WHY THE WEST WAS WILD

Swanson invites readers to return to those thrilling days of yesteryear when “pioneers” hot for gold or land invaded the “untamed lands in the West,” drove fierce, faceless “Natives” into submission, transformed into cowboys or badmen (or both), and proceeded to either drink and gamble their meager wages away in saloons frequented by “hurdy-girls,” or to be strung up by vigilantes. Illustrated with a mix of melodramatic Charles Russell paintings and oddly sedate old photos, here is the Myth of the Wild West at its most romanticized—or nearly so, as the author does at least refer to female non-floozies, African-Americans, and racism. Readers after a truer picture would do better to decline his invitation in favor of studies closer to primary sources, such as Michael V. Uschan’s Westward Expansion (2001) or Russell Freedman’s Cowboys of the Wild West (1985). (Nonfiction. 9-11)

Pub Date: June 1, 2004

ISBN: 1-55037-837-6

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Annick Press

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2004

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AMERICAN HISTORY FRESH SQUEEZED!

“In fourteen hundred and ninety two, / Columbus did not have a clue.” In deft, light verse, Shields (Food Fight, p. 963, etc.) revisits dozens of high and low spots in this country’s history, to which political cartoonist Thompson appends plenty of fine-lined, tongue-in-cheek caricatures and vignettes. The tone is generally, but not always, jocular; between noting that the continent’s earliest inhabitants “hissed and growled and roared great roars— / the first Americans were dinosaurs,” and a soaring tribute to the Statue of Liberty, who “saw the towers’ awful fall” but still “holds her torch up high,” the poet treats readers to a cavalcade of wars, inventions, and firsts. There’s also a three-part “Parade of Presidents,” and accounts of selected watershed events—most memorably the Montgomery bus boycott, sung to a certain familiar tune: “The driver on the bus said, ‘Move on back! / Move on back! Move on back! / White folk in front and black in the back. / All through the town!’” Though the skimpy (and not always accurate: the Emancipation Proclamation did not free “all slaves”) running header timeline s a dispensable feature, on the whole this will make an indispensable, refreshing break from tests and textbooks. (index) (Poetry. 9-11)

Pub Date: Dec. 1, 2002

ISBN: 1-929766-62-9

Page Count: 80

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2002

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Nothing to roar over but a pleaser for fans of all things big, toothy, and extinct.

PREHISTORIC

DINOSAURS, MEGALODONS, AND OTHER FASCINATING CREATURES OF THE DEEP PAST

An illustrated overview of life’s history on Earth, moving backward from now to its beginnings 3.5 billion years ago.

Zoehfeld begins with the present epoch, using the unofficial Anthropocene moniker, then skips back 12,000 years to the beginning of the Holocene and so back by periods to the Ediacaran and its predecessors, with pauses along the way to marvel at the widespread End-Cretaceous and End-Permian extinctions. Along with offering general observations about each time’s climate and distinctive biota, she occasionally veers off for glances at climate change, food webs, or other tangential topics. In each chapter she also identifies several creatures of the era that Csotonyi illustrates, usually but not always with photographic precision in scenes that are long on action but mostly light on visible consumption or gore. If some of the landscape views are on the small side, they do feature arresting portraits of, for instance, a crocodilian Smilosuchus that seems to be 100% toothy maw and a pair of early rodents resembling fierce, horned guinea pigs dubbed Ceratogaulus. Though largely a gimmick—the chapters are independent, organized internally from early to late, and could be reshuffled into conventional order with little or no adjustment to the narrative—the reverse-time arrangement does afford an unusual angle on just how far deep time extends.

Nothing to roar over but a pleaser for fans of all things big, toothy, and extinct. (glossary, index) (Nonfiction. 9-11)

Pub Date: Sept. 3, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-912920-05-1

Page Count: 48

Publisher: What on Earth Books

Review Posted Online: June 23, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2019

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