Author and illustrator Chris Demarest has written Arlington: The Story of Our Nation's Cemetery with similar reverence. It is clear that it is a special place to him. It is also a place with a "complicated, sometimes troubled history." And when you consider that it was originally chosen as a burial location during the Civil War out of spite, 'complicated' seems the nicest way to put it. The book starts with a history of the property; it once belonged to a gentleman named George Washington Peake who built upon it Arlington House, which would eventually be inhabited by Robert E. Lee, Peake's son-in-law. The history lesson develops into an explanation of the many monuments in the cemetery and the meaning of the routines which take place there. The most well-known is the Changing of the Guard at the Tomb of the Unknown, but in reading the book one discovers that even the maintenance of the gravestones (and there are more than 300,000) is done with solemn purpose.
Demarest's illustrations capture the symmetry and precision of Arlington. And although graves feature heavily, images of tidy rows of headstones bring a regimented peace to the pictures. Arlington's dual role as a tourist attraction and a functioning cemetery is most evident in the story which Demarest retells of President Kennedy. The young president visited the cemetery in the spring of 1963 and commented on how he enjoyed spending time there, little realising that he would be buried there himself in seven month's time. It is a poignant moment in a book which expertly merges the larger framework of American history with the smaller picture of personal narratives.