Review of Wildheart: The Daring Adventures of John Muir

Wildheart: The Daring Adventures of John Muir
by Julie Bertagna; illus. by William Goldsmith
Intermediate, Middle School    Yosemite Conservancy    128 pp.
3/19    978-1-930238-94-7    $17.99

This creatively rendered biography-in-comics-format of John Muir (1838–1914) is filled with the naturalist’s adventures, from his childhood in Scotland to his pioneering conservation work and formation of America’s National Parks. Muir’s imagined voice serves as narrator, sometimes in asides at the top of comic panels, sometimes within the panels themselves, reminiscing from his later years about the major events of his impressive life. In the first few chapters, a portrait of an energetic and curious boy emerges: “I was sent to school when I was three years old…But the world outside was my real school.” As he grows older and his family immigrates to America, we meet the creative inventor and restless traveler, experiencing danger and drama on expeditions to Yosemite and Alaska, and domesticity for a few years as he marries and has children. The final chapters give us Muir the famous gray-bearded conservationist, co-founder of the Sierra Club and friend to Teddy Roosevelt, as he advocates for the National Parks and protection of the environment. “I’ll follow my heart till the end of my days, and seek the wild spirit of the world.” Illustrator Goldsmith’s Muir is a feisty character, portrayed in loose pencil sketches with one or two accent colors in the comic panels. Vibrant spreads in the chapter transitions and interludes capture the stunning landscapes in which Muir found his purpose. A timeline, a glossary, sources, and a “Parks Are for You” page are included among the back matter.

From the May/June 2019 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.
Danielle J. Ford
Danielle J. Ford
Danielle J. Ford is a Horn Book reviewer and an associate professor of Science Education at the University of Delaware.

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