Review: Bob Marshall: Defender of the Wilderness

Bob Marshall: Defender of the Wilderness

by Linda Elovitz Marshall, illustrated by Jeanne Bowman

South Dakota Historical Society Press, 2023

Category: Picture Books
Reviewer: Stacey Rattner

As a very aspiring 46er (41 peaks to go), I am embarrassed to say that I had never heard of Bob Marshall. How wonderful to learn about this man who, in only 38 years of his life, did so much to preserve wilderness in our country. One of the peaks is his namesake. I look forward to reaching that summit and declaring to all who want to know that it is named after a Jewish man!

Bob was born in New York City but visited the Adirondacks with his family in the summer. He and his brothers explored, took notes and played “Lewis and Clark” among the peaks. As an adult, Bob worked hard to ensure that wilderness areas were preserved and could be utilized by all, regardless of race or religion.

Since this is a picture book biography, the illustrations play a significant role with the text. They compliment each other well. I especially loved the depictions of the lush and sprawling Adirondack peaks, the black and white sketches from Bob’s journal and the final spread of the sun setting behind the mountain range.

I love learning about new people who made a difference. Bob Marshall is one of them. Bob took it upon himself to save the forests and wilderness areas when industrialization and urbanization were moving in. I imagine that when this book is read aloud many great discussions will ensue about how far we have come along and yet how much more we still have to do to preserve the land in our country. The book also includes an afterword, timeline, and bibliography that this intrigued librarian surely appreciated.

The story begins by telling the readers that Bob Marshall was born into a “German-Jewish family.” Bob’s faith was mentioned again in the book when Bob discovered that segregation and discrimination occurred in the wilderness. He felt like he could relate because he was Jewish, and worked to make the forests open to all. Bob’s religion does not play a major role in the book, taking it off the strong contender list for a Sydney Taylor Book Award. However, Jewish kids young and young at heart (like myself) will feel a connection to Bob and become curious about his legacy. I dug deeper into his story and bet kids will want to as well. I mean, how cool is it to have a high peak named after him! 
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Reviewer Stacey “Leaping Librarian” Rattner is an elementary school librarian in upstate New York. In addition to leaping, she loves to run, travel, hike (especially the Adirondacks and Catskill Mountains), drink coffee, hang with family and of course, read. Stacey is also the co-host of the middle grade YouTube quiz show, Author Fan Face-off with author Steve Sheinkin. Over 40 years ago, Stacey met her BFF at Camp Ramah in the Berkshires.