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SAM PATCH by Julie Cummins


Daredevil Jumper

by Julie Cummins & illustrated by Michael Allen Austin

Pub Date: Feb. 1st, 2009
ISBN: 978-0-8234-1741-4
Publisher: Holiday House

Sam Patch was a real person who found fame (and an early death) by jumping from dangerous heights. Here he receives renewed attention in this odd, lively tale. Finding the prospect of working in the mills unappealing, Sam turned to jumping from the falls that powered them in town after town—and even Niagara—ultimately perishing as he tried to one-up himself at a falls near Rochester, N.Y. The fact that Sam once pushed a pet bear into the river before jumping in himself may give animal lovers pause, but in general the details that Cummins highlights should help readers picture Sam’s early 19th-century world. Austin’s illustrations likewise are appropriately energetic. Exaggerated features and odd perspectives emphasize Sam’s lanky frame and the daring heights to which he aspired. The abrupt and anticlimactic end, however, may cause readers to wonder what the book is trying to say. Sam’s story proves that people have long been fascinated by those who willingly risk harm—but that is hardly news. This brief biography of one particular historical daredevil seems poorly suited to the picture-book format and audience. (notes, bibliography) (Picture book/biography. 6-8)