Matt Tavares Books
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Twenty-One Steps:
Guarding the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier
Twenty-One Steps: Guarding the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier
Written by Jeff Gottesfeld, illustrated by Matt Tavares

*Starred review in Kirkus
*Starred review in The Horn Book

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21 steps

21 steps
by jeff gottesfeld illustrated by matt tavares

steps guarding the tomb of the unknown soldier

With every step, the Tomb Guards pay homage to America's fallen. Discover their story, and that of the unknown soldiers they honor, through resonant words and illustrations.

Keeping vigil at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, in Arlington National Cemetery, are the sentinel guards, whose every step, every turn, honors and remembers America's fallen. They protect fellow soldiers who have paid the ultimate sacrifice, making sure they are never alone. To stand there- with absolute precision, in every type of weather, at every moment of the day, one in a line uninterrupted since midnight July 2, 1937- is the ultimate privilege and the most difficult post to earn in the army. Everything these men and women do is in service to the Unknowns. Their standard is perfection.

Exactly how the unnamed men came to be entombed at Arlington, and exactly how their fellow soldiers have come to keep vigil over them, is a sobering and powerful tale, told by Jeff Gottesfeld and luminously illustrated by Matt Tavares- a tale that honors the soldiers who honor the fallen. 


"Tavares' magisterial art soars, awash in opposing forces: shadowed but luminous, soaked in both melancholy and reverence. The fallen who have died nameless deserve the very best. This is it. Impeccably honors its subject.
*Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

"Gottesfield's poetic text is in the voice of the first Unknown Soldier, borne by a horse-drawn wagon to Arlington in 1921 and, after a twenty-one-gun salute, laid to rest on the eleventh day of the eleventh month, at the eleventh hour (the time the WWI armistice was signed in 1918)...Published to coincide with the hundredth anniversary of the establishment of the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, this book is a gorgeous and reverent tribute both to veterans and to the Tomb Guards."
*The Horn Book (starred review)



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TWENTY-ONE STEPS. Illustrations copyright 2021 Matt Tavares. Reproduced by permission of the publisher, Candlewick Press, Inc., Somerville, MA.