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Children's LiteratureRather than use a mixture of photographs and paintings, artist Barnard has chosen to illustrate the major disasters he covers in full color dramatic paintings. Each one gets a 3 to 4 page discussion, locator map with a key specific to the discussion, and several pictures. Disasters include the probable asteroid that caused the dinosaur extinction, a Minoan tsunami, the two huge storms that saved Japan from Kublai Khan's invasion, the Great Fire of London, the Blizzard of 1888 (to which Jim Murphy devoted an entire book, referred to in the bibliography), a Japanese earthquake in 1923, and several others. Barnard is given to zippy headings that may entice some while putting others off ("Sayonara to all that" reads one introducing the Japanese disaster. "Whoops" and "You must try the rat flambé" appear in the discussion of the Great Fire of London.). However, these catchy headings serve to break up the lengthy but involving text into visually manageable chunks. What Barnard does best, however, is to satisfy the reader's desire to read about geologic upheavals in all of their angry hugeness while explaining the human cost, the aftermath, and what resulted later, such as all brick buildings, better codes for earthquake prevention, fireproofing, etc. Annoyingly, there's no table of contents or index. However, a glossary, two bibliographies (one for younger and one for older readers), web sites, and the wonderful discovery of the dedication to another children's book writer, "William Pene du Bois, whose twenty-one balloons got me started," make this book a treat to read, disaster by disaster. 2003, Crown, Ages 9 to 14.
— Susan Hepler, Ph.D.