Down the Colorado: John Wesley Powell, the One-Armed Explorer

Overview

Although John Wesley Powell’s minister father always wanted his son to follow in his footsteps, young Wes had different plans for his future. Enraptured by the wonders of the natural world, he was determined to take the path of science. Even after losing his right arm below the elbow in battle during the Civil War, Wes would not be deterred from his dream of leading the first scientific expedition down the Colorado River and through the Grand Canyon. Braving treacherous rapids and perilous waterfalls, Major ...

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Overview

Although John Wesley Powell’s minister father always wanted his son to follow in his footsteps, young Wes had different plans for his future. Enraptured by the wonders of the natural world, he was determined to take the path of science. Even after losing his right arm below the elbow in battle during the Civil War, Wes would not be deterred from his dream of leading the first scientific expedition down the Colorado River and through the Grand Canyon. Braving treacherous rapids and perilous waterfalls, Major Powell would surpass all expectations and return home a national hero.
 
With breathtaking illustrations and excerpts from Powell’s own journals, Deborah Kogan Ray brings to vivid life the exploits and explorations of one of America’s greatest conservationists.
 

Down the Colorado is a 2008 Bank Street - Best Children's Book of the Year.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

“Stunning . . . An exciting adventure story and an instructive account of the exploration of the West.”—Booklist

"An exciting, page-turning adventure."—Starred, School Library Journal

Children's Literature - Phyllis Kennemer
Powell's early life is summarized in the first few pages. Realistic, full-color illustrations face each page of text describing his birth and early childhood, his hands-on education with naturalist George Crookham, his family's moves westward, his beginning teaching experiences, and his service with the Union Army during the Civil War. A mine ball struck his wrist during the Battle of Shiloh, resulting in the amputation of his right arm. After he recovered, Powell and his wife Emma took a group of college students to explore the Rocky Mountains. When Powell heard about the unexplored canyon lands of the Colorado River, he was determined to explore them. He spent two years planning the expedition and recruiting his crew. The journey began in 1869 when Powell, accompanied by nine trusted men, set out from Green River in Wyoming Territory. The major successes and set-backs are described and the successful completion of the trip is celebrated. A map with dates listed for the sites mentioned in the text and a timeline of the trip add clarity. Also included are an Author's Note, a Chronology of Powell's life, and a Bibliography of sources. This picture book biography is packed with information accessible to young researchers.
School Library Journal

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 ChichinskiCopyright 2006 Reed Business Information.

Kirkus Reviews
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)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780374318383
  • Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux
  • Publication date: 10/16/2007
  • Edition description: First Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 48
  • Sales rank: 1,453,666
  • Age range: 8 - 10 Years
  • Lexile: NC1070L (what's this?)
  • Product dimensions: 9.86 (w) x 11.28 (h) x 0.43 (d)

Meet the Author

DEBORAH KOGAN RAY is an award-winning author and illustrator of children's books, including The Flower Hunter, an NSTA-CBC Outstanding Science Trade Book for Children, and To Go Singing through the World: The Childhood of Pablo Neruda. She lives outside Philadelphia in Wyndmoor, Pennsylvania.

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