Posted by Rebecca G. Aguilar, M.Ed. on March 10, 2015
John Muir Wrestles a Waterfall
By Julie Danneberg; Illustrated By Jamie Hogan
Publication date: 3/10/2015
Environmentalist John Muir climbs a steep trail alongside the 1,425-foot drop of Yosemite Falls in John Muir Wrestles a Waterfall, a newly released picture book from Charlesbridge. Powerful pastel pencil illustrations by Jamie Hogan accompany Julie Danneberg’s captivating narration of an exhilarating moment in the life of the celebrated founder of the Sierra Club.
The book’s back matter contains a satisfying author’s note, titled “John Muir’s Yosemite.” Here, the author writes that the same riveting story portrayed in the book was published in an essay by Muir, who lived and wrote in San Francisco and spent most of five years in Yosemite Valley. He combined a knack for science exploration and mountain guiding with an ability to tell a good story by writing newspaper articles and essays of his adventures.
Danneberg’s research surfaced the essay describing Muir’s waterfall ascent to Fern Ledge and how he was uplifted, not crushed, by the April 3, 1871 incident. Muir’s writing showed a desire to preserve America’s wilderness that resonated with readers. President Theodore Roosevelt responded, too, and after a camp trip visit with Muir in 1903, he would later be inspired to set aside millions of acres as national parks.
The author’s note also explains how Yosemite Falls is a temporal waterfall, running between early April and summer, when melted snow from the Sierra Nevada feeds Yosemite Creek. Danneberg writes that the waterfall’s drop is as tall as two stacked Empire State Buildings.
The story in John Muir Wrestles a Waterfall builds as the wind shifts and the curtain of water drops, pinning Muir behind the powerful waterfall. Hogan’s illustrations capture historically accurate details as well as the drama of the story. Taking a cue from concrete poetry, Danneberg’s creative line breaks and moving adjectives build a visual for a waterfall.
“Suddenly a strong breeze lifts the heavy curtain
of water away from the hard granite wall. Quickly, John scoots behind the
A highly recommended addition to a school library, John Muir Wrestles a Waterfall is an inspiring picture book tribute to Muir’s legacy of preserving beautiful and wild places like Yosemite Falls.
Julie Danneberg, a teacher in Denver, is also the author of Monet Paints a Day, Cowboy Slim and Mrs. Hartwell’s Classroom Adventures series.
Jamie Hogan teaches illustration at Maine College of Art and is the award-winning author of Rickshaw Girl, A Warmer World and Here Comes the Humpbacks!
Charlesbridge publishes high-quality books of fiction and nonfiction for children with the goal of creating lifelong readers and lifelong learners.
Category: Biography, Natural History