Bertagna, Julie. Wildheart: The Daring Adventures of John Muir. William Goldsmith, Illus. Graphic novel. Yosemite Conservancy, 03/2019. 128pp. $17.99. 978-1-930238-94-7. HIGH ADDITIONAL. GRADES 3-6.
This graphic novel biography by Julie Bertagna introduces middle grade readers to conservationist John Muir. With an engaging narrative woven together from the highlights of a long, adventurous life, readers follow John Muir from childhood in Scotland through his storied life in America and beyond to the legacy that he leaves behind. With nine clearly defined chapters, each illustrated in a different limited color palette, Bertagna sprinkles direct quotes from Muir along with adaptations of his writing throughout the text and includes a timeline, glossary, and sources reference to create a successful introduction to the subject. Conversely, Goldsmith’s simplistic cartooning style fails to capture the beauty of nature as described by Muir, and further, many characters, lacking detailed features, look quite similar—creating a potential for confusion among young readers. In what feels like a somewhat lazy effort to prevent this issue, a visual guide to key characters is introduced in the book’s first pages. What’s more, another small flaw appears when comparing the dated timeline to the narrative presented. Readers may notice slight differences in chronology, all adding up to a smoother storytelling experience. This book has California-specific content.
Diana Learned, San Jose Public Library