled because of arguments about the park's location. Finally, 840 miserable acres in the sparsely populated center of Manhattan were set aside. A few men, including Charles Elliot, were put in charge of organizing the project. In 1857 Frederick met Charles Elliot, by chance, at an inn in Connecticut, and was immediately caught up with the idea of building a park for New York. Finally New York would have a green space for all its people, rich and poor, young and old, just like beautiful Birkenhead Park in England!This informational book chronicles one man's role in the birth of landscape architecture. We learn of the early life of Frederick Law Olmsted and how he was inspired, by visiting a lovely public park outside Liverpool, to create eventually the famous Central Park in New York. We also discover, in some detail, how determination and perseverance enabled him and Calvert Vaux to win the contract to design Central Park, and how they transformed the swampy acres into a beautiful tranquil oases. Olmsted went on to create many other magnificent public parks across North America. Readers are treated to gorgeous double-page spreads of some of Olmsted's finest landscape achievements. These parks and the philosophy guiding their creation in North American cities are legacies he left when he died in 1903.
Song Nan Zhang's sweeping illustrations of parks in various seasons are a major strength of the book. It would have been helpful, however, to have a timeline of Olmsted's life appended, along with a list of the parks that he designed. Hopefully, this book will increase young city-dwellers' appreciation for their local parks and recreational areas and how they came to be. Although recommended by the publisher for ages 5 to 9, the book is more suitable for elementary children and would make an interesting addition to classroom units on the environment.
Alison Mews is the Director of the Curriculum Materials Centre, Faculty of Education, Memorial University of Newfoundland, St. John's, NF.
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