Strange Creatures by Lita Judge

51uy-bokd9l_sl500_aa300_Lynn:  My family are zoo and museum-addicts.  I freely admit it and will further admit that we have sometimes eschewed a famous site or two for the pleasure of going to yet another zoo or crazy museum.  So I was instantly drawn to Strange Creatures:  The Story of Walter Rothschild and His Museum (Disney/Hyperion 2011).  The obsession with nature takes a pretty straight shot down our family tree and that wide-eyed boy on the cover could be any of my sons or grandsons and I suspect that it could be a large number of young readers everywhere.

Walter Rothschild was one of those kids who was obsessed with nature.  Shy and lonely, Walter spent his days collecting “bugs, birds and animals.”  Walter’s father disapproved.  He thought a proper Rothschild should be learning to work in a bank!  Yes, Walter was one of THOSE Rothschilds and he was not only determined to build his own museum but he also had quite an allowance!  The first thing he bought was a kangaroo and before long a lot of other exotic animals were running around the yard.  Although he did join his father’s banking business, Walter kept pursuing his dream of studying and collecting nature.  By the time he was 24, Walter’s father gave him land on the estate to construct a building for his collections and Walter really did open his own museum.  Funding expeditions, discovering and naming over 5000 new species and writing over 1200 books and papers during his lifetime, Walter changed the world’s understanding of nature.

Judge’s charming watercolor illustrations will captivate young nature lovers and the large size and bright tones make this a great story-hour book.  An interesting author’s note tells about how our approach to studying nature has changed since Walter’s day and can lead to some fascinating discussions with youngsters.

While I love this book, I’ll admit to hesitating a bit before sharing it with our focus group.  We have a 24-hour release rule in our house for all the critters that get caught and brought home in jars and buckets.  I wasn’t sure I wanted to give the boys any more ammunition in their arsenal of arguments about starting the Rutan Natural History Museum in my kitchen!

walter-rothschild-zebra-cart_14226_1Cindy: Who can resist this cover? Or the story of a child who followed his passion and started his own museum at the age of seven? This is a perfect story for Lita Judge to tell and illustrate given her childhood of helping her grandparents with their ornithology study. The illustrations have lots of delights awaiting the careful eye…my favorite scene might be young Walter’s bedroom with live animals and specimins everywhere. Budding young curators will want to visit the links given for places where Rothschild’s collection are still housed including The Natural History Museum at Tring (note: the website address in the book has a typo, but this link will get you there).  And the history of the Rothschild collection and the man is here, including a video that shows his vast collections. Judge includes an illustration of Walter’s zebra-pulled cart, but I found a photograph of the real thing at the Tring website. Zoo and Museum history is fascinating and this story just begs for a middle school biography.

nonfiction_mondayVisit today’s Nonfiction Monday round up at today’s host site, proseandkahn.



About the Author:

Cindy Dobrez and Lynn Rutan are Booklist reviewers and middle-school librarians who have chaired both ALA’s Best Books for Young Adults and the Michael L. Printz Award for YA Literature committees. Follow Bookends on Twitter at @BookendsBlog. You can also find Cindy at @cdobrez and Lynn at @482april.

1 Comment on "Strange Creatures by Lita Judge"

Trackback | Comments RSS Feed

  1.' Roberta says:

    This book sounds fascinating. And I agree with Cindy, the story would be perfect for a biography for older children.

Post a Comment