From the For Kids series

Thorough and perceptive, even if the efforts to add nuance are laid on with a trowel.

A detailed portrait of the great ornithologist, with select examples of his dramatic avian images.

The activities promised on the title page are definitely a weak link, as they run to perfunctory projects like conducting an “eggamination” by breaking an egg, looking at its contents, and then eating them—but otherwise Ross runs through the major, and many minor, events in Audubon’s well-documented life to trace his development as an artist and his character as an “active, adaptable, and showy” impresario for his renowned but fantastically costly magnum opus. If the author’s efforts to acknowledge that, yes, Audubon shot his models and, yes, he was a slaveholding “evildoer” sometimes come off as clumsy, still, he’s careful to give the painter’s wife, Lucy, and collaborators like George Lehman and Maria Martin fulsome credit for their substantial contributions to his life’s work. And, though the man himself appears only once, the illustrations offer not only dozens of birds in magnificent, sharply reproduced glory, but helpful juxtapositions, too, such as a painting of a golden eagle placed with both its subtly altered print version and the portrait of Napoleon that was said to have inspired it. Along with notes on the deplorable effects of rampant 19th-century egg and plume harvesting on bird populations, the narrative finishes off with a nod to Black American ornithologist J. Drew Lanham’s recent examination of Audubon’s racist views and practices.

Thorough and perceptive, even if the efforts to add nuance are laid on with a trowel. (timeline, sites to visit and organizations, endnotes, bibliography, index) (Biography. 12-15)

Pub Date: Aug. 23, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-64160-618-9

Page Count: 144

Publisher: Chicago Review Press

Review Posted Online: May 10, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2022



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



The life of Manjiro Nakahama, also known as John Mung, makes an amazing story: shipwrecked as a young fisherman for months on a remote island, rescued by an American whaler, he became the first Japanese resident of the US. Then, after further adventures at sea and in the California gold fields, he returned to Japan where his first-hand knowledge of America and its people earned him a central role in the modernization of his country after its centuries of peaceful isolation had ended. Expanding a passage from her Commodore Perry in the Land of the Shogun (1985, Newbery Honor), Blumberg not only delivers an absorbing tale of severe hardships and startling accomplishments, but also takes side excursions to give readers vivid pictures of life in mid-19th-century Japan, aboard a whaler, and amidst the California Gold Rush. The illustrations, a generous mix of contemporary photos and prints with Manjiro’s own simple, expressive drawings interspersed, are at least as revealing. Seeing a photo of Commodore Perry side by side with a Japanese artist’s painted portrait, or strange renditions of a New England town and a steam train, based solely on Manjiro’s verbal descriptions, not only captures the unique flavor of Japanese art, but points up just how high were the self-imposed barriers that separated Japan from the rest of the world. Once again, Blumberg shows her ability to combine high adventure with vivid historical detail to open a window onto the past. (source note) (Biography. 10-13)

Pub Date: Feb. 28, 2001

ISBN: 0-688-17484-1

Page Count: 80

Publisher: HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2000

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