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The Buffalo Are Back Hardcover – May 31, 2011
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From School Library Journal
Grade 2-5 This picture book is a hybrid of nonfiction and fiction, as George tells the story of how the buffalo made a comeback in the American Midwest after being nearly decimated in the late 1800s. Beginning with the symbiotic relationship that the buffalo had with the American Indians and the land itself, she goes on to explain how westward expansion and poor decision-making on the part of the American government led to the animals' near extinction. As a result of those actions, the land became barren and inhospitable to any real crop growth, which contributed to the dust storms of the 1930s. With care and protection by a few key individuals, the native grasses and the buffalo were able to make a renaissance, bringing their numbers back up. Eloquent and affecting, the writing transports readers onto the plains and into the past, making the devastation sobering and real. And when the resurgence of both the buffalo and the land is described, it is with jubilation and relief. Accompanied by beautiful, single- or double-page watercolor illustrations that are rich with detail, the prairie comes to life. Excellent for sharing aloud with a group, this title provides a unique perspective on an integral time in American history. A must-have for most libraries. Jody Kopple, Shady Hill School, Cambridge, MA
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
Reminiscent of George and Minor's The Wolves Are Back (2008), this handsome book discusses the history of the buffalo on the American plains. Succinctly and gracefully written, it envisions the centuries when Indians carefully managed the land, using the buffalo for food, shelter, and clothing. In the 1800s, government policies brought about the destruction of the tall-grass prairie, the shooting of the American buffalo, and the end of the Plains Indians' traditional way of life. In the early twentieth century, Teddy Roosevelt facilitated efforts to protect the few remaining buffalo. After the 1930s Dust Bowl, farming methods were changed and, eventually, some prairie lands were replanted with native grasses, enabling the return of many buffalo to prairie preserves. The book concludes with a few of the illustrator's sources as well as a list of places to visit in person or online, but no sources for the text, even for the quote from Chief Sitting Bull. Illustrated with beautiful landscape paintings and striking close-ups of people and animals, this book offers a very effective presentation of the buffalo's story. Grades 3-5. --Carolyn Phelan --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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In some ways, THE BUFFALO ARE BACK feels like an even more important story. Perhaps, to me, such feelings come from those unforgettable Dorothea Lange images stuck in my head that put such a human face on the tragedy of the Dust Bowl. Perhaps it's the savage accounts I've read about the government-led genocide. Whatever the case, the history story that the dynamic duo share this time around reveals how the destruction of the balanced prairie ecosystem involving the buffalo, the native grasses, and the American Indians led to billions of grasshoppers and the Dust Bowl.
Beyond showing how 'the great plow-up' had been such an ecological disaster, THE BUFFALO ARE BACK goes on to explain how the buffalo were eventually brought back from the brink of extinction, how contour plowing has made a difference, and how a search for tiny stands of native grasses in places like graveyards, old railroad beds, and the like, has provided the opportunity to gather their seed and reintroduce the native specie into the prairie ecosystem.
Again, the failure to learn such lessons of science and history could leave us planet-less.
There were hints of disaster when the "white fur hunters" came to the plains to needlessly attack the buffalo. The Indians were forced to leave and would no longer be nourishing the soils and the "sharp hooves [that] helped rainwater reach into the soil" were gone. The natural cycle of the Great Plains had been disturbed and misfortune would soon visit the land. The grasses were exchanged for shallow rooted crops and by the 1930s the land rebelled and catastrophe in the form of locust plagues and drought arrived. The little orange calves were all but gone. Could anyone help the land? Would the buffalo ever return to the Great Plains or would they be lost forever?
This is a heartwarming story of how the buffalo returned to the Great Plains. Part of the strength of this story is that it is presented in a picture book format which made it very accessible and appealing. The story is well written and the research is excellent. The tale flows very nicely and the artwork meshes perfectly as it swirls through these pages telling us the tale in pictures. Young people who have read the Little House on the Prairie series will be remember the description of the locust's arrival on the plains when they see clouds of them over the fields as the men down below try to keep them from eating their crops. In the back of the book there are book references to explore and a list of places where the buffalo continue to roam.