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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ANTARCTIC JOURNAL

Here is an adventure in a unique setting. The lively text and lovely watercolors document three and a half months of a summer the artist and author spent at the South Pole, as part of the National Science Foundation Antarctic Artists & Writers Program. Hooper describes everyday life aboard the research ship Laurence M. Gould, a sturdy orange icebreaker that scientists use to travel between the islands to study the wide variety of animals who come each year to breed and raise their young. An assortment of penguins, elephant seals, giant petrels, huge skuas, and leopard seals hold center stage. Scientists are less important than the serious business of successfully raising young in the short summer season. The author captures the drama of the ice-cold ocean, alive with life: “Swarms of barrel-shaped blue-tinged salps, stuck together in floating chains. Minute creatures with red eyes. Sliding through the water in a curving path like a ribbon.” The artist provides striking paintings of the landscape and the animals in soft washy colors, and quick pencil sketches. The ice is lemon gold with mauve shadows, and the sea a silver gray in the 24-hour day. Animals are expressive and individual. The krill, the tiny shrimp-like creatures that form the backbone of the ocean food chain, appear in luminous glory. The author concludes with a page on global warming, a map of the islands visited, and an index. From cover to cover a personal and informative journey. (Nonfiction. 7-12)

Pub Date: Feb. 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-7922-7188-2

Page Count: 40

Publisher: National Geographic

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2000

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THE MAN-EATING TIGERS OF SUNDARBANS

The author of The Snake Scientist (not reviewed) takes the reader along on another adventure, this time to the Bay of Bengal, between India and Bangladesh to the Sundarbans Tiger Preserve in search of man-eating tigers. Beware, he cautions, “Your study subject might be trying to eat you!” The first-person narrative is full of helpful warnings: watch out for the estuarine crocodiles, “the most deadly crocodiles in the world” and the nine different kinds of dangerous sharks, and the poisonous sea snakes, more deadly than the cobra. Interspersed are stories of the people who live in and around the tiger preserve, information on the ecology of the mangrove swamp, myths and legends, and true life accounts of man-eating tigers. (Fortunately, these tigers don’t eat women or children.) The author is clearly on the side of the tigers as she states: “Even if you added up all the people that sick tigers were forced to eat, you wouldn’t get close to the number of tigers killed by people.” She introduces ideas as to why Sundarbans tigers eat so many people, including the theory, “When they attack people, perhaps they are trying to protect the land that they own. And maybe, as the ancient legend says, the tiger really is watching over the forest—for everyone’s benefit.” There are color photographs on every page, showing the landscape, people, and a variety of animals encountered, though glimpses of the tigers are fleeting. The author concludes with some statistics on tigers, information on organizations working to protect them, and a brief bibliography and index. The dramatic cover photo of the tiger will attract readers, and the lively prose will keep them engaged. An appealing science adventure. (Nonfiction. 9-12)

Pub Date: Feb. 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-618-07704-9

Page Count: 64

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2001

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