"This year when the Library of Congress’s Center for the Book asked us to name Iowa’s book title for the 2015 National Book Festival 'Discover Great Places Through Reading' Map, there was no question that it would be illustrator/author Claudia McGehee's beautiful My Wilderness: An Alaskan Adventure," announced Robin Martin, Coordinator for the Iowa Center for the Book. My Wilderness is a non-fiction historic father-son memoir, released March 3, 2015, by Sasquatch Books. McGehee’s lyrical story recounts the 1918–1919 winter spent on Alaska’s Fox Island from the point of view of nine-year-old Rocky, son of the painter Rockwell Kent. Rich illustrations echo the rugged subject matter with enchantment as Rocky explores the wilderness and becomes accustomed to island life. The book includes a Common Core teacher’s guide.
"I’m thrilled that My Wilderness: An Alaskan Adventure will represent Iowa in the National Book Festival. Wow," said McGehee. "I love thinking about all the children at the Festival getting excited about books! I am a humbled Iowan today!"
McGehee's creative inspiration comes directly from nature, especially the regional prairies and woodland around her, and the Pacific Northwest, where she grew up. McGehee pairs her main illustration medium, scratchboard, with vivid watercolor to create earthy, wood-cut like images.
She has said of her work, "I like to think people see little reminders of their own natural world in my illustrations. A bird in a tree or grass stems waving in the wind are images we may see on a regular basis. Perhaps it makes us feel part of the Big Picture for a moment. While we are seemingly never offline anymore, I see nature as an important life source, comfort and escape for humans. I hope my illustrations express the value of our natural treasures and reminds people that spending time in the wilds can refresh us."
McGehee is the author of three other natural history picture books: A Tallgrass Prairie Alphabet, A Woodland Counting Book and Where Do Birds Live? all published by the University of Iowa Press.
A native of Washington state, she lives with her family in a house and studio on a hill in Iowa City, Iowa. She earned degrees in anthropology (archaeology), and graphic design.
The 15th annual Library of Congress National Book Festival will be held at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center in Washington, D.C. on Saturday, September 5th. President Barack Obama and Michelle Obama are honorary chairs for the event. To mark this special occasion, as well as the 200th anniversary of the Library's acquisition of Thomas Jefferson’s personal library, the festival has as its theme Jefferson's quote, "I Cannot Live Without Books."
Robin Martin and Emily Bainter, Information Specialist at the State Library of Iowa, will represent Iowa in the Pavilion of the States at the Festival. The Pavilion, sponsored by the Institute of Museum and Library Services and the Library of Congress, salutes the literary traditions of the 50 states, the District of Columbia and the U.S. territories. The “Discover Great Places Through Reading” brochure offers a list of 52 great reads and a map for kids that encourages them to visit all 52 tables (plus the Library of Congress Center for the Book table) to get a unique sticker or stamp. Many of these books will be for sale in the Book Sales Pavilion. My Wilderness will be added to the permanent collection in Library of Congress Young Readers Center.