Written by Ilona E Holland
National Geographic Children's Books, Feb. 2016
Christopher wants nothing more than to see a bison in “Buddy Bison’s Yellowstone Adventure.” On a flip of his favorite bison nickel, his twin Elena gets to decide where they’ll go on their day at Yellowstone with Aunt Rosa, a park ranger. She picks the hot springs. When their aunt investigates a report of injured birds, the twins get into a little trouble. Christopher wanders off. Buddy Bison, a plush toy clipped to Elena’s backpack, comes to life. He helps Elena search for Christopher, but he disappears as soon as they find Christopher taking photographs of a thermal spring. Before their visit to Yellowstone ends, the twins come upon bison grazing and Christopher gets his wish.
National Geographic published this picture book as part of a yearlong public education campaign to mark the 100th anniversary of the founding of the National Park Service. While the book offers beautiful photographs and many interesting facts about Yellowstone National Park, National Geographic would have been better served to hire a nonfiction children’s author instead of an academic to write the book. The story is very thin and unsatisfying to the reader. Although most of the story is realistic, Elena’s plush toy animal suddenly turns into a real bison. Is this her imagination? Is it real? The reader never finds out. Instead the bison disappears as quickly as it appeared.
On the other hand, Elena’s journal page and Christopher’s photos at the back of the book are clever additions. The afterward also includes a map of Yellowstone, a short history of the park, park preservation tips, an interesting story about how hot springs are vital to bison surviving the harsh winters of Yellowstone, and a list of books and websites for further study.
About the Author:
Ilona E. Holland is on the leadership council of the National Park Trust. She holds an Ed.D. and Ed.M. from Harvard University's Graduate School of Education, a M.Ed from University of Delaware and a B.A. from Swarthmore College. Dr. Holland was a Lecturer on Education at Harvard's Graduate School of Education and a Senior Advisor for Academic Affairs and Instructional Design at Children's Hospital in Boston. She has served as an evaluator of educational technology projects and she was part of the creative team for the PBS Emmy Award-winning Word Girl.