All hail these pioneering primates!

Meet the chimpanzees who had the right stuff to beat the Mercury Seven astronauts into space.

Usually relegated to brief mentions in histories of the space race, the NASA program’s chimps take center stage here as Cusick draws on a mix of interviews and archival sources to present a vividly portrayed, meticulously researched picture of their strenuous training and experiences. Her focus is largely on the two who were actually launched (in 1961, in separate missions)—amiable Ham and surly Enos, who tore his space suit apart and wasn’t above flinging dung at a visiting congressman. But by the time the training program was discontinued in 1970, the so-called “Chimp College” actually had over 100 residents, many of whom bettered human astronauts in feats of endurance. As background to their histories, the author deftly fills in an account of the U.S. space program’s “fast-paced Ping-Pong game” with the Soviet Union, taking particular note of how women were excluded from NASA’s program and of how annoyed the members of the all-male first class of astronauts were at being upstaged by chimps. Also, in tracing the lives of Ham and the rest as they passed from poachers in French Cameroon to final placement in wildlife refuges or (ominously) research labs, Cusick offers readers concerned with animal rights a provocative case study that she supports with specialized resources and activities at the end. “We cannot undo the past,” she writes, “but we can create a new future.”

All hail these pioneering primates! (glossary, author’s note, space museums and sites, source notes, index) (Nonfiction. 11-14)

Pub Date: Feb. 6, 2024

ISBN: 9781641608954

Page Count: 208

Publisher: Chicago Review Press

Review Posted Online: Nov. 4, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: yesterday



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



“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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