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Review of Champion: The Comeback of the 

American Chestnut Tree

Champion: The Comeback of the 

American Chestnut Tree
by Sally M. Walker
Intermediate, Middle School    Holt    136 pp.
3/18    978-1-250-12523-1    $17.99
e-book ed.  978-1-250-12524-8    $9.99

The American chestnut tree once dotted the landscape in the eastern United States, but a mysterious blight began to wipe the trees out in the early twentieth century due to a fungus accidentally imported with Japanese and Chinese chestnut trees. The first line of defense was to inoculate the trees with a vaccine developed from the resistant trees, but more recently, scientists have turned their attention to “backcross breeding” the various chestnut tree strains. With both historical and contemporary black-and-white photographs (which are somewhat muddy; an eight-page color insert is more eye-pleasing), occasional maps, and sidebar digressions into scientific concepts, this book seamlessly incorporates both history and science — as many of Walker’s books do (Frozen Secrets, rev. 11/10; Blizzard of Glass, rev. 11/11; Their Skeletons Speak, rev. 11/12; among many others). Walker reveals her personal connection to this subject in an appended author’s note: for a high school project she was required to use leaves from any number of trees — except for the American chestnut, her father’s favorite, which the teacher mistakenly described as extinct. Other back matter includes source notes, glossary, index, and four appendices.

From the May/June 2018 issue of The Horn Book Magazine: Special Issue: Making a Difference.

About Jonathan Hunt

Jonathan Hunt is the coordinator of library media services at the San Diego County Office of Education.

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