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The Story of Walter Rothschild and His Museum

by Lita Judge, illustrated by Lita Judge

Age Range: 6 - 9

Pub Date: Feb. 1st, 2011
ISBN: 978-1-4231-1389-8
Publisher: Disney-Hyperion

It’s hard to imagine crowds of readers responding to this fictionalized portrait of a 19th-century gentleman scientist, though author-illustrator Judge’s admiration for his achievements is clear. Words and pictures paint a vivid if necessarily superficial picture of Walter Rothschild, born in 1868 into a privileged British family. The author imagines his childhood interactions with his bewildered parents then briefly describes his prodigious accomplishments. Even with “the help of two lifelong assistants,” producing 1,200 print pieces (a mix of books and scientific papers) and naming more than 5,000 species is an amazing feat. Rothschild also established a museum and sponsored numerous scientific expeditions. Energetic, expressive paintings, many with unusual perspectives, fill the pages. Not surprisingly, the odd creatures that fascinated Walter are among the most engaging characters, like the giant lizard that peers out from Walter’s mother’s lily bed. Human characters are more sketchily drawn, which emphasizes Walter’s preoccupation with the natural world but may serve to further distance readers. Intriguing but obscure, this will probably be best appreciated by a certain kind of quirky boy reader. (author’s note, references, websites) (Picture book. 6-9)