Monday, June 15, 2009

Nonfiction Monday: Sea Cows, Shamans, and Scurvy: Alaska's first naturalist, Georg Wilhelm Steller by Ann Arnold

This middle-grade nonfiction is a fascinating history of the life and work of Georg Wilhelm Steller, a German naturalist who traveled with the Russian Kamchatka expeditions and was the first naturalist to explore Alaska. The descriptions of native plants and people was excellently balanced with Arnold's explanations and Steller's own quotations and the story of Steller's journey to and shipwreck in Alaska was gripping. There are numerous sketches by the author throughout the book, showing the various animals, plants, and geographies.

The drawbacks - I would have liked to see some of Steller's own drawings and I found the maps very confusing (then again, I find maps of my own town confusing). Also, although I find the stories of explorers and scientists from the 1700s fascinating, especially when they are as well-written as this one, I have difficulty thinking of kids who might share my enthusiasm.

Verdict: An extremely interesting book; if you have an audience for it, buy it!

ISBN: 0374399476; Published October 2008 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux; Borrowed from the library

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