- Deseret News - Saturday, January 24, 2015

Have you ever wondered what America would be like without the amazing things that happened in the past that preserved our nation? What would it be like today? Find out about seven of the most important events in our country’s history in “Seven Miracles That Saved America” by Congressman Chris Stewart of Utah and his brother, Ted Stewart.

The pictures are something that definitely stand out in this book. They were done by Ben Sowards, associate professor of illustration at Southern Utah University. Chris Stewart, a Republican, agrees as he explained to me: “I was very pleased with the paintings and I think they add so much. I know that Ben worked hard on them, and it is true that a picture is worth a thousand words. The emotion and sense of reality that the pictures bring is beautiful to me.”

Picturing history

It was a long process to create those paintings, which were all done with oil paints. First, Mr. Sowards did a lot of research about each time period. Then he made hundreds of little sketches. Next, he dressed up people in the proper clothes for their scenes and used them as models.

For the famous figures that he needed to paint up close, he made sculptures on a computer using Zbrush, a videogame and movie software program. Finally, he painted large pictures, which were at least 2 feet tall and over 3 feet wide. They are currently in his studio, at his house or on display in shows and galleries. Mr. Sowards’ favorite is the one showing the signers of the U.S.  Constitution.



Seven stories

The book tells seven stories of events that were essential to gaining or keeping America’s freedom. The tales that I enjoyed the most were “A Summer Fog,” “Christopher Columbus and the Discovery of the New World” and “Abraham Lincoln and the Battle of Gettysburg.”

“The Summer Fog” takes place during the Revolutionary War and the American Continental Army was losing. Suddenly a deep fog settled over the area where the British and the Americans were facing off. It was so dense that they couldn’t see each other. While the fog was this thick, the American soldiers silently slipped into their boats and drifted down the river. When the fog cleared, it was a big surprise for the British to find that they were gone.

I asked Mr. Sowards which of the seven stories meant the most to him. “They all have different lessons to teach us and they are all inspiring and meaningful in their own way,” he said. “I really loved the story of Abraham Lincoln at Gettysburg.”

Big goals

“Seven Miracles” gave me a lot of details to events that I had heard of but didn’t really fully understand. For example, I never really understood about Christopher Columbus before reading this book. I thought he just tried to sail to the other side of the world and he ended up here. It turns out there is so much more to the story. He was a poor man, but he had big goals and he thought he could reach Asia. It was a tough voyage and his crew was complaining about running out of everything. They wanted to turn back. Columbus set a date for when they would go back if they didn’t see land. On that day, they still had not succeeded, but he did not turn back. He kept going until he landed in the Americas.

Story origins

Mr. Sowards described how another version for kids came to be: “I read the book ‘Seven Miracles’ for adults, and it really touched me. I wanted to have conversations about the things in that book with my children and so I thought about a picture book.”

The illustrations are so beautiful and the writing is both fun and educational. Mr. Sowards also said that if he could meet a historical figure, he’d want it to be George Washington. He’d give to Washington his thanks for setting an example of sacrifice for country and selfless public service.

History is fun

“Seven Miracles That Saved America” was so interesting to read. I learned a lot, it made me think, and I loved the artwork. Some kids think that history is boring, but they would change their minds if they just read this book.

“I heard about all of these stories before,” Mr. Sowards said, “but when I read them in this book, the way they made them have connections and meaning was really powerful to me. The important thing is not what happened, but why it happened and why it matters to us today.”

It’s important to know our country’s past so we can truly appreciate the freedom we experience today. It is because of the service and sacrifice of those that lived before us that we have the choices and opportunities we enjoy. Take the time to learn all about it in this book and you may even get an A in history class.

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