I’ve said before that I believe books choose their readers, and this theory was proven correct a couple of months ago when I won a copy of Yellowstone Moran while attending the Rocky Mountain SCBWI conference.  My husband and I, before we were married, took our first vacation together in the Jackson Hole area of Wyoming.  That trip is the root cause of why we are now living in the Rocky Mountains.  Jackson Hole is still my favorite place on earth (see my blog banner for proof!).

Anyway, we spent a day in Yellowstone (not NEARLY enough time), and stood at the top of the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone in absolute awe.

Several years later, I was in Seattle on business and wandered upon the Seattle Art Museum where they had a Thomas Moran exhibit.  I had no idea who Thomas Moran was, but I had a couple of hours to kill so I went in.  When I say his paintings took my breath away, I am not being cliché. First of all, they are gigantic.  Secondly, his painting of the GC of Yellowstone seemed to be from the very spot we stood.  It was like standing on that canyon rim all over again.  I bought a poster of that painting, which has hung in our first home, our second home, my old office back in Virginia, our home in CO, and now in my husband’s office.

So when the book came up at the raffle, I silently said, “Me, Me, Me, Me, Me.”  The rest, as they say, is history.

written and illustrated by Lita Judge
Viking Juvenile, September 2009, Nonfiction
Suitable for:  6 and up
Themes/Topics:  Exploring the American West, the importance of art, journaling and painting.
Opening and brief synopsis:  From Booklist: “Rare is the book that makes painting seem adventurous, but this true-life account of Thomas Moran’s journey to the land called “Yellowstone” does just that. Although Moran “had never ridden a horse, never shot a gun, and never slept in the open air,” his itch to paint the wildness of nature led him to sign up with Dr. Hayden’s seminal journey into the Rockies. Although only one actual Moran painting is included, Judge’s expressive watercolors are visually exciting in their own right, using careful blotches to suggest facial expressions and interlocking swaths of browns and yellows to depict the glorious expanse of a thousand-foot canyon.”
Activities:  Lita has a journaling activity guide on her website, which encourages kids to make their own journals and sketchbooks.  I also found a website with Yellowstone history lesson plans, into which the book would fit nicely.
Why I Like This Book:  This is nonfiction at its best! I also love the fact that Judge’s book was not squeezed into the “500 words” protocol that is so common for picture books these days.  It is a storybook with pictures, which is perfect for older kids – like my 8 year-old – who are strong readers and can retain more information than is included in PBs for the younger set.

For more books with resources please visit author Susanna Leonard Hill’s blog and find the tab for Perfect Picture Books!

Categories: Authors, Children's Books, Perfect Picture Book Friday, Picture Books · Tags: , , , , , , , ,



  1. This book sounds wonderful, and thank you so much for sharing the background of why it is particularly special to you!

  2. Well Julie, I can’t blame you for moving to the Rockies! I’ve been to Yellowstone and Jackson Hole and Colorado. Can we say BEAUTIFUL?

    Thank you Julie! 🙂

  3. Sounds like a great book for advanced young readers!

  4. Julie, I love this beautiful book for children. I spent many vacations with my family as a child visiting Jackson Hole and Yellowstone Park. It was so beautiful. Your review stirred up so many wonderful memories for me. I would have loved this book as a child — and as an adult. Great selection!

  5. Oh, Julie! This looks so good! I, too, love Jackson Hole (is there anyone who has been there who doesn’t? :)) I love the idea of painting the American West. I’m so glad you chose a picture book for older readers – Kelly did, too, today – and it’s such an important group of picture books – there is so much to learn and be enjoyed! Thanks for sharing this one – I’ll definitely have to find it at the library 🙂

  6. Oooh, what a perfect book to get for my kids as we plan our summer trip out west. Thanks Julie!

  7. This book sounds great! I love sneaking in real history in my children’s books. My grandson,age eight, will be visiting for several days this Christmas and I think I have to get him this book. 🙂

    Thanks for a great selection.

  8. Thanks for the comments so far!

    @Susanna – I agree longer PBs fill an important niche, and I hope they are not a (permanent) dying art

    @Patricia – so glad it brought back fond memories!

    @Jennifer – you should really get it if you’re coming out west!

    @Clar – My daughter is 8 and LOVED this book! My 5 year-old son loved it too and asked me question after question after we finished reading it. He is a true Nonfiction lover! 🙂

  9. This is a great book for people who know about the area and for those who don’t. I bet the illos are amazing. I’ve been to the grand canyon in France so I’ve got a bit of an idea. Great that it means so much to you too.

  10. Oh, I want this book! Thank you for a wonderful recommendation, Julie. Moran’s paintings really are breathtaking!

  11. I think it’s also great to include some non-fiction picture books in our choices, especially for slightly older boys, who often love them. Like Catherine, I have been to the Gorge de Verdon in France, but LONG to go to the Rockies. I have now put Jackson Hole as one of my 100 places to visit before I die. 😉

  12. I’m glad you won it and could share it. The Grand Canyon is a beautiful place to see. I’m always interested in non-fiction books no matter what form. I’ll have to check it out.

  13. Truly one of the most beautiful areas on earth. How lucky to have won a book with pictures of the /grand canyon. ////////////////////

  14. Truly one of the most beautiful areas on earth. How lucky to have won a book with pictures of the /grand canyon.

  15. Julie, thank you for sharing some of your background…my husband and I drove cross-country a couple of times before we had children…and also fell in love with Yellowstone, Glacier, Yosemite…we loved every National Park we went to. 🙂 And what can I say about Jackson Hole? Not enough…except that we didn’t want to leave…and probably shouldn’t have.

    That’s why we decided to come to Colorado when my husband had his second heart attack in 1995…we had fallen in love with the Colorado Rockies and wanted to always be able to see them and hike and fish in them. Everytime I drive through town, Pikes Peak is right there…and I feel as if I am on vacation. 🙂

    Love your book choice…I agree that non-fiction books add so much value to PPBF. I will try to get a copy…I know I will love the pics.

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