Friday, August 12, 2016

A Weird and Wild Beauty

A Weird and Wild Beauty: The Story of Yellowstone, the World's First National Park
Erin Peabody
Sky Pony, 2016 181 pgs
Grades 6-8
Non-Fiction

Peabody uses her experience with the National Park Service, including a stint at Yellowstone, to relate the story of our country's first National Park. After a brief introduction, featuring the amazing sights reported back east by the original explorers, the reader is as hooked, as Americans once were over a hundred years ago. After capturing her audience, Peabody goes back in time, tracing the geographical terrain and original inhabitants of Yellowstone. Drawing from original journals, we travel along with the thirty-two men of the 1871 expedition, led by scientist Ferdinand Hayden. The group was sent by the US government to document and find scientific evidence and samples of the wonders described by trappers and adventures, who described the region in such terms that they seemed to be the stuff of fantasy. Hayden journeyed into the land armed with fellow scientists, surveyors, a photographer and an artist. They witnessed the rumored geysers, hot springs and incredible natural wonders and faced many perils, including unpredictable terrain, in-climate weather, wild animals and near starvation. Back home Hayden and company campaign to have the United States government protect the land from being destroyed by the worst threat of all: humans. With all of the evidence presented, the public and government were convinced and our first national park was created. The book ends with extensive maps, scientific explanations, notes, sources, and credits.

I was expecting this book to be more of a travel guide to the park. Once I cracked into it I realized that it is really a historical perspective of the discovery of Yellowstone. Although before and after Hayden's pivotal journey is touched on, this is mostly a book tracing this historical and important wilderness trek. Young readers will appreciate the dangers and sacrifices made by those who have gone before to explore our beautiful country, as they will also appreciate the awesome and unique wonders that make up Yellowstone. The book, although a historical account, is highly readable and photographs and illustrations are offered on practically every page. Text boxes and sidebars clue the read in on extra information. The land, the wildlife, and the unique geographic wonders are all park of the thrilling landscape of this important American treasure. Sociologically, we learn of the shift in American thinking from the importance of taming the wilds of this new country to appreciating its natural beauty and the efforts of some to stall development before all of our precious wilderness disappears. This will be an important resource for reports, but can also be enjoyed for pleasure by both kids who prefer non-fiction and those who don't. Peabody did extensive research and although the book is highly readable, it has not been fictionalized in any way. Everything is carefully documented and credit for photos and quotes are meticulously recorded. This year is the National Park Service's one-hundredth birthday, so what a perfect year to read this book about America's premier national park.

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