The American Bison: The Buffalo’s Survival Tale

First Second. (History Comics). Jun. 2021. 128p. Tr $19.99. ISBN 9781250265838; pap. $12.99. ISBN 9781250265821.
Gr 4-6–In tribute to conservationists and others who “bent history away from the worst,” Hirsch extends his sad tale of the near disappearance of bison from the North American continent to describe in some detail how private ranchers, organizations like the American Bison Society and the InterTribal Buffalo Council, and one zoo preserved remnants of the once-mighty herds into the 20th and 21st centuries. The artist adds immediacy to his account with graphic (sometimes in both senses of the term) cartoon scenes of prehistoric and later hunters, massacres leaving rolling hills covered in skinned carcasses, historical figures who played significant roles in the saga, and throughout, great woolly beasts with, more often than not, friendly or confused expressions. Pointing out that since today more than 90 percent of all bison are “market bison,” commercially raised for food, their wild cousins are still vulnerable, Hirsch ends with the 2005 release of a small herd in Montana by the American Prairie Reserve and the conclusion that “It’s a good start.” Readers inspired to dive more deeply into the causes and course of this dramatic rescue should consult the short list of contemporary documents at the end, or seek out Albert Marrin’s Saving the Buffalo, which features period illustrations.
VERDICT Young animal lovers and eco-activists alike will be moved by this wrenching but ultimately hopeful case study.

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