Reviews for Down the Colorado : The Story of John Wesley Powell, the One-Armed Explorer

Booklist Reviews 2007 June #1
This picture-book biography traces the life of explorer John Wesley Powell, whose landmark journey in 1869 down the Colorado River made him a national hero. Each double-page spread combines text on one side describing an episode from Powell's life with a stunning, full-page illustration on the opposite side. Pleasant scenes from Powell's childhood and early life give way to harsher subjects, including scenes from the Civil War, and then on to the stark yet beautiful landscapes that Powell and his fellow travelers encountered along the Colorado River. A map of the 1869 journey, with corresponding highlights from the expedition on the facing page, is particularly helpful in following the crucial events of that trip. Ray often uses quotes directly from journals kept by members of the expedition, and these primary sources meld effectively with the dramatic illustrations. The end matter includes a chronology, an author's note, and a bibliography. An exciting adventure story and an instructive account of the exploration of the West.

Horn Book Guide Reviews 2008 Spring
In 1869 Powell led the first recorded expedition down the Green and Colorado rivers, mapping the Grand Canyon. Ray emphasizes Powell's accomplishments in text and art: primarily full-page illustrations, spacious watercolors in natural colors of the West. The book's pacing allows readers, like Powell, to experience the natural beauty around them. A helpful map and author's note complete the book. Timeline. Bib. Copyright 2008 Horn Book Guide Reviews.

Horn Book Magazine Reviews 2008 #1
In 1869 John Wesley Powell led the first recorded expedition down the Green and Colorado rivers (from the Wyoming Territory to the Arizona Territory), mapping and scientifically studying a large portion of the Grand Canyon. Despite the book's subtitle (Powell lost an arm below the elbow while serving in the Civil War), Ray emphasizes his accomplishments rather than his limitations in both text and art (the primarily full-page illustrations, spacious watercolors in the natural colors of the West, mostly show Powell in partial profile with the missing arm out of sight). With the distinct pacing of a chronological story, episodes of Powell's early life -- including his education in and passion for the natural world, his abolitionist beliefs, and his war years -- are presented in several mini-chapters, each composed of one page of text and a facing page of illustration. The biography's climax -- the journey through the Grand Canyon -- slows the narrative with double-page illustrations and somewhat less text, the latter making judicious use of quotes from Powell's own letters and journals; this pacing allows readers, like Powell, to experience the natural beauty around them. A helpful map and time line of the journey provide summary; an author's note that adds details about Powell's later life, a chronology, and a bibliography complete the book. Copyright 2008 Horn Book Magazine Reviews.

Kirkus Reviews 2007 October #2
Drawing on, and quoting short passages from, original sources, Ray retraces the early life of renowned naturalist John Wesley Powell--highlighting his 1869 venture through the Grand Canyon and the follow-up expedition of 1871. She only actually shows his disability (incurred early in a heroic Civil War career) in the final picture, but repeated mentions make it a recurring theme of the spare, well-organized narrative; being one-handed doesn't seem to have slowed him down at all, though once a rope-less colleague had to help him up a cliff by lowering a pair of trousers. With a palette of warm reds and browns, Ray creates slightly soft-focus illustrations that follow Powell from youth to maturity, and capture the scale and rugged beauty of the western landscape. Rounded off with a look at Powell's distinguished later career, as well as a back matter that includes an author's note, chronology and a substantial reading list, this follows Ray's Flower Hunter: William Bartram, America's First Naturalist (2004) in raising the profile of one of our country's important but lesser-known explorers. (Picture book/biography. 8-10) Copyright Kirkus 2007 Kirkus/BPI Communications. All rights reserved.

School Library Journal Reviews 2007 December

Gr 3-5-- Dramatic, full-color paintings draw readers into this sweeping tale of an amazing explorer. Powell had a vision and managed to carry it out despite daunting challenges. Engaging, two-page chapters describe his boyhood in Ohio and the taunting he received because of his father's abolitionist views; his desire to pursue a career in science despite his father's expectations that he enter the ministry; his loss of an arm while serving as a Union soldier in the Civil War; and the realization of his dream of becoming a naturalist. Life continued to be demanding as he set forth to chart rough, new territories in the unexplored canyon lands of the Colorado River. As he and his crew encountered numerous difficulties, the mapping excursion turned into a struggle for survival, and the book becomes an exciting, page-turning adventure. Back matter includes a map of the area, an in-depth time line of the expedition, a summary of Powell's career, an author's note providing more information about him, and a chronology of his life. Done in watercolor and gouache, the single- and double-page illustrations are rendered in rich hues with colored-pencil detailing. They capture the wild beauty of canyon country and the thrill of the action. A welcome addition to biography collections.--Judy Chichinski, Skyline Elementary School, Tacoma, WA

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