Cover image for Thunder on the plains : the story of the American buffalo
Thunder on the plains : the story of the American buffalo
Robbins, Ken.
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
New York : Atheneum Books for Young Readers, 2001.
Physical Description:
1 volume (unpaged) : color illustrations ; 21 cm
A brief introduction to the history of the American buffalo and how it was almost hunted into extinction.
Reading Level:
850 Lexile.
Program Information:
Accelerated Reader AR MG 5.7 0.5 47344.

Reading Counts RC 3-5 4.9 3 Quiz: 23972 Guided reading level: NR.
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
QL737.U53 R58 2001 Juvenile Non-Fiction Childrens Area
QL737.U53 R58 2001 Juvenile Non-Fiction Open Shelf
QL737.U53 R58 2001 Juvenile Non-Fiction Open Shelf
QL737.U53 R58 2001 Juvenile Non-Fiction Open Shelf
QL737.U53 R58 2001 Juvenile Non-Fiction Open Shelf

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Ken Robbins tells in words and historical photographs the amazing yet tragic story of a magnificent and truly American creature: the buffalo. It is the story of numbers so vast, it might take days for one herd of buffalo to pass a particular point on the prairie. It is the story of a harmonious, balanced relationship with Native Americans who revered and even worshiped the huge animals that gave them almost everything they needed to survive. And it is the sad story of how, in as little as twenty-five years, reckless and wasteful slaughter at the hands of newly-arrived settlers drove the buffalo to the very brink of extinction. But luckily the story has a somewhat happy ending. The destruction was halted and the number of buffalo has risen again, although the days when a stampeding herd made a sound like thunder on the plains are probably gone forever.

Author Notes

Ken Robbins was born in Brooklyn, New York in 1945. He graduated from Cornell University in 1967. He worked as a book editor at Doubleday before becoming a children's book author and photographer. He wrote and illustrated more than 20 children's books including Pumpkins, Apples, and Earth. He primarily took photographs of scenery and still lifes. His photographs were reproduced on book jackets, record album covers, and in magazines including the cover of Time. They were also collected in books including The Hamptons Suite. He died on March 9, 2017 at the age of 71.

(Bowker Author Biography)

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

Gr. 3^-5. Robbins takes a look at an American icon and its place in the history of our country. Illustrations are plentiful and varied, including tinted photos and reproductions of historical prints showing the animals and the plains where they roamed in the nineteenth century. Unfortunately the tint isn't uniformly attractive: it's sometimes too green or too yellow. What's more, the pictures aren't captioned, so children must flip to the back of the book to verify what they're actually seeing. The text, however, is casual, informative, and smoothly written. It lucidly explains how the Indian peoples' dependence on the buffalo was threatened by unthinking--sometimes deliberately cruel--pioneers moving west, who nearly caused the great beast's extinction: "In 1875 there were perhaps fifty million of them. Just twenty-five years later nearly every one of them was gone." No notes. --Stephanie Zvirin

Publisher's Weekly Review

Robbins (Trucks) briefly traces the history of the American buffalo from 1875, when "there were perhaps fifty million of them," to the present, in which laws protect the surviving 200,000. "This is the story of a great shaggy creature, a very American beast, one found here and nowhere else," he begins. From the days when its distant ancestors crossed a long-vanished land bridge from Asia to Alaska, through its heyday on the Western plains and on to near-extinction by the early 1900s with the arrival of the white man, Robbins concisely and clearly charts the animal's evolution. He contrasts the attitudes of the newly arrived Europeans (who shot buffalo for their tongues and hides alone, or shot them from aboard trains "for fun") with Native Americans, who used every part of the buffalo for food, clothing, shelter and vital implements. Robbins supplements the text with a herd of dramatic images including a colorized archival photo of a man standing atop a veritable mountain of buffalo skulls, a painting of a brave hunting a buffalo with bow and arrow as well as his own photographs of a buffalo-head nickel and present-day buffalo grazing in Oklahoma. Ages 7-10. (Feb.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

School Library Journal Review

Gr 2-5-A moving tale of tragedy and recovery. In 1875, there were about 50 million bison thundering on the American plains. By 1910, only 500 remained. With so few left, they finally came under the protection of the U.S. government. In this chapterless text, set amid full-page illustrations and photographs, Robbins provides some background information and history on the animal before and after the arrival of Europeans. He tracks the dramatic decrease in population and recounts efforts made to restore these animals to our landscape. The author estimates that there are 200,000 bison living today and notes that they are no longer on the list of endangered animals. Quality period reproductions or photographs (some hand-tinted) illustrate most pages. One poignant shot depicts a mountain of bison skulls; another has a man sitting on a mound of hides. This book covers some of the same ground as Russell Freedman's Buffalo Hunt (Holiday, 1988), but is geared to a slightly younger audience.- Anne Chapman Callaghan, Racine Public Library, WI (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.