The biography’s narrative emphasis is wisely chosen, as the intention of the authors is both to provide a reliable biography of the subject and to appeal to younger readers. The book provides the excitement of fiction while simultaneously emphasizing the information and detail of the historical biography. The result of such a combination is a book that successfully bridges the genre gap between young adult and adult biography. Issues that point to the book’s adoption by a young audience include its use of language, the authors’ treatment of Whitman’s sexuality, and the nature of the book’s conclusion.
The language is simple, yet not reductive. While it is true that Stoutenburg and Baker provide dramatic transitions that keep their readers’ interest, the accessibility of the language is not attributable only to this technique. The poems that are represented in the book are thoughtfully discussed by the authors and are often introduced in context and followed up with (and sometimes interrupted by) summary. Stoutenburg and Baker include just enough information for the reader to appreciate each poem’s importance without belaboring the presentation with excessive commentary on poetic structure. The poems are simply made part of the story. Explanations of Transcendentalism and Whitman’s Quaker background are made clear without using academic or religious language.
Sophisticated issues of sexuality are also presented and discussed intelligently and responsibly. The authors do not avoid this important part of Whitman’s life. Stoutenburg and Baker...
(The entire section is 645 words.)