Books by Rhoda Blumberg

Released: Jan. 1, 2004

An account of York and the Lewis and Clark Expedition is two stories in one: the grandeur of the expedition and the cruelty of slavery. The story of Lewis and Clark is well known; York's story—an enslaved man on the journey with his master, William Clark—may be new to many readers. York returned from the heroic journey only "to realize, once again, that he was totally a slave, considered to be inferior to every white person." York did not receive the double pay and 320 acres of land each enlisted man received and was not even included in the official list of men who had gone on the expedition. Blumberg's fine writing, the attractive text full of maps, sketches, portraits, and other archival materials, and the dramatic cover with a detail from Ed Hamilton's sculpture memorializing York make this one of the best new works on the subject and a fine one-two punch with the author's The Incredible Journey of Lewis and Clark (1999). (introduction, endnotes, bibliography, index) (Nonfiction. 8-12) Read full book review >
Released: Feb. 28, 2001

The life of Manjiro Nakahama, also known as John Mung, makes an amazing story: shipwrecked as a young fisherman for months on a remote island, rescued by an American whaler, he became the first Japanese resident of the US. Then, after further adventures at sea and in the California gold fields, he returned to Japan where his first-hand knowledge of America and its people earned him a central role in the modernization of his country after its centuries of peaceful isolation had ended. Expanding a passage from her Commodore Perry in the Land of the Shogun (1985, Newbery Honor), Blumberg not only delivers an absorbing tale of severe hardships and startling accomplishments, but also takes side excursions to give readers vivid pictures of life in mid-19th-century Japan, aboard a whaler, and amidst the California Gold Rush. The illustrations, a generous mix of contemporary photos and prints with Manjiro's own simple, expressive drawings interspersed, are at least as revealing. Seeing a photo of Commodore Perry side by side with a Japanese artist's painted portrait, or strange renditions of a New England town and a steam train, based solely on Manjiro's verbal descriptions, not only captures the unique flavor of Japanese art, but points up just how high were the self-imposed barriers that separated Japan from the rest of the world. Once again, Blumberg shows her ability to combine high adventure with vivid historical detail to open a window onto the past. (source note) (Biography. 10-13)Read full book review >
Released: Oct. 1, 1998

This well-written book guides readers through the history of the Louisiana Purchase, from Napoleon's desire to regain the province of Louisiana for the French, to the territory's purchase by the US under President Thomas Jefferson. The purchase "was not inevitable," Blumberg (Full Steam Ahead, 1996, etc.) writes; the decision "shaped American's destiny," transforming it from a weak and vulnerable nation into a great power. The elements that shape history are clearly demonstrated in this book, which is compelling enough to read in a sitting, but organized in such a manner that it can be dipped into as an adjunct to the curriculum. Abundant maps, political cartoons, and reproductions of paintings and engravings make the subject immediate, and contribute to the inviting format that renders the coverage accessible. Blumberg backs up her conclusions with meticulous footnotes, a bibliography of primary and secondary sources, and an index. Preceding the text is a "Cast of Characters," offering capsule information on the many people appearing in the book. A great and thorough work. (b&w photos, reproductions, maps, chronology, notes, bibliography, index) (Nonfiction. 10-14) Read full book review >
Released: May 1, 1996

Among the best storytellers writing history today, Blumberg (The Remarkable Voyages of Captain Cook, 1991, etc.) presents one of the most ambitious construction projects in modern times as a colorful tale of relentless cupidity and heroic, roughneck effort. Apparently everyone except teamsters, riverboat operators, and Native Americans agreed that a transcontinental railroad was a good idea, but sorting out the politics of its route and financing (plus the burden of a civil war) took five times as long as its actual construction. Blumberg introduces the main players, from Leland Stanford and other ruthless capitalists to the visionary engineers and tough foremen—especially Theodore Judah, Grenville Dodge and James Strobridge—who saw the work through; she pays tribute to the thousands of Chinese immigrants who carved a path through the Sierra Nevadas, paints a vivid picture of the wild life in Laramie and other railroad towns, and brings the story to a conclusion with the famous meeting at Promontory Summit, Utah (not miles-distant Promontory Point, as many accounts have it), where ceremonies ``neither dignified nor inspirational'' nonetheless touched off a national celebration. A generous selection of contemporary black-and-white photographs and enlarged engravings capture the rowdy town and work-camp life while underscoring the sheer number of people involved in the enterprise. Since Blumberg touches only on the specifics of railroad construction, working conditions, various financial scandals, and railroad lore and legend, pair this with Leonard Everett Fisher's Tracks Across America (1992) for a more complete picture. (map, notes, bibliography, index) (Nonfiction. 11-14) Read full book review >
BLOOMERS! by Rhoda Blumberg
Released: Sept. 30, 1993

On seeing friend Elizabeth Cady Stanton's trousers, Amelia Bloomer ``decided that women needed freedom not only from drunken husbands but also from cumbersome, crippling clothes.'' As with any revolutionary style change, ``bloomers,'' named for the editor of a women's journal, The Lily, shocked the public. But Bloomer's readers responded enthusiastically. Liberated from long skirts and confining corsets, women could move and breathe freely; soon they found they could also speak out and, led by Stanton, Susan B. Anthony, and Bloomer herself, began demanding equal rights. In lively prose supported by Morgan's subtly amusing watercolors, Blumberg (Commodore Perry in the Land of the Shogun, 1985, Newbery Honor) tells the youngest readers how the infancy of the women's rights movement put a twist in the knickers of American history. (Picture book. 5-10) Read full book review >
JUMBO by Rhoda Blumberg
Released: Oct. 30, 1992

Under the loving care of his longtime keeper Matthew Scott, the scrawny, neglected Jumbo (a name chosen as sounding vaguely African) grew to be ``the largest animal in captivity in the entire world,'' a celebrity on two continents. In an afterword, Blumberg describes the difficulty of winkling historical fact out of P. T. Barnum's ``humbug''; but her brief, dramatic narrative expertly brings both the public hoopla and the close relationship between Scott and his charge to life. Though some of Hunt's smaller watercolors seem like filler (``Queen Victoria was upset''), in larger scenes the wrinkled pachyderm looms hugely but peaceably over clusters of people in period dress, effectively capturing the mood and times. Since Blumberg relegates Jumbo's early death and Scott's subsequent decline to an appended note in smaller type, the tale ends rather abruptly; still, introductory history at its best: coherent, penetrating, lively. Bibliography. (Nonfiction/Picture book. 8-11) Read full book review >
Released: Oct. 30, 1991

The author of several notable works of nonfiction (Commodore Perry in the Land of the Shogun, Newbery Honor, 1985) introduces a famous explorer, detailing his three voyages, placing his discoveries in their 18th-century setting, and noting their significance. Blumberg's concluding summation of Cook's achievements includes an assessment of their future positive and negative effects. In a book distinguished for its balance and attention to detail, Blumberg is especially conscientious in respecting the customs and point of view of the Pacific peoples, using telling specifics to enliven her story. While her meticulous use of sources and refusal to speculate result in a certain lack of animation in Captain Cook himself, the sheer excitement of the adventures compensates for the elusive nature of their hero. To include 70 b&w prints (not seen); chapter notes; index. (Nonfiction. 10+) Read full book review >