Books by Jean Craighead George

GALÁPAGOS GEORGE by Jean Craighead George
CHILDREN'S
Released: April 8, 2014

"A heartfelt if imperfect tribute to one George by another who will also be missed. (key terms, timeline, resources) (Picture book. 5-8)"
The passing of Lonesome George, the last of the saddleback tortoises from the island of Pinta, provides the occasion to demonstrate how different species might descend from a common ancestor. Read full book review >
ICE WHALE by Jean Craighead George
CHILDREN'S
Released: April 3, 2014

"A fitting envoi for a writer whose most enduring tales of nature and survival are required childhood reading. (map, whale portrait) (Adventure. 10-13)"
George's last novel, completed by her sons Twig and Craig, traces a 200-year cycle of devastation, change and recovery in Arctic waters. Read full book review >
A SPECIAL GIFT FOR GRAMMY by Jean Craighead George
CHILDREN'S
Released: May 1, 2013

"Unexpected gifts for both Grammy and Hunter are the results from George's satisfying ending; the book is ideal for prompting discussions about ripple effects and the power of imagination. (Picture book. 5-8)"
A bond built on love, understanding and trust between a grandmother and her grandson proves pleasantly surprising for all involved. Read full book review >
THE EAGLES ARE BACK by Jean Craighead George
CHILDREN'S
Released: March 21, 2013

"A heartwarming culmination to a distinguished career. (Picture book. 5-9)"
George, who chronicled the return to America's wild places of wolves and buffalo in two similar titles, now celebrates the comeback of the American bald eagle with a combination of fact and imagination. Read full book review >
THE BUFFALO ARE BACK by Jean Craighead George
ANIMALS
Released: May 1, 2010

Beginning and ending with the joyous birth of a calf, George describes the eradication of bison from the American plains, subsequent ecosystem damage, return of the species and restoration of the tall grass prairie in this companion to The Wolves Are Back (2008). The author makes the interconnections between the animals and the native prairie grasses clear, emphasizing her point through repetition. Explaining that the eradication of the buffalo was a strategy for wiping out the Plains Indians, George's sympathies are evident. She quotes Sioux Chief Sitting Bull's description of the buffalo's disappearance as "a death-wind for my people" and points out that the dust storms that followed were a death wind for settlers as well. Unfortunately, the book strays into fiction when a young Wichita Indian buffalo-census-taker watches a new calf at the Tall Grass Prairie Preserve, whose herd of only 13 (not 300) bison was reintroduced only in the fall of 2009 and has not yet grown. Minor's expressive and lushly detailed paintings have texture and depth, supporting and enhancing the text. Environmental good news. (Informational picture book. 5-10) Read full book review >
THE LAST POLAR BEAR by Jean Craighead George
ANIMALS
Released: Oct. 1, 2009

Returning to the Arctic, George presents a tale that is simultaneously a warning about global warming/pollution and a surreal meeting between a boy and Nanuq, the polar bear. Seeing an approaching polar bear, Tigluk puts on his gear and goes out to meet the enormous bear, who seems to want Tigluk to follow her. He and his grandmother, aka, do just that after repairing their kayak. They discover an apparently orphaned polar bear cub and decide to take it back to the village to feed it and teach it to survive in a world where the ice is melting. The author's trademark careful folding of facts into story is missing here—the characters' words are often pointed barbs aimed at those who pollute, and the tale itself is more far-fetched than her usual fare. Minor's paintings focus on the people and animals with close-up views reflecting the colors and sights of the Far North, and readers are sure to feel a chill in the air. Ultimately, though, this is troublingly didactic. (Picture book. 5-7)Read full book review >
THE CATS OF ROXVILLE STATION by Jean Craighead George
ANIMALS
Released: May 1, 2009

A cruel woman and her abusive children once owned Ratchet, a young, orange, female tabby. Once the children have gone off to school, the woman tosses Ratchet off a bridge near the Roxville Train Station. Ratchet survives and quickly integrates herself into the feral-cat community and the larger natural community in the area. Thirteen-year-old Mike would love to have a cat, but his foster mother, Mrs. Dibber, hates animals. From his first sighting of Ratchet, Mike knows they are meant to be special friends. As Mike slowly ingratiates himself with Ratchet, she survives a fox attack, fumigation, her first litter and developers who need the cats out of the way so they can improve the train station. Newbery winner and naturalist George packs a lot of natural information on species from mosquitoes to owls in this slim volume. There is no anthropomorphization of the cats; when Ratchet and the other cats "talk" it is with scent and body language. Pohrt's line drawings complement the text nicely. Cat lovers and George's fans will be happy she is back. (Fiction. 8-12)Read full book review >
THE WOLVES ARE BACK by Jean Craighead George
ANIMALS
Released: April 1, 2008

Lush, naturalistic paintings and gentle, carefully chosen words celebrate the return of wolves to the Lamar Valley in Yellowstone National Park. Longtime collaborators George and Minor seem perfectly suited to tell the story of the elimination of the species there by 1926 and its successful reintroduction since 1995. Regular repetition of the title phrase (or "the wolves were gone") adds a poetic cadence to George's text, which emphasizes the importance of gray wolves to the web of life in the park. Minor's watercolor-and-gouache illustrations have texture and depth, focusing closely on individual species—moose, ravens, vesper sparrows, buffalo, beaver, badger, bear and more—in the context of the spectacle of that vast wilderness. This timely, beautiful picture book appears just as the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service prepares to remove the Northern Rocky Mountain population of gray wolves from the list of endangered and protected species, a hopeful indicator of a wrong made right. For reading aloud or reading alone, this is a splendid way to share an appreciation for the natural world. (Picture book/nonfiction. 5-12)Read full book review >
GOOSE AND DUCK by Jean Craighead George
ANIMALS
Released: Jan. 8, 2008

George, renowned for blending respect for nature with compelling story craft, introduces biological basics such as imprinting and avian migration in this gentle easy reader. A boy discovers a hatching gosling: "He stared at me. / I stared at him. / And I became his mother." Goose mimics everything the boy does, and when they both happen on another hatching egg, the ensuing duckling imprints on Goose. Though some hijinks down at the police station (where Goose and Duck quickly wear out their welcome) seem a bit tacked on, George artfully incorporates simple textual patterns and humorous touches that are just right for new readers. Lamont's sweet, uncomplicated pictures nicely explicate the text. George's ending is unusually poignant for the genre, as each bird, upon observing others of its species migrating south, "knew who he was." Our narrator takes their leaving in as much stride as their arrival: "That's how it is with birds." Satisfyingly down-to-earth. (Easy reader. 5-7)Read full book review >
CHILDREN'S
Released: Oct. 1, 2007

The story of Frightful, "legendary peregrine falcon of the Catskills" continues in this visually splendid tale of Frightful's daughter Oski and her encounter with a wily weasel. Sam has built a tall nest box to house his best friend Oski and her two baby falcons. The Baron Weasel is also Sam's friend, known for his mischievous antics. With four little weasels of his own "screeching with hunger," the Baron has his eye on Oski's baby peregrines. Sam doesn't think the Baron can climb the smooth 14-foot pole to reach the nest box, but the clever weasel manages several assaults, each time getting closer to the paralyzed peregrines. Frantically, Oski urges her young to try their wings to fly from the Baron, but the little falcons won't budge. In the end, the Baron gives the baby peregrines the nudge they need. Using gentle humor, George introduces young readers to the realities of wilderness survival. Realistic watercolors capture the luminous grandeur of the Catskills as well as naturalistic details of the lives of its denizens. (Picture book. 4-8)Read full book review >
LUCK by Jean Craighead George
ANIMALS
Released: May 1, 2006

A very dim sandhill crane earns his name as he migrates from Texas to Siberia and back again. After he rescues a young sandhill crane from a plastic 6-pack ring, a little girl names him "Luck" and sets him free. Minor's gorgeous full-bleed paintings employ a variety of perspectives as Luck makes his way across the American landscape, memorizing all the wrong landmarks in preparation for his trip back home. George, dean of children's nature writers, is at her understated best as she matter-of-factly describes Luck's progress: "Luck looked down on Route 70 in Kansas and memorized a pack of motorcycles." Such details as the way crane families develop their own unique calls to keep them together are deftly folded into the narrative, as Luck meets Wise, who (true to her name) keeps him on course as they fly back to Texas. Although an author's note more fully describing current thinking on the way migratory birds "map" their routes would be welcome, this nevertheless stands as an engaging look at a process with which most kids are probably unfamiliar. (Picture book/nonfiction. 5-8)Read full book review >
CHARLIE’S RAVEN by Jean Craighead George
ANIMALS
Released: Sept. 1, 2004

George delivers another inspiring story in which nature plays a profound role in the life of a child. Charlie's grandfather is recovering from a heart attack, but Singing Bird, his Teton Sioux friend, tells him that ravens can cure sick people. He wonders, as he has also heard, if the dark birds have evil, even supernatural, abilities. After capturing a baby raven, Charlie decides to observe him, officially to see the effect of the environment on humans, unofficially to see if Grandpa improves. When given a drum of the Kangi Yuha tribe, or Raven Owners, who had to know the mysteries of the Raven, Charlie is determined to become as knowledgeable. While recording the bird's good, bad, and mysterious habits, Charlie realizes that there aren't true dividing lines between good and bad in the natural world and discovers that his relationship to the bird is a symbiotic one. A remarkable intergenerational tale with the beautiful landscape of the Grand Teton Mountains as a backdrop. (Fiction. 9-13)Read full book review >
FIRE STORM by Jean Craighead George
CHILDREN'S
Released: Sept. 1, 2003

A rafting expedition down the Middle Fork of Idaho's Salmon River turns suddenly deadly for the outdoorsy lad introduced in Cliff Hanger (2002). The threat of fire seems remote to Axel and his Aunt Charlotte and Uncle Paul, until lightning strikes the dry timber on the heights above, and triggers a roaring fire storm. The rafters find refuge in a burned-over campsite until the storm passes, after which Axel's aunt lectures him on how fires help forests regenerate. As in the previous adventure, Minor's graceful depictions of wilderness and wildlife contrast sharply with the clumsily rendered human figures, and George's dialogue often sounds stilted: " ‘Wait,' warned Uncle Paul. ‘It's better to sit still in the known than plunge into the unknown. A solution will present itself.' " Despite the danger, and Axel's keenly felt pleasure at being immersed in the natural world, this is unlikely to draw young readers away from their armchairs. (Picture book. 6-8)Read full book review >
FRIGHTFUL’S DAUGHTER by Jean Craighead George
ANIMALS
Released: Sept. 1, 2002

With this story for younger children, prolific Newbery Medalist George (Cliff Hanger, p. 732, etc.) continues the wilderness saga of young Sam Gribley and his peregrine falcon friend, Frightful, the beloved main characters of the My Side of the Mountain trilogy. In this picture book addition to the series, Frightful has given birth to a particularly independent chick named Oksi, and Sam rescues Oksi when a bird trader steals her nest mates. He takes the chick to his tree house home, where her mother, Frightful, often joins her. The storyline follows Oksi as she grows up, aided when necessary by Sam, who is still living the self-determined life in the forest detailed in the earlier novels. Oksi does things "on her own in her own way," including staying behind with Sam when the other falcons fly south for the winter and returning to her nest box in the tree house the following spring with a mate. Oksi's independent and unorthodox ways echo Sam's own solitary lifestyle, and perhaps foreshadow future stories in which Sam and Oksi will remain allies. As always, San Souci's (Mustang Canyon, p. 1136, etc.) well-researched, detailed paintings add greatly to the story, offering a concrete visual representation of the beautiful Catskill Mountains setting. (Don't miss the sweeping vista of the mountain on the dedication page: far below the soaring falcon, Sam's special tree and the nest box are visible to readers with sharp eyes.) The best use of this volume may be as a "prequel" to the related novels, as a means of introducing children to Sam Gribley's intriguing world. (Picture book. 5-10)Read full book review >
CLIFF HANGER by Jean Craighead George
ANIMALS
Released: May 1, 2002

A disappointing effort from this well-respected pair. Headstrong young Axel defies his father and faces down an impending storm and a challenging climb up what appears to be a sheer rock face to rescue his stranded little dog. So far, so good. Unfortunately, the tension of the text is not well reflected in the illustrations, in which characters resemble plastic action figures, with smooth, molded, pink legs, hands forever frozen in a semi-cupped position, and feet eternally encased in painted-on shoes. Perhaps the lightning-lit images are meant to evoke the stop-frame staccato of a violent storm, but the bone-dry condition of the climb, the fine, fluffy fur of the dog, and their sun-soaked descent on Cathedral Wall would seem to contradict this. Unlikely, too, is the inaction of Axel's father, Dag, the leader of the Teton Mountains Climbing School and presumably an expert on the pleasures and perils of climbing. Why would an experienced, responsible climber and loving father allow his son to ignore his safe, alternative plan to reach the dog? No explanatory matter is offered to describe or depict the climbing equipment and terminology that figure large in following the storyline, and the illustrations do not make them obvious. With this team and this title, the reader anticipates fine, high adventure and painterly interpretations of environment. Despite its lightweight treatment of what could have been a compelling story, dog-lovers, weather-watchers, and budding adventurers may appreciate this additional purchase. (Picture book. 4-8)Read full book review >
NUTIK AND AMAROQ PLAY BALL by Jean Craighead George
ANIMALS
Released: June 30, 2001

Amaroq, the boy, is named for a great wolf leader; the wolf pup, Nutik, is like his brother, characters drawn from Julie's Wolf Pack (1997) and first introduced for younger readers in Nutik, the Wolf Pup (2001). Amaroq is Eskimo and he lives on the tundra, but he and Nutik want to toss around a football, even if the afternoon goes on all night in the Arctic summer. But the Kuklook boys have taken the football, so at Nutik's urging, they go out to explore. They pass the hangar where Amaroq's father keeps his plane, pass the sealskin boat, and pass the fish-drying racks, until Amaroq can no longer see his village. Nutik leads him to an abandoned oil barrel and chivvies him until he reaches inside to find his pilfered ball. They play and skip lunch, and Amaroq still worries about finding his way back. But remembering that the wolf had found the ball, he lets him lead the way home to a late dinner. The language is as crisp and clear as the Arctic day, making universal appeal out of this exotic locale. Rand's pictures combine glorious color with lively characterization of both the boy and the puppy-like wolfling. (Picture book. 5-9)Read full book review >
TREE CASTLE ISLAND by Jean Craighead George
ADVENTURE
Released: May 1, 2001

Fourteen-year-old Jack has built his own canoe, and on a hot August dawn, he sets off for her maiden voyage in his beloved Okefenokee Swamp. Jack's a lot like Sam of the author's My Side of the Mountain (1959): at home in his environment and able to fend for himself. He intends to stay for only a little while, but is drawn into an adventure that changes his life. The first three days are idyllic, and George brings the swamp to life with sweeping descriptions of the waters, birds, and plants of the region. Then Jack discovers he can't get back to his home because of a blockage on the river. He spots an island and heads for it, but just as he begins to land, an alligator attacks the canoe, rips a great gash, and charges him. Nimbly, he pole-vaults with his paddle onto land and is able to drag the canoe to safety. With only a machete and a Leatherman knife, he sets out to create a campsite, build a tree house of sorts for sleeping, and figure a way to repair the canoe. An Airedale wanders in and, to his surprise, answers to his own dog's name, Dizzy. A few days later, he returns to his campsite to find a boy who looks exactly like him. He has come, he says, for his dog. His voice has a soft Georgia twang to it, but, other than that, the two boys are identical. Jake Leed is adopted and asks Jack if he is too, but Jack vehemently denies it. In the next few days, along with multiple adventures, Jack faces the fact that he and Jake are identical twins. He's never known he's adopted and doesn't want to confront his parents with his news, but Jake decides they will face both parents together. The ending is a pleasant and satisfying surprise. Though the story has many subplots, the star is the swamp itself, and this naturalist deftly keeps its life in focus as she weaves her tale. The ink sketches of flowers and scenery are an attractive addition. (Fiction. 10-12)Read full book review >
NUTIK, THE WOLF PUP by Jean Craighead George
ANIMALS
Released: Feb. 28, 2001

In this story, "first told in Julie's Wolf Pack [1997]," a little Eskimo boy is given a wolf's name: Amaroz, after the leader of the wolf pack that had saved his lost and starving older sister. "The wolf pack's noble black leader had shared his family's food with her." One day his sister Julie comes home with two wolf cubs that are sick and hungry. Amaroz loves and cares for one of the cubs and names him Nutik. Julie warns her brother: " . . . do not come to love this wolf pup. I have promised the wolves we will return the pups when they are fat and well." But Amaroz does fall in love with the cub. The two become inseparable, and when the cub is grown and it is time to return to the wolves, Amaroz first tries to hide him, then reluctantly lets him go. Amaroz returns home, "His heart broken after all." But then, Amaroz finds the wolf cub has returned to him to be part of the human family, forsaking the wolves. Rand traveled to Barrow, Alaska, to capture the people and landscapes in the story in watercolor and pencil. His pictures of Nutik are, of course, dreamy, and his focus on the boy and wolf help to indicate the isolation of the terrain. One interesting technique is a wash across the top of many of the pictures, which serves as a link between scenes and when in red indicates the 24-hour day. Night scenes of the dancing wolves, snow, and stars are particularly effective. As a young introduction to the Julie stories, this has great appeal, but it stands alone as a heartwarming story of a boy and his dog (or, in this case, his wolf). (Picture book. 6-8)Read full book review >
SNOW BEAR by Jean Craighead George
Released: Sept. 1, 1999

In this sweetly sentimental story set in the frozen twilight of an Arctic spring, George (Morning, Noon, and Night, p. 699, etc.) tells of an Inuit girl who goes out to hunt. Bessie Nivyek sets out with her big brother, Vincent, to hunt for food; in a twist out of McCloskey's Blueberries for Sal, Bessie bumps into a young bear, and they frolic: climbing, sliding, somersaulting, and cuddling. Vincent spies the tracks of his little sister and follows, wary of the mother bear; the mother bear is just as wary of Vincent. Out of the water rears danger to both the child and cub—a huge male polar bear. The mother bear warns her cub; it runs away, as does Bessie. Brother and sister head back home, "to eat, go to school, and learn the wisdom of the Arctic like Eskimo children do." The brief text is lyrical and the illustrations are striking, with an impressively varied palette of white, in blue, green, yellow, and gold. Children who note that Vincent goes home empty-handed will wonder why he didn't hunt any of the polar bears that were within range. While children will enjoy this romantic view of Bessie and the bear, those seeking a more realistic representation of life in this harsh environment will be unsatisfied. (Picture book. 5-8) Read full book review >
Released: May 31, 1999

As the earth turns from day to night, George (Julie's Wolf Pack, 1997, etc.) honors creatures of the American landscape. From sunrise to sundown, flies bite, birds alight, bison laze, elk graze, bats careen, and magpies preen, as they make their way through the course of a day. From Maine to California and everywhere in between, animals welcome morning, noon, evening, and night. The Eastern Piedmont cardinal's "Cheer, cheer" ushers in sunrise; at high noon, antelopes doze and ground squirrels burrow in Arizona; the Pacific Coast owlet sings, "Who, the night, who, who" at the close of day. With repetitive strains of poetry that mimic the rhythm of a day, George says, "the earth keeps on turning, on turning, on turning." Precise horizontal paintings provide a mural of the country; while not all animals mentioned in the text are depicted, brief endnotes identify creatures and general locales by page number. (Picture book. 5-8) Read full book review >
JULIE'S WOLF PACK by Jean Craighead George
ADVENTURE
Released: Sept. 30, 1997

Completing the switch in narrative view begun in Julie (1994), the sequel to Julie of the Wolves (1972), George continues her tale of the Avalik River pack entirely from the standpoint of its members: Kapu, the young new alpha; his daughter and successor, Sweet Fur Amy; Ice Blink, a lone wolf who carries rabies—and Willow Pup Julie, who lives in town but puts in appearances to inspect new pups or perform rescues. George invests all of her characters equally with expressive language, customary patterns of behavior, distinct personalities, and rich emotional lives. The wolfpack culture is complex and thoroughly articulated; readers who follow Kapu through seasons fat and lean, births, deaths, and challenges (serious, but always bloodless) to his leadership will be as devastated as the pack is when he is trapped and removed for a scientific experiment. Working mostly offstage, Julie engineers his return, but he does not rejoin the pack. The rhythms of life on the tundra are slow ones, and the only deaths George describes explicitly are those of wolves who succumb to the contagion that Ice Blink brings; the result is a story that flows at an even, deliberate pace, without—save for the brief outbreak of rabies—much suspense or sense of danger. The wolf's-eye view will draw new readers to the books, but fans of the first books, already well-versed in wolf society, may find many of the situations repetitive. (Fiction. 11-13) Read full book review >
LOOK TO THE NORTH by Jean Craighead George
ANIMALS
Released: April 11, 1997

A charming but sentimental book about the first months in the lives of wolf pups, from birth to young adult. George (There's an Owl in the Shower, 1995, etc.) notes in the introduction that in the "nursing, tumbling, fighting, and growing children of the wild I see all children." The pups- -Boulder, Scree, and Talus—play, chase, fight, challenge each other, develop specialties, learn to howl, hunt, and even care for an injured beta wolf. Talus, the smallest pup, rated the bottom of the pack, gains status because of his superior ability to sniff out game. Finally, the three of them wait for the next litter to be born. Children will enjoy the brief text and softly colored drawings of the pups, their parents, and baby-sitter. Washburn, in her first book, has created sweet tableaux of wolves in the wild: purple and lilac landscapes and fluffy, smiling wolves. (Picture book. 5-9) Read full book review >
THERE'S AN OWL IN THE SHOWER by Jean Craighead George
ANIMALS
Released: Sept. 30, 1995

An out-of-work logger amazes his family by caring for a rare spotted owl chick in this informative, agenda-laden story. Forbidden to log public lands in the spotted owl's Pacific Coast territory, the loggers around the Trinity National Forest have fallen on hard times. When Borden Watson brings home a starving baby owl, his angry father Leon wants to wring its neck at first, but holds off, thinking it might belong to a more common species. Soon Leon is feeding it chopped mice, getting up at 1 a.m. to cuddle and watch TV with it, and even giving it flying lessons. George displays her usual profound knowledge of animal behavior, but allows her characters to stop at the drop of a hat to lecture one another on environmental issues or rehearse arguments for and against logging. Solidly in the conservationist camp, George (Everglades, p. 557, etc.) gives Leon some points; he asserts that destructive timbering practices actually conformed to government regulations in the past, and shows himself to be no ignorant villain, but a caring, knowledgeable forester. The book is edifying, if not particularly engrossing; David Klass's California Blue (1994) is aimed at older readers, but wraps similar themes in a stronger story. (Fiction. 9-12) Read full book review >
EVERGLADES by Jean Craighead George
HISTORY
Released: May 30, 1995

"I am going to tell you a story....It's a story about a river," says a storyteller to several children in a boat in this tale. This narrator describes the formation of the Everglades, the plants, animals, and people who inhabit the unique ecosystem, and its near-destruction through waste and carelessness. The listeners, a group of interracial children poling through the silver waters of the Everglades in a dugout canoe, complain, "But this is a sad story...Please tell us a happy story." He revises the ending, noting that the children grow up and run the planet differently. Full-color paintings by Minor complement the story and gracefully capture the beauty and life found in a panorama of plants and animals. A final page identifies some of the species depicted. This is every bit as didactic as John Burningham's Hey! Get Off Our Train (1990), but has powerful moments, including a convincing message, poetically told. (Picture book. 5+) Read full book review >
ANIMALS WHO HAVE WON OUR HEARTS by Jean Craighead George
ANIMALS
Released: Sept. 30, 1994

Well-known naturalist and author George writes an inspiring celebration of ten beloved animals and the feats that made them famous. Taking time off from writing YA nature mysteries (most recently, The Fire Bug Connection, 1993), George tells the stories of such heroes and heroines as Balto, the sled dog who helped carry a consignment of antitoxin to a subarctic town suffering an epidemic of diphtheria; Smokey Bear, the US Forest Service mascot who, before becoming a cartoon bear in a forest ranger's hat, was a real bear cub who survived a fire in New Mexico's Lincoln National Forest; and the three gray whales who were iced-in at Point Barrow, Alaska, two of whom were led to safety in 1988 by an international team of scientists and concerned citizens. The most amazing story here is about Koko, the gorilla who learned enough sign language to say, among other things, "Stupid devil devilhead." But there is something in all the tales, each of which is wonderfully illustrated by Merrill's paintings and told by George with grace and sensitivity. (Nonfiction. 8-12) Read full book review >
JULIE by Jean Craighead George
ADVENTURE
Released: Sept. 30, 1994

This sequel to 1973 Newbery Medal-winning Julie of the Wolves continues the story of Julie Edwards Miyax Kapugen, the girl who traveled across the tundra with her adoptive wolf pack. Miyax is now living in Kangik village with her father, Kapugen, and his gussak (white) wife, Ellen. Although initially uncomfortable with her new stepmother, Miyax comes to trust and—after they spend several days together in a makeshift shelter during a raging snowstorm- -love her. Peter, a Siberian Eskimo who was adopted by a couple in Kangik, has made his intentions toward Miyax known, intentions that Miyax, nearly 15, finds very pleasant. She forgives her father for killing Amaroq, her wolf leader, and tries to understand the desperation that forced him to do it. The one shadow that looms over Miyax is the knowledge that Kapugen will not hesitate to shoot more of her beloved wolves if they again threaten the uminmaks, or musk oxen, that he is raising as part of the village's cooperative industry. Miyax goes again to the wolves to lead them away from the oxen and Kapugen. But they return, and their fate depends on whether Miyax can prove to her father what he once knew but seems to have forgotten: that Eskimos and animals must coexist as friends. Interesting Eskimo village lore, and more lupine detail, but the unifying theme here—Miyax saving the wolves—is not nearly as arresting as the original. (Fiction. 10+) Read full book review >
THE BIG BOOK FOR OUR PLANET by Ann Durell
CHILDREN'S
Released: Oct. 1, 1993

Again, an all-star collaboration in aid of a worthy cause: Mother Earth herself. The 28 original entries include several poems, fables, and other imaginative tales, plus nonfiction: on bats, by Laurence Pringle (with photos by "Batman" Merlin Tuttle); on wetlands, by Seymour Simon; on Central Park's Frederick Law Olmsted, by Milton Meltzer; and some of Tana Hoban's splendid photos. Though quality varies, there are some nifty stories (satire's a natural here): Marilyn Sachs's whale's- eye view of Jonah (not a politically correct snack—junk food, and an endangered species, too); Natalie Babbitt's "The Last Days of the Giddywit," who live "after the dinosaurs but before shovels" and come to a bad end because they never clean out their caves; William Sleator's chilling glimpse of future "Traffic"; etc. From Aliki and Arnosky to Van Allsburg and Zelinsky, 28 illustrators reflect the texts in a fine range of styles. A grand resource to enliven a unit, to ponder, or simply to enjoy. Six conservation organizations are to benefit. (Anthology. 6-12) Read full book review >
THE FIRST THANKSGIVING by Jean Craighead George
HISTORY
Released: Aug. 31, 1993

In a lucid, graceful narrative that begins with the arrival of Plymouth Rock (a unique European specimen left by a glacier "In a time so long ago that only the rocks remember") and that describes the Patuxets' settlement, its devastation by white men's disease, and Squanto's tragic captivity before going on to the Puritan venture, George returns—in specific, unsentimental detail—to the real historical events, quietly emphasizing the Native Americans' relationship with the land and the many things they taught the newcomers about using its bounty. Locker provides paintings in his usual lush, formal style; his elegant seascapes, landscapes, and sky have more drama than the small figures and limited action they dwarf, though a few scenes—e.g., the pilgrims' landing in a "raging current"—are more like true illustrations. Actually, these gorgeous set pieces are a fine complement to George's text, making an effective backdrop for her powerful account. Correcting misconceptions and clarifying contemporary attitudes ("The Pilgrims called the celebration a Harvest Feast. The Indians thought of it as a Green Corn Dance"), this beautiful book brings fresh insight and a fairer balance to the traditional story. (Nonfiction/Picture book. 5+) Read full book review >
CHILDREN'S
Released: May 30, 1993

Sensibly omitting the kind of human drama that encumbered The Missing 'Gator of Gumbo Limbo' (1992), a fine author focuses again on the careful observation of nature. George's novelistic talents aren't wasted—she brings backwoods Maine, where some professor/environmentalists are enjoying a working summer with two of their kids, efficiently to life, while Mitch, 10, a resourceful computer maven, and thoughtful young naturalist Maggie, 12, are refreshingly individual. Both deeply curious about living things, they also have a rare ability to make connections and devise properly controlled experiments. Maggie's already observing bats in her bedroom, spiders, a Sphex ichneumoneus, and other wildlife when a Czech visitor presents her with some "fire bugs," allowed through customs because they are known not to survive in New England; by the end, through experiment, deduction, and computer access to databases, the kids know why—an elegant bit of original research that's respectfully greeted by the adults as a key to discovering natural pesticides. The intellectual enthusiasm here is wonderfully contagious, while the superbly detailed natural history is not just intrinsic to the story: it is the story. Thus, it's too bad there aren't illustrations of the species mentioned, and—in the context of such authoritative science—a note discussing what's fictional and what isn't. Otherwise: fascinating and (especially for budding naturalists) inspiring. (Fiction. 9-12) Read full book review >
ANIMALS
Released: April 30, 1992

The naturalist-novelist returns to the genre she invented in Who Really Killed Cock Robin? (1971) with a mystery incorporating a wealth of details about a threatened Florida habitat. Here, Liza K. and her mom—escaping abusive dad—live in a tent on an island- like hammock (a raised area with a unique habitat) in the Everglades. Nearby are other homeless, including "James James," Vietnam vet and expert naturalist, as well as an oversized alligator, Dajun, endangered by a Pest Control official who's out to shoot him. Though nearby condos spew pollutants, Dajun's natural behavior keeps his pool clean. Aware of the hunter, Dajun hides; Liza K. and friends try to find him to lure him to safety. The natural history steals the show here, as George intended. Liza K.'s expertise on the functions of almost every bush, bird, and bug stretch credulity; still, a kid who is both gifted and dedicated can learn a lot, and she has a fine resource in James James. Few readers will absorb even a fraction of the information here, but the sense of an overall pattern is conveyed with enthusiasm, and they'll catch enough to understand how Liza K. finally figures out where Dajun is. The happy ending all around is pretty unrealistic (the hammock becomes a nature preserve, the vet its curator; the indigent are kindly taken care of; and Mom gets a better job), but it does make for an entertaining finish. George is a fine writer; and though the message is heavy-handed, it's one about which many young people are deeply concerned. (Fiction. 8-12) Read full book review >
ONE DAY IN THE TROPICAL RAIN FOREST by Jean Craighead George
NATURE
Released: April 10, 1990

In the manner of her four other One Day books, George follows Tepui, an Indian boy of the Venezuelan rain forest, and a naturalist who is studying the rich, doomed environment about to be bulldozed and burned for farm land. In a race against time, Tepui and the scientist straggle to discover an unnamed species of butterfly. If one is found, a wealthy industrialist has promised to name it in honor of his daughter and save the forest from destruction. Switching from naturalist to bulldozers, George effectively maintains tension. While the two humans are rather flat, the forest's many other inhabitants (beetles, ants, sloth, birds) are more fully presented. Allen's soft, b&w pencil drawings don't convey the jungle as dramatically as Powzyk's lush watercolors for Tracking Wild Chimpanzees (1988), but are precise and charming, nonetheless. An authentic, well-written introduction to the ecology of an important endangered environment. Read full book review >
SHARK BENEATH THE REEF by Jean Craighead George
FAMILY AND GROWING UP
Released: April 30, 1989

The true protagonist here is not 14-year-old Tomas—a Mexican boy who must decide whether to follow the family trade of fisherman or to stay in school, perhaps becoming a marine biologist—but his Baja California home, to which George brings her contagious enthusiasm as a naturalist. Like George, Tomas is a curious, gifted observer, constantly applying his intelligence to new data he acquires as he goes about his tasks. Though the story is told from Tomas' point of view, the third-person narrative allows George to depict him as a part of his environment. Scores make the attempt, but only such rare authors as Wilder, White, and George successfully incorporate such a quantity of "educational" detail, making it truly intrinsic to their stories; here, George appeals to all the senses in her fascinating portrayal of a region undergoing social and environmental changes that challenge humans as well as other living things alike. About Tomas: tension is maintained not only by his impending decision but by the shark he hopes to capture, not—as he supposes—the placid whale shark, but—as the reader knows from the beginning—a deadly hammerhead. In an exciting finale, the shark is caught, and Tomas—coping with a neat twist of logic that engages both his intelligence and his reverence for the old ways—comes to the right decision. Excellent writing; a fine portrait of a unique region; an involving, well-crafted story. Read full book review >
ONE DAY IN THE WOODS by Jean Craighead George
ANIMALS
Released: Oct. 12, 1988

As in One Day in the Prairie, . . .Alpine Tundra, and. . .Desert, George explores the ecology of an area through the observations of a patient child. Rebecca's objective is to see the ovenbird; Uncle Luke has described it as a wizard, but it's up to her to find it in the forest canopy or one of the other four layers of her eastern woodland park. After a 14-hour day, the ovenbird is found, and does indeed sing with beautifully described wizardry; meanwhile, Rebecca has seen dozens of other creatures—including a flying squirrel that walks into her hand and newly-hatched wood ducks jumping 40 feet from their nest to get to the pond below—and has put out a fire accidentally ignited by her magnifying glass. Young naturalists are rarely so persistent, and Rebecca's luck stretches credulity; but the device of describing her day wonderfully conveys the excitement possible in observations and the wonder of nature's interlocking links; and George neatly relates each detail to the larger ecological picture. Allen's black-and-white illustrations are delicate and precise; it's a tribute to George's evocative prose that the flasher artwork of other nature books is not missed. Read full book review >
WATER SKY by Jean Craighead George
FICTION
Released: March 1, 1987

George, known for fine fiction with carefully researched natural history as a theme, won a Newbery for Julie of the Wolves; in this new story, also set in the far north, Lincoln Noah Stonewright, named at the request of his father's Eskimo mentor, Vincent, for the great protectors of men and of animals, comes from his Massachusetts home to Barrow to meet Vincent and find his beloved Uncle Jack, already in Alaska to save the bowhead whale from extinction. Met by young Kusik, Lincoln is immediately drawn into an Eskimo whale hunt captained by Vincent, now terminally ill. Although initially opposed to the hunt, intimate acquaintance with the whaling camp and a variety of Eskimos including Ukpik, a girl his own age who is both a fervent advocate of the old ways and an aspirant to a graduate degree at Harvard. makes Lincoln rethink his assumptions. In a beautifully written climax, he is essential to the capture of the crew's annual whale. There are many threads to this complex novel, all serving both the adventure of the whale hunt and the detailed, authentic depiction of contemporary Eskimo life, with the contradictions of the persistence of traditional ways and the presence of such modern items as CBs, up-to-date schools, snowmobiles and TV. The gentle custom of withholding praise, blame, and even instruction except by wordless example as described, should make readers reconsider our more didactic ways. Questions of death and rebirth, cooperation as a way of survival and a way to achieve a sense of community, and the true meaning of research and conservation are posed by the events George describes so vividly. Readers will be the richer for pondering them. Read full book review >
ONE DAY IN THE PRAIRIE by Richard Cowdrey
NATURE
Released: Oct. 9, 1986

A fine novelist (her Julie of the Wolves won a Newbery) and naturalist describes a day's events in an Oklahoma wildlife refuge. Massive bison and charming prairie dog are the most conspicuous inhabitants, but George introduces dozens of other animals and plants, explaining how each fits into this small world. The device of a boy who spends the day trying to get a photograph of the prairie dog doing the back flip that warns of danger helps tie it all together; an impending tornado, first sensed by the buffalo, adds drama. The carefully detailed drawings on every page are as important as the text; format is similar to Wilder's Little House books, to which this would be a perfect complement. Every line of this brief narrative is packed with information, so vividly presented that even the active city child should comprehend the fascination that could keep a boy "as still as a stone," watching; it's a persuasive brief for preservation, and a wonderfully composed whole. Index. Read full book review >
Released: Nov. 14, 1985

Nature-writer George here offers insight into animal communication—specifically, how dogs, cats, birds, and horses "talk" with other members of their species, and how people can learn to communicate with (and train) their pets more effectively. George examines in some depth the ancestry and domestication of these four species of animals, as well as the natural social behavior of each and how each uses specific sounds, odors, expressions, and poses to make its feelings and desires, and also its social status, readily apparent. We learn that birds sing to advertise for a mate, claim property, or defend their territory. And that dogs, like their wolf ancestors, communicate to maintain social order and keep their group cohesive. To help clarify the meanings of various tail positions, ear movements, and facial expressions for each of the four species discussed, George also includes a number of illustrations (her own), as well as transliterated whinny, chirp, and meow charts. Despite an occasional supposition or claim that goes a bit too far (e.g., that parrots understand what they're saying), this is an informative and educational blend of personal observation (George herself has raised over 200 domestic and wild creatures) and findings of numerous renowned and lesser-known animal behaviorists. Read full book review >
Released: March 28, 1984

A meaningful, meaty presentation—just what its predecessor in this new series, One Day in the Desert, wasn't—with precise and engaging illustrations besides. "The alpine tundra is a community of plants and animals that have adapted to the harsh climate on the tops of tall mountains. It begins where the trees stop growing. It is a land of grass, wild flowers, mosses and animals that can find shelter among these plants." That description will be echoed and amplified during the autumn day that camper Johnny spends (unobtrusively) on top of Rendezvous Mountain in Wyoming's Tetons. Because of the thin air, we learn, the animals' hearts beat faster; because of the short warm season, they're already in a race against time. "Alpine plants," we're told in turn, "do not waste energy producing big leaves and long stems. . . . Almost all their energy goes into making flowers and seeds." Hour by hour, the weather changes and each animal responds in its own way. As a storm blows up, Johnny is first exhilarated, then wary; finally he runs headlong at the fall of an overhanging monolith. The internal drama provides momentum and assures interest. Read full book review >
ONE DAY IN THE DESERT by Fred Brenner
NATURE
Released: Oct. 26, 1983

A wisp of an incident overloaded with factual matter—too much factual matter for the young, picture-story format in any case. What happens, in brief and in sum, is that a wounded mountain lion lies down in the doorway of a Papago Indian hut; and when its sleeping occupants, Big Wing and her mother, are awakened by a thunderclap and see the lion, they take refuge on the mountain side—thus escaping the flood-to-come, and saving their lives. Also interwoven with the Lion's movements (in much greater detail than the Indian bit) are the activities of a coyote, a roadrunner, a group of peccaries, a tarantula and a headstand beetle, a tortoise, a kangaroo rat, and others—constantly breaking the thin narrative thread. (There is also a separate description of each of the deserts "marked by distinctive plants that make up the great North American Desert, which extends from central Mexico to almost the Canadian border"—totally extraneous information for the purposes of the book.) Among other superior entries along these lines is George's own Moon of the Wild Pigs (1968). Read full book review >
THE JOURNEY INWARD by Jean Craighead George
BIOGRAPHY
Released: May 1, 1982

Anyone watching juvenile by-lines saw the step-by-step change, characteristic of our time, from Vulpes, the Red Fox (1948), by John and Jean George, to the Newbery runner-up My Side of the Mountain (1959), by Jean George, to the Newbery medalist Julie of the Wolves (1972), by Jean Craighead George. The story of those changes, though short on narrative shape or emotional weight, is a representative one too—with natural history sidelights special to the author (also, a regular Reader's Digest contributor). Jean Craighead and John George met during World War II, and quickly married. She was a reporter, from a family of professional naturalists; he was an ecologist-friend of her (soon-to-be-famous) brothers Frank and John, short of a Ph.D. Out of their mutual interest in animals, and her typewriter, came Vulpes and other animal life-histories—whose originals (Meph the pet skunk, Bubo the horned owl) also helped compensate for her miscarriages and his self-absorption. They had a daughter (he had hoped for a son), and then two sons (the first, "deliberately"—as conception theory then went). Meanwhile John taught at Vassar, she goaded him into finishing his thesis, then set aside a long-cherished project of her own ("about the boy who survives in the wilderness") to help patch up his reputation. He lost the Vassar job anyhow, she was overwhelmed with child-care—and so she wrote, finally, the story of Sam Gribley who runs away: "Girls were not free to run away and survive except incognito." The marriage would dissolve, in acrimonious fits and starts. (John, she came to see, was "imprinted" with strong women; she, conflictingly, with "the strong male images of my father and two brothers.") And then begins what is most persuasive: her undramatized account of being, with the three children, a "lopsided," mutually-dependent, single-parent family—in suburban Chappaqua, N.Y., in the drug/protest/runaway days. Interspersed are stories of New York the crow and other personable family pets; of bookwriting (with deft salutes to editors Elizabeth Riley and Ursula Nordstrom); of a companionable romance; and of natural-history expeditions and ethology investigations—especially the trip to Alaska that resulted in the cathartic Julie of the Wolves. Chiefly for those who do recognize the by-line-but with some potential for other conflicted women. Read full book review >
THE CRY OF THE CROW by Jean Craighead George
Released: April 23, 1980

A babyish, off-base, tiresome story about a girl and her pet crow, which she must keep secret because her father and brothers shoot crows to protect their strawberry crop. Mandy names her baby crow Nina Terrance, learns the crows' warning cry to keep her safe, and to keep her dependent, continues to feed her after the crow would normally be feeding herself. Mandy's mother is in on her secret, and there is a period with the men off on a trip when Nina Terrance has the run of the house and the two humans have a flighty time feeding a group of crow visitors. In the same period the crow, who has learned to imitate human speech, gives a cute performance for TV cameras at the shopping mall. All this time Mandy is torn about allowing her pet to be lured off by the other crows: "I'm all mixed up," she tells her "Mommy" more than once. "I want her to go and yet I like her so much I want her to stay. It's so nice to have a friend." But when it turns out to be Mandy's little brother who killed the crow's parents at the start, Mandy knows that she must shoot her pet to protect her brother from Nina Terrance's vengeful attacks. In addition to the sentimental plot and corny dialogue, there is an unpleasant minor episode in which Mandy's mother teaches her two Puerto Rican employees to have separate bank accounts from their husbands as enlightened women do. The story is full of similar well-meaning misses. Read full book review >
RIVER RATS, INC. by Jean Craighead George
ADVENTURE
Released: April 17, 1979

Just out of junior high school, Joe and his friend Crowbar are hired by Joe's uncle (Joe lives with him in a trailer) to run a dead man's ashes down a dangerous stretch of the Colorado River, traveling by night to avoid Park Service patrols, and to dump the urn of ashes overboard at Lava Falls. (Crowbar is of American Indian ancestry and Joe an undifferentiated white, and George makes a point of the boys not making a point of it.) But in the dumping process the boys' inflatable raft is wrecked, and after a wild ride down the falls they start climbing the cliff walls with an idea of heading for the Havasupai village they know to be somewhere about. A younger, speechless "Wild Boy" they run into shows them the way to food and water in return for Joe's show of affection; Joe and Crowbar hope the boy can show them to the village once Joe teaches him enough words, but there are setbacks due to Crowbar's impatient attempts to make a slave of the kid. After the three have lived for a while in a mini-village of their own, the wild boy does lead the others to the Supai, where he will stay with the village teacher and complete the civilizing process he is now eager to learn. Joe's uncle turns out to be a crook, indifferent to the boys' safety and concerned only with the urn—which, unsurprisingly, contained money and not dead Roland after all. George does better with the survival story and the feral child than with the dumb scheme that sets the trip in motion, but the relationships among the three boys conforms too patly to the author's own scheme, and this has none of the moving qualities of My Side of the Mountain or Julie of the Wolves. Read full book review >
THE WOUNDED WOLF by John Schoenherr
ANIMALS
Released: Sept. 6, 1978

When a gravely wounded wolf stumbles up Toklat Ridge, a scouting raven calls out his signal of coming death. The white fox, the snowy owl, and a grizzly bear close in. But the wolf's pack leader hears the raven's message too, and, noting that Roko had not answered the "hunt's end" roll call, he finds the wounded one and brings him food, offering scraps for the scavengers, until days later Roko is healed. A prefatory note informs us briefly that "During his ten-year study of wolves in the Alaskan wilderness, scientist Gordon Haber, Ph.D., observed the leader of a wolf pack save the life of a wounded wolf." Many readers might prefer a straightforward account of that observation to this mood-summoning, present-tense reconstruction with its "poetic" ragged right margins. Nevertheless, it's good news—and Schoenherr's black-and-white drawings help set the mood, Read full book review >
THE AMERICAN WALK BOOK by Jean Craighead George
NONFICTION
Released: Jan. 23, 1978

The ambitious hiker can set off from coast to coast (almost) on the North Country Trail from New York's Adirondacks to North Dakota, where it joins the route of Lewis and Clark. The Pacific Coast Trail, one of the toughest and most varied, "crosses the desert, winds among the tallest and oldest trees on earth, and climbs some of the highest mountains on the North American continent." The Potomac Heritage Trail offers a level and easy and uncommonly interesting 350-mile trek. Jean Craighead George, author of many fine nature-oriented books for children, fills in the background and describes the course of 14 major scenic and historic trails, with enticing asides for preview reading. Included are maps, reading lists, and a summary of biotic communities. Read full book review >
THE WENTLETRAP TRAP by Jean Craighead George
FICTION
Released: Jan. 1, 1978

Bimini islander Dennis would like to have "a boat and a grapple and a net and a bucket AND a fine big hat" so that he can "take good care of himself" like his conch fisherman father. If he found a wentletrap, jokes his father, he could buy all those things, and so, with a storm coming on and his mother worried about his father off at sea, Dennis sets out to do just that. What he traps under the empty box he calls a wentletrap is a succession of hermit crabs, who deposit their old borrowed shells and run off to the sea with new ones. The last shell to appear and disappear this way is the longed-for wentletrap—a disappointment—but by then his father is home and (brightening with alacrity) Dennis suggests that they take good care of themselves together. Who knows? This might be sufficient consolation for Dennis, but it's a weak sort of reward for readers who expect more than a quick hug and a peek at the hermit crab's housing habits. Read full book review >
GOING TO THE SUN by Jean Craighead George
Released: April 1, 1976

Though Jean George has always had her ups and downs, it's hard to believe that the author of Julie of the Wolves could produce this pulpy drivel. As always, her descriptions of the wildlife and terrain in question convinces you that she knows it well, and the ecological story is up to her everyday standard: Marcus, seventeen and gung ho to shoot Old Gore, king of the mountain goats, is hired through his hunter father to study the goats and confirm Errington's law of compensation (that for every prey animal killed another lives to replace it); during his summer in the mountains, Marcus comes reluctantly to believe that the law does not apply and the goats must be protected. But George's problem is with the personal relationships, especially those between Marcus and Melissa Morgan—Melissa, whose family has long feuded with his, whose brother Will falls to his death in a fight with Marcus early in the novel, who herself secretly becomes Marcus' wife at fifteen. (The couple have been in love since first sighting each other when she was in fifth grade and he in seventh.) It is really Melissa, of the golden-red curls, supple body and joyful cries, who organizes the goat study and pursues the evidence against Errington's law—but when Marcus goes after Old Gore with a gun because a local Blackfoot has temporarily convinced him that Will's spirit is trapped in the goat and can only be freed by death, a shocked Melissa leaves their tent home and allows her father to annul their marriage. George's gushy, clichéd prose makes this read even worse than it sounds; it's clear that she derives more inspiration from Romulus and Remus than from Romeo and Juliet. Read full book review >
FICTION
Released: May 20, 1975

Spinner Shafter—even her name is a reflection of her father's determination to raise a fisherman (though she herself would rather be a dancer)—astounds her relatives and wins the family trophy from Uncle Auggie by hooking a huge cutthroat trout, a variety thought to' have vanished from the area. But Spinner is shocked and saddened when her father insists on mounting the record-breaking catch instead of throwing it back according to Shafter custom; that's one reason why she is happy when Cousin Al whose cabin she is visiting invites his "city mouse" age mate on a mountain trek with tents and backpacks, to solve the mystery of the lone cutthroat's appearance and the decline of his kind. They do, and besides saving the species they save each others' lives. Spinner earns Al's recognition as a "good woodsperson" — whereupon she gives up dancing to stay and help in a reforestation project for which their discoveries have won state aid. Though the direction of the switch is updated, both Spinner's early interest in dancing and her later total conversion to her father's model (she even cuts off her long hair) seems just as arbitrary as in the tomboy-to-prom queen changes of the past. And though no one can fault this author's ecology and woodspersonship, the fast-paced mystery plotting she gave a similar theme in Who Really Killed Cock Robin (KR, 1971) is absent from this more thinly populated and leisurely fish story. Read full book review >
ALL UPON A SIDEWALK by Jean Craighead George
ANIMALS
Released: Sept. 30, 1974

We'll never understand why so many competent juvenile authors choose to write about ants, those most unindividualized of creatures, in terms of the adventures of one individual — who is often referred to by her species name (here Lasius flavus) as if it's her own personal one. Jean George's yellow ant, who lives under the sidewalk and occupies herself running errands when the queen asks in different "chemical messages" for sugar or pollen or whatever, is sent out one day for a "terribly appealing" and wondrous treasure called Euplectus confluens, of which she's been given a taste as a clue. Lasius flavus encounters various unappealing scents and is successively warned of rain by a drop in air pressure ("She know what this meant!"), carried off to a bird's nest, and lost on a strange section of pavement. But at last in the home of some avenue ants she finds (and later brings home) the ant-loving beetle who, in return for food from Lasius flavus' body, provides her with the "exotic drink" she has been sent to fetch. George's introduction to sidewalk ecology takes into account the bottle caps and fire engines along with the natural inhabitants, and the symbiotic encounter with the beetle is a fitting enough climax to the ant's quest. We would prefer more explanation of the "chemical messages" and fewer exclamation marks denoting ecstasy or panic, but there seems to be a niche for this sort of nature writing. Read full book review >
JULIE OF THE WOLVES by John Schoenherr
ADVENTURE
Released: Nov. 10, 1972

Running away from an arranged marriage with simpleminded Donald, thirteen year-old Julie (she prefers Miyax, her Eskimo name) survives on the barren tundra by making friends with a family of wolves. Her patient, intelligent courting of the animals — observing their signs of leadership, submission, etc. and aping the appropriate ones — and her resourcefulness in keeping herself alive (first with a bite of meat a wolf regurgitates for her, then by smoking and freezing what the wolves leave of the caribou they kill) are meticulously observed. In a central flashback we learn of her life to date — at seal camp with Kapugen, her widowed father who taught her to live in the wild, in town with her unsympathetic aunt who calls her Julie, sends her to an American school, and tells her of Kapugen's presumed death, then with Donald's family, reasonably contented until he, goaded by the other boys, roughly attempts to assert his husbandly prerogative. Now Miyax plans to make her way to a harbor town, then fly to the pink bedroom and velvet theater seats promised by her pen pal in San Francisco. But as she nears the coast months later (the wolves still paralleling her course) a plane appears. Then the air explodes with gunshots and the magnificent Amaroq, her adoptive wolf father, is killed. "Black exhaust envolved her, and civilization became this monster that snarled across the sky." The final devastation occurs when Miyax, having heard from traveling hunters that Kapugen is alive, arrives at her father's new house to find, along with the harpoons and kayak and couch of furs, a white wife, electric lights, and a helmet and goggles. "'Aw, that. I now own an airplane, Miyax. It's the only way to hunt today. The seals are scarce and the whales are almost gone.' . . . Kapugen, after all, was dead to her," and later, alone in the snow, Miyax sings to the totem she has carved of Amaroq "that the hour of the wolf and the Eskimo is over." Though remarkable Miyax and her experience are totally believable, her spirit living evidence of the magnitude of the loss. Read full book review >
FICTION
Released: Oct. 1, 1971

The web of life is revealed in all its intricacy when Tony Isidoro, an eighth grader who has inherited the zoology project interrupted by his older brother's call to army service, works with the local mill owner's 12-year-old daughter, and later with his brother's zoologist friend from the college, to solve a murder that has baffled and grieved the town of Saddleboro. The case opens when the town's mayor, an opportunist who won election on an ecology platform, makes political capital and daily radio announcements — not to mention a gala Cock Robin Day picnic — of a family of robins that nests in his hat. When the robins embarrass him by dying, the mayor asks Tony to discover the cause; later the boy's investigations prove equally embarrassing, but Tony determinedly tracks down the culprits. His sleuthing reveals that the mayor's lawn fertilizer has polluted the local marsh, that mother robin and her eggs were done in by a chemical called PCB, released by the mill owner under orders from NASA and combined with DDT from an up-wind orchard and a weed killer called 2, 4, 5-T, and finally that Cock Robin himself was killed, true to the old song, by the sparrow — or at least by the chain set off when 10,000 Florida sparrows died from eating mercury-treated seeds, causing millions of blood-sucking parasitic flies to leave their bodies and attack the migrating robins. The tone of the whole adventure is buoyant, and the ecological complexities that constitute its theme are so neatly reflected in the plot that the scientific search for Cock Robin's murderer has an edge-of-the-chair excitement. Read full book review >
ALL UPON A STONE by Jean Craighead George
Released: Feb. 18, 1971

Fundamental, and fertile per se, is the idea of a single rock as a micro-environment: threaded through, in effect supplying a plot line, is the compulsive search of a mole cricket for another of his kind — a search that climaxes, after many creatures have been bypassed, in a primal outcry ("He crackled his loneliness. He crackled his whereabouts. He crackled his need. . .") and an awesome response: one after another flies up, drops down, gathering "as mole crickets do, not to mate, not to eat, but for reasons no one knows. Solitary creatures all the days of their lives, each leaves his earthen home on one festive night and rushes together with other mole crickets to dance, crackle and touch." An extraordinary interlude, upon a stone or anywhere — but on and around the stone there is a problem in the failure of the illustrations to depict clearly what is detailed in the text. For the artist had an idea too, of emphasizing "the unity of the microcosm" by painting the stone and its inhabitants as a whole, then actually enlarging the relevant sectors to accompany the story. Seen whole, the stone pulsates: seen separately, forms may be indistinguishable. It seems a stunt, especially for the young child who'll have trouble seeing the relationship of the parts to the whole (the whole being, remember, only 6fl x 7fl). Nonetheless and not the least, there is the mole cricket's plaintive crackling. Read full book review >
BEASTLY INVENTIONS by Jean Craighead George
Released: Oct. 1, 1970

Every animal is an astonishment" and science, continually, "opens new doors on earth" and this catchall of curiosities in the animal world contains many amazing small items that Mrs. George has apparently been collecting for years. In categorical order, you will learn how some species travel (the hydra has a "sophisticated pogo stick"; dragonflies are jet-propelled by water ejected through their anus); how they court and mate (the turtle taps on the female's shell before entering; the Gnaphoid male spider ties the female down); how they care for (or neglect) the young, build homes, eat (the worm, Convuluta, exists entirely on the algae inside him until he starves to death while the stickflea eats the feces of its parents); how they sense many things often without obvious apparatus; how they adapt to man, etc., etc. Unnatural natural history agreeably presented for its eyestopping eccentricity. Read full book review >
THE MOON OF THE MOLES by Jean Craighead George
ANIMALS
Released: Jan. 19, 1970

In his seven-month life the male mole has dug four miles of runways-based on five major tunnel-routes—but he has "never been out of the soil"; he has not seen the light nor is he affected by day and night, living instead on a ten-hour cycle set by his body-needs: five hours to search for food, five to sleep. And his need for food is prodigious—a daily ounce to sustain his body-weight of only an ounce-and-a-half. Thus graphically do we meet the common eastern mole busy under the Great Plains in the generally dormant months of December and January. His heightened sense of smell and touch compensates for his feeble vision; his fur, appropriately for a mobile digger, has "no wrong way"; he is less endangered by enemies than by separation from his food supply—by the coyote's cutting off his tunnel rather than by the coyote itself. And by the bulldozer that cuts a tunnel open, exposing him for the first time to open air, strange smells, the electrifying light of the moon. Shortly he locates his hole and closes it up; the new highway built by the bulldozer will be "the frontier for generations of moles to come." Vividly informative—a remark that encompasses the potent pen drawings also. Read full book review >
THE MOON OF THE WINTER BIRD by Vincent Nasta
ANIMALS
Released: Jan. 19, 1970

The song sparrow in the Ohio dooryard in December has become a winter bird inadvertently: "his inner signal (to migrate) had not functioned." Unlike the other creatures in this series, he is an exception, and he differs from them also in harkening to the presence of people: the upstairs alarm clock rouses him, the emergence of the man of the house prompts him to add his droppings to the pile below. Contrasting with the precision of his habits are the randomness of his activities, a matter of watching a woodpecker or playing with juncos. There is less urgency here, and the focus is diffused, shifting between the life story of a song sparrow (e.g. contending earlier with a catbird that would sneak eggs into his nest) and the pursuits of any winter bird. The climax, however, catches you up: literally "scared stiff" by the cat locked out only a leap from his perch, the sparrow stays awake all night, protected by his stillness but using up energy—and losing weight—on account of his fright. Other crises impend yet the longest day has passed and a clock in his body promises the return of spring. Looser and less obviously useful than some of its predecessors, this has nevertheless a unique lesson: out of his element the sparrow retains his sense of the seasonal cycle. Read full book review >
THE MOON OF THE DEER by Jean Craighead George
ANIMALS
Released: Aug. 15, 1969

The September moon brings a restless combativeness to the young spike buck; it also brings a hurricane to his Connecticut tidal marsh, and though we see him torn between the urge to fight his eight-point elder and a self-protective fear, it is his survival of the storm, and the response of the other shore creatures, that is the focal point here. There is therefore less progression than in some of this series, along with a rather didactic insertion of information throughout. "The weight of the air above him was less than the normal fifteen pounds per square inch. It was down to twelve and depressing to him"—is the first hurricane warning. But it does register the effects of the storm quite thoroughly and may be useful on that account. Read full book review >
COYOTE IN MANHATTAN by Jean Craighead George
Released: March 15, 1968

Coyote in Manhattan = insurrection in Harlem, consternation on Fifth Avenue and headaches for the Board of Health. Dark-skinned daydreamer and "high school freshman-to-be" Tenny Harkness releases him as her "beautiful deed," hoping also to gain entrance to the tightly organized teenage "Street Family." (Rather than appreciating the beauty of the deed, they admire her bravado—but that comes later.) She is immediately suspected by Health Inspector Cardy Evans, who's been warned of the arrival of a germ-carrying coyote, but she doesn't squeal. Tako, the coyote, isn't quite as discreet though he has a preternatural sense of who's on his side and a positive genius for urinanlysis (a waste basket smell is "a message from a pampered and neurotic dog," another sample says the poorch is irritated with its owner). Surveying Central Park (map provided), he is seen (in the formal garden) and heard (howling at a Philharmonic Concert); the searchers close in but Tako has friends besides Tenny: he's the underdog's underdog. He is not, however, an acceptable consort for a champion shepherd and her irate owner Frederick Wortman ("destined to inherit a chain of national hardware stores") points the pursuers toward Tako's den. A last-minute carlift by Tenny and Puerto Rican pal Jose (who gives up a chance to "get away from 109th Street and all the poverty") takes him to the Adirondacks and a new lease on life—a fittingly unlikely ending to a preposterous story. Read full book review >
HOLD ZERO by Jean Craighead George
Released: Sept. 16, 1966

Craig Sutton and three of his equally enterprising young friends three-stage booster rocket in a small New York state town. It will go up 2000 feet and they're ready to launch it when the father of one becomes alarmed and aroused. Officer Ricardo checks it through but doesn't understand it and the rocket is grounded (along with the active elements of the story) by the sluggishness of the committee appointed. The boys protest, staging a sit-in (or rather a sit-out) on an island where they have their hideaway; they finally get the approval and the blast-off is quite a success. Not A but almost, and certainly OK for this age group they will like the idea and the youngsters. Over. Read full book review >
Released: Jan. 14, 1965

Starting with a hermit crab off the coast of Florida warmed into desperate house hunting activity by the gradually increasing heat of the springtime sunshine, the talented author follows the coastline all around the United States to show what else is new under the sea at that time of year. From her descriptions of the brainless sponges, whose working parts are strangers to each other, to the irritably anxious approach to motherhood brought by the octopus off California, the reader is given an excellent introduction to the extremes and complexities of marine life. "Lobsters click, currents boom... small fish make popping noises..." and it's all going on in the same season—courtship, mating, hatching and migration, with porpoises in a ballet of love off New York, oysters taking a gamble in reproduction off Connecticut, and a wonderful story about whales off the Northern Pacific coast. The book stands out in both literary and scientific terms and makes an excellent companion to the junior edition of Rachel Carson's The Sea Around Us. The author has captured and conveyed a sense of the simultaneity of ocean life and the awesome variety of its creatures. Read full book review >
THE SUMMER OF THE FALCON by Jean Craighead George
ANIMALS
Released: Oct. 15, 1962

A somewhat tipsy song in praise of the raptures and rough spots in adolescent girlhood with a falcon named Zander bearing the brunt of the symbolism. The story highlights the vacation times of June Pritchard from an exuberant thirteen-year-old who successfully raises a baby sparrow hawk to train, through these years summers up to her sixteenth, when June — without a tear — watches her beloved Zander disappear into the blue, while she tries on a yellow organdy. Through the summers June learns about the world — keeping house, adjusting to death with a new spiritual emphasis, relating to boys. For the young ladies who enjoy the maid to Maidenform stories — this is just a bit more breathless than most. The views of falconry are exciting and one wishes there were more of Zander and less of June. Read full book review >