Cover Image: Mr. Robert’s Madagascar

Mr. Robert’s Madagascar

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Member Reviews

Before encountering this book, I’d never wondered about European first contact with the inhabitants of Madagascar, nor had I ever heard of Diogo Dias, a Portuguese explorer who accidentally found himself there in 1500. During stormy weather, the ship he captained was separated from a fleet that was headed towards Asia. The sails were tattered; Dias’s men were falling ill and dying from scurvy; and the ship’s water supply was dangerously low. Going ashore was apparently a matter of life or death.

Robert Bullock has created an attractive children’s nonfiction book, which presents Dias’s (imagined) journal about Madagascar. The author’s focus is the flora and fauna of the island, but there are some references to physical features as well. There are wonderful watercolour, pencil-crayon, and India-ink drawings of the animals Dias and some of his crew encountered. Also included are text boxes/sidebars, “curator’s notes,” providing extra information about animals’ features and informing young readers about current wildlife status. Some sidebars explain Portuguese measurements of the time, converting them to imperial and metric units. Every few pages there are suggested “interactive challenge” questions for an adult to pose to children. Overall, I don’t think these questions add much value.

Unfortunately, there are some very big problems with this book. First of all, there’s the matter of the font. Dias’s logbook is presented in an elaborate italic script, apparently to give the text a late-fifteenth-/early-sixteenth-century look. Many students nowadays struggle to decipher even clear, well-formed cursive, which is no longer formally taught. I have no doubt most kids would find the font in this book difficult to read. Second, most of Bullock’s vocabulary is too sophisticated for the intended audience. There is a glossary, but it’s limited. The words abaft, flux (as in dysentery), tack (as in sailing), forthwith, elliptical, and configuration —among many others—aren’t included in it. Some words are anachronistically employed. Reading the word “okay”—coined in the 1800s—or “bug”—first used in the 1600s—is jarring in a text that strives to create the impression of historical authenticity. The biggest problem, though, is the sheer number of malapropisms and word-choice errors: “birth” instead of the correct <i>berth</i>; “interceded” when <i>intervened</i> is meant; “terrorized” rather than <i>terrified.</i> Monstrous is spelled incorrectly (monsterous) throughout, even in the glossary. Was there even a copy editor?

I seldom encounter this many errors in a review copy. I do hope they’ll be corrected before publication, but I’m doubtful. I think the author had a great idea here, but the execution is wanting. Based on what I read I’m sorry to say I cannot recommend this book.

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Interesting book! I enjoyed learning more about Madagascar but found the format lacking. It's presented as journal entries with sketches and details, and I found myself wishing that the facts were presented as such with photos. The illustrations and the facts felt out of context with each other.

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Hmmm… A curate's egg and no mistake, this aims to do several things – introduce us to the land and wildlife of Madagascar, and get us interested in both, and to re-represent a logbook of one of Vasco da Gama's captains. It seems to want a sense of adventure from ye olde texts, and to fashion a fiction book out of nature notes and vice versa. But despite the island being a kind of last-chance saloon for thirsty, ill sailors there is not that much in the way of adventure, and the narrative that speeds us from seeing this moth to that bird and then to that large mammal, however close to the original, never felt a really necessary approach, even with some basic knowledge of how pupils learn in entirely different ways from each other.

What's more it's presented awkwardly – a mass of coordinates and sailorly things early on is followed by no consistency in whether it is the English or Portuguese units of distance that are used, even if they are pretty much identical. And there are several potential readers, certainly not just the dyslexic and those with other issues, who would actually have appreciated an indication of why "from" was being abbreviated to "fm".

It's not a dreadful book, but when the sailors eventually drift away without a by your leave it shows once again the pretence of making a narrative out of it all was a waste of time. And I would still say a modern-looking nature book would serve more people better than this reproduction-style effort, however great the artwork. Surely the environmental problems these endemic creatures face deserves something more immediate than a book angling for the 'what could it have been like to have seen these for the first time' shtick?

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Thank you NetGalley and Robert Bullock Through Blurb, Independent Book Publishers Association (IBPA), Members' Titles for accepting my request to read and review Mr. Robert's Madagascar A Tale of a Lost World—A Wilderness Habitat Discovery Journal, Book Four.

Author: Robert Bullock
Published: 02/26/22
Genre: Children's Nonfiction | History | Outdoors & Nature

Absolutely want this in a physical copy. I loved everything about this but it being an E-book. I wanted to touch the pages, turn the book sideways, and hold one spot while flipping to another. I loved the interaction, the clues and the Curator Notes. The illustrations are spot-on with my mind.

This felt like a game more than a book. While I do believe it would be better with a caring adult or even a sibling, this can be experienced alone.

Well done Mr. Bullock.

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I would give this book 3.5 stars, because it’s a very cute book for the kids, but not much different information about Madagascar. I guess my expectations were different and I was hoping for more variety

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This wonderful little book is a sneak peek into the ship logbook of Diogo Dias - Portuguese explorer, captain & the first European to sight Madagascar and explore all of its curiosities.

The book is almost like the captains diary, documenting what happened on their journey and what discoveries they made when exploring the island.

Each entry included a little animal fact file, alongside beautiful illustrations.

This is a great book to introduce children to the terms like 'endemic' and 'endangered'.

Teaches children about a range of species including birds, mammals, marine mammals, fish, trees, and insects.

An overall lovely book. Thank you to NetGalley for the review copy

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This is a very beautiful book. Wonderful illustrations and great information

Would make a great present for kids (and some adults)

This book way exceeded my expectation. It's beautiful. Highly recommend

Thank you to the publisher and NetGalley for granting me a free ecopy for review purposes.

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