Maya Lin: Artist-Architect of Light and Lines Literature Guide

Grade Level: 
PreK, K, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8
Public Art
Visual Arts
by Jeanne Walker Harvey - A guide for parents, teachers, and group leaders to accompany the reading of this picture book. The guide below provides before, during, and after-reading discussion questions. Choose from activities and discussion questions about how cultures and ideas influence art and community.

This book tells how artist Maya Lin formed the idea for her most famous artwork, the Vietnam Veterans Memorial. She thought carefully about the meaning of the work, the form, and how she wanted people to feel. The Vietnam Veterans Memorial is so powerful, when people visit the art they cry, salute, remember, and hold their hand over their hearts. Maya Lin's lifelong love of being in nature influences all her work. She wants her art to make a difference in a community. Maya Lin is an Asian American artist. 

Before Reading

Ask: What public art have you seen? Describe what it looked like and where you saw it. 

Show: Show pictures of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial (on the cover of the book and online) and other Washington D.C. public art. Why do you think we have outdoor art for the public to look at? 

Connect: Public art brings people together to talk about ideas. Usually a partnership is formed between the government (local or national) and donations (or nonprofit organizations) to pay the artist. Why do you think art is good for a community?

During Reading

Ask: Maya's idea for the memorial was "a cut in the earth healing over time to a polished edge". Why might this be a good idea for a war memorial?

Show: Look at the page with all of the entries for the sculpture contest. Why do you think they hid the names of the contestants? Do you think the most famous artists should get first chance? Why or why not?

Connect: "Maya believed that a name brings back all the memories of a person, more than a photo of a moment in time." Tell about how your name fits who you are.

After Reading

Ask: At the end of the story, how do people feel about Maya Lin's work? 

Show: Even though she was young, she didn't give in to people who wanted her to change. Tell about a time you knew you were right and someone wanted you to change. What did you do?

Connect: Maya's family was from Vietnam. What is your family heritage? What traditions does your family have from your heritage?


  1. Look up and discuss the meanings of race, ethnicity, and heritage. Heritage is something handed to you from the past and may include traditions, culture, and faith. Create a piece of art that represents your family race, ethnicity, or heritage. Give your art a name from nature.
  2. Go for a walk in your community to look at the public art. Stop and talk about the art. Think about what feelings arise and what ideas come up. 
  3. Nature gives us many ideas about shape and color, and it activates all of our senses. We learn from nature about being quiet, growing strong, observing, sharing space, and cycles. Spend time in nature and then create art through drawing or words. 
  4. Find Asia on a map. Look for Vietnam and other Asian countries. Compare the size of some Asian countries to your country. How far away is Asia from you? Learn some facts about the culture and people of Vietnam.