GORILLAS UP CLOSE

The focus on gorillas in captivity rather than in the wild gives this an unusual slant, but the visuals will have more...

A portrait gallery of a small group of zoo gorillas, with a sociologist’s observations on each one’s distinctive behavior and personality.

The photos really steal the show. There are standard views of impossibly cute baby gorillas, of busy zoo workers, and of the enclosures at Chicago’s Lincoln Park Zoo (where most of the primate cast resides). In addition and perhaps more importantly, a series of portraits—including “formal” head shots—capture not just individual facial features (as diverse as any group of humans) and an amazing range of expressions, but also a powerful, dignified presence in each of about two dozen primates. It’s good that the pictures are memorable, because with but rare exceptions, Nippert-Eng chooses to skip over the sorts of concrete details and incidents that would enliven her narrative in favor of unenlightening generalities: “Rollie spends a great deal of her time managing the troop’s social dynamics….” Mothers and offspring are separated due to unspecified “medical complications” or “serious medical reasons.” “It can be hard to predict what gorillas will do with what they find.” Readers left with questions (what are “gorilla biscuits” made of? Why are so many of the profiled apes’ siblings listed as “deceased”?) may find at least some answers in the extensive sets of annotated print, web, and film resources at the end.

The focus on gorillas in captivity rather than in the wild gives this an unusual slant, but the visuals will have more impact on young audiences than the narrative. (Nonfiction. 11-14)

Pub Date: April 19, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-62779-091-8

Page Count: 180

Publisher: Henry Holt

Review Posted Online: June 21, 2016

BLIZZARD!

THE STORM THAT CHANGED AMERICA

In the same format as his Newbery Honor title The Great Fire (1995), Murphy brings the blizzard of 1888 to life. He shows how military weather-monitoring practices, housing and employment conditions, and politics regarding waste management, transportation monopolies, and utilities regulation, all contributed to—and were subsequently affected by—the disaster. He does so through an appealing narrative, making use of first-hand accounts whose sources he describes in his notes at the end (though, disappointingly he cites nothing directly in the text). The wealth of quotable material made available through the letters of members of “the Society of Blizzard Men and Blizzard Ladies” and other sources help to make the story vivid. Many drawings and photographs (some of the blizzard, but most of related scenes) illustrate the text. These large reproductions are all in a sepia-tone that matches the color of the typeface—an effect that feels over-the-top, but doesn’t detract significantly from the power of the story. Murphy’s ability to pull in details that lend context allows him to tell this story of a place in time through the lens of a single, dramatic episode that will engage readers. This is skillfully done: humorous, jaw-dropping, thought-provoking, and chilling. (index) (Nonfiction. 9-14)

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 2000

ISBN: 0-590-67309-2

Page Count: 160

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2000

THUNDER ON THE PLAINS

THE STORY OF THE AMERICAN BUFFALO

“In 1875 there were perhaps fifty million of them. Just twenty-five years later nearly every one of them was gone.” The author of many nonfiction books for young people (Bridges; Truck; Giants of the Highways, etc.) tells the story of the American bison, from prehistory, when Bison latifrons walked North America along with the dinosaurs, to the recent past when the Sioux and other plains Indians hunted the familiar bison. Robbins uses historic photographs, etchings, and paintings to show their sad history. To the Native Americans of the plains, the buffalo was central to their way of life. Arriving Europeans, however, hunted for sport, slaughtering thousands for their hides, or to clear the land for the railroad, or farmers. One telling photo shows a man atop a mountain of buffalo skulls. At the very last moment, enough individuals “came to their senses,” and worked to protect the remaining few. Thanks to their efforts, this animal is no longer endangered, but the author sounds a somber note as he concludes: “the millions are gone, and they will never come back.” A familiar story, well-told, and enhanced by the many well-chosen period photographs. (photo credits) (Nonfiction. 10-12)

Pub Date: Feb. 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-689-83025-4

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Atheneum

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2000

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