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Nathan Hale's Hazardous Tales: Major Impossible

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The ninth book in the bestselling series tells the story of John Wesley Powell, the one-armed geologist who explored the Grand Canyon John Wesley Powell (1834–1902) always had the spirit of adventure in him. As a young man, he traveled all over the United States exploring. When the Civil War began, Powell went to fight for the Union, and even after he lost most of his The ninth book in the bestselling series tells the story of John Wesley Powell, the one-armed geologist who explored the Grand Canyon John Wesley Powell (1834–1902) always had the spirit of adventure in him. As a young man, he traveled all over the United States exploring. When the Civil War began, Powell went to fight for the Union, and even after he lost most of his right arm, he continued to fight until the war was over. In 1869 he embarked with the Colorado River Exploring Expedition, ten men in four boats, to float through Grand Canyon. Over the course of three months, the explorers lost their boats and supplies, nearly drowned, and were in peril on multiple occasions. Ten explorers went in, only six came out. Powell would come to be known as one of the most epic explorers in history! Equal parts gruesome and hilarious, this latest installment in the bestselling series takes readers on an action-packed adventure through American history.


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The ninth book in the bestselling series tells the story of John Wesley Powell, the one-armed geologist who explored the Grand Canyon John Wesley Powell (1834–1902) always had the spirit of adventure in him. As a young man, he traveled all over the United States exploring. When the Civil War began, Powell went to fight for the Union, and even after he lost most of his The ninth book in the bestselling series tells the story of John Wesley Powell, the one-armed geologist who explored the Grand Canyon John Wesley Powell (1834–1902) always had the spirit of adventure in him. As a young man, he traveled all over the United States exploring. When the Civil War began, Powell went to fight for the Union, and even after he lost most of his right arm, he continued to fight until the war was over. In 1869 he embarked with the Colorado River Exploring Expedition, ten men in four boats, to float through Grand Canyon. Over the course of three months, the explorers lost their boats and supplies, nearly drowned, and were in peril on multiple occasions. Ten explorers went in, only six came out. Powell would come to be known as one of the most epic explorers in history! Equal parts gruesome and hilarious, this latest installment in the bestselling series takes readers on an action-packed adventure through American history.

30 review for Nathan Hale's Hazardous Tales: Major Impossible

  1. 5 out of 5

    Rod Brown

    Nathan Hale's histories are real treats to read. Here we have the first organized expedition by white men to explore the the Green and Colorado rivers by boat from Wyoming through Utah and the Grand Canyon region of Arizona shortly after the end of the U.S. Civil War. Determined and obsessive guys doing dangerous stuff, presented with humor and thrills aplenty. Side note: This is the 14th book I've read this year to prominently feature an amputee. That's an unexpected trend. And warning, there is Nathan Hale's histories are real treats to read. Here we have the first organized expedition by white men to explore the the Green and Colorado rivers by boat from Wyoming through Utah and the Grand Canyon region of Arizona shortly after the end of the U.S. Civil War. Determined and obsessive guys doing dangerous stuff, presented with humor and thrills aplenty. Side note: This is the 14th book I've read this year to prominently feature an amputee. That's an unexpected trend. And warning, there is a graphic depiction of an amputation surgery.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Mary Thomas

    Another great Nathan Hale book. The amputation scene had my stomach in knots! Now I want to go visit the Grand Canyon.

  3. 4 out of 5

    orangerful

    This might be my new favorite book in the series! Though I was not ready to get that amount of detail about Civil War battlefield amputations in a children's comic, let alone find out that even cartoony drawings of amputations would make my stomach turn. I can't wait to take this one out for booktalks! Also, I kind of want to go to the Grand Canyon now. How have I never been?

  4. 4 out of 5

    Quinn McKeever

    This is a historical graphic novel covering Major John Powell. He goes on an expedition into the Grand Canyon by the river. It also has flashbacks to when he was in the Civil War. There are also narrators to help move the book along, and add jokes too. Overall this was a good book. It was funny, suspenseful, historical, and had lots of action. I recommend it.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Becky B

    Relates the history of Major John Wesley Powell's exploration of the Colorado River, plus flashbacks of his life as a child and Civil War soldier. There's only so much excitement you can relate of exploring a river by boat. It gets a little repetitive in the kinds of trials faced: rapids, wet food and clothes, lost items, disgruntled explorers, and more rapids and more rapids and more wet food. That's not Nathan Hale's fault, it was what Powell and gang experienced. Of course, Powell was a bit of Relates the history of Major John Wesley Powell's exploration of the Colorado River, plus flashbacks of his life as a child and Civil War soldier. There's only so much excitement you can relate of exploring a river by boat. It gets a little repetitive in the kinds of trials faced: rapids, wet food and clothes, lost items, disgruntled explorers, and more rapids and more rapids and more wet food. That's not Nathan Hale's fault, it was what Powell and gang experienced. Of course, Powell was a bit of a crazy character. I can't believe how obsessed he was with getting readings of the highest points near the river. I've hiked in that area of the world, and I can't imagine landing after rowing all day and having your boss tell you to hike a couple thousand feet up (with no pre-laid trail) to see how tall that point over there is. It's kind of amazing he didn't lose anyone to falls, snakes, or dehydration doing that. Powell's past was interesting. It did a good job of relating more of the Union battles in the Southwest area of the Civil War than any of Hale's previous books has. It also really conveyed the horrors of war and being a Confederate prisoner of war better than any other book. (Done without too much gore, more by demonstrating the psychological affect on people.) I liked that Hale had the narrators make sarcastic comments about Powell being the first to explore that area when the Native Americans were obviously there already, planted gardens in areas, etc. It was a clever way of pointing out how Powell may have claimed to have been the first, but he really wasn't. Those who live or vacation in the area where Powell explored will probably find this most interesting, recognizing various locations and knowing why Lake Powell is named that. Hale does a good job at the end of the book of pointing out which areas Powell explored are now underwater (thanks to the Mead dam) or have been renamed. Not my favorite Hazardous Tale, but it does open up various aspects of history to readers that they frequently miss in history books or classes. Notes on content: I think there were just 1 or 2 minor swear words in quotes. No sexual content. There's an amputation shown (clinical surgical procedure steps, not super duper gory but also not for the squeamish). Massive casualties of the Civil War discussed, some shown (but not gorily). The seriousness is mostly conveyed through psychological impact on those who survived and stats of how many didn't survive. No deaths during the exploration. A possible murder of explorers after they left the expedition does come up and other past murders by a settlement possibly responsible is mentioned.

  6. 4 out of 5

    tony dillard jr

    Revolutionary War hero Nathan Hale continues his bloody and gruesome tales of terror from the annals of history! In this edition, Hale crafts a two-era story of one John Wesley Powell. The son of abolitionists, Powell gets his chance to fight against slavery when his joins the Union Army at the beginning of the Civil War. Powell's love of military strategy and history make him an ideal candidate for command which results in the loss of his right arm! For most, the loss of a limb would mean the Revolutionary War hero Nathan Hale continues his bloody and gruesome tales of terror from the annals of history! In this edition, Hale crafts a two-era story of one John Wesley Powell. The son of abolitionists, Powell gets his chance to fight against slavery when his joins the Union Army at the beginning of the Civil War. Powell's love of military strategy and history make him an ideal candidate for command which results in the loss of his right arm! For most, the loss of a limb would mean the end of one's Army career. But for Powell, it only sparks a flame deep within the soldier's soul for more action and adventure. Powell will spend the remaining 2 years of the war as a Major, leading his troops in some of the most deadly fighting in the Civil War. But once peace is declared- that's not the end of John Wesley Powell's thirst for adventure. 4 years after the war between the states, Powell mounts a 10 man expedition through the unexplored portions of the Colorado River. Powell's trek will take several boats through class 4 and 5 rapids. Along the way, the explorers will lose supplies, transportation and lives as only 6 men return to civilization! Major Impossible is perhaps the most different volume of this fan favorite series. For one, a new character from the Colonial Era is introduced while one of the more established characters has a more diminished role. Then we have the frequent time jumps from John Wesley Powell's Civil War career and his post-Army career expedition. Hale's stories often span the decades but they usually go in progression from earliest to later events. Though this was a much different Hazardous Tale, I very much enjoyed this book. And kids aged 8-12 will too! The part of Powell's amputation might be a little intense. Plus, there's one scene that involved a little bit of rear-end nudity. The incident is funny but might be considered a little risque. Such an occurrence has never been in any of the other books. So that was certainly different. With the exception of the nude scene, this is one of the more tamer volumes in the Nathan Hale series. That's okay as I thoroughly enjoyed it. I just hope that we'll have more Hazardous Tales on the horizon sometime soon!

  7. 5 out of 5

    Jeannie

    I'm somewhat disappointed in this one. I live in Southern Utah where John Wesley Powell's story has probably gained more traction than in other parts of the country, and I have had fun recounting the underwear story to students along with the wonder of the Grand Canyon as explored by the Powell expedition. So, it was exciting to see the graphic novel style version and learn a bit more about Powell's Civil War days as well as his exploring days. When I've asked students if they like the book, I'm somewhat disappointed in this one. I live in Southern Utah where John Wesley Powell's story has probably gained more traction than in other parts of the country, and I have had fun recounting the underwear story to students along with the wonder of the Grand Canyon as explored by the Powell expedition. So, it was exciting to see the graphic novel style version and learn a bit more about Powell's Civil War days as well as his exploring days. When I've asked students if they like the book, however, they seem less enthused than I've expected. Now, having read it, I wonder if some of our disappointment is with the aspersions cast on local hero, Jacob Hamblin, known as friend and mediator to the Native Americans. I wish Hale would have ended more with Powell and his later expeditions rather than the mystery of what happened to the two members of the party that left the expedition and whether or not Hamblin was involved in a cover up of murders that may or may not have ever happened.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Christina

    Nathan Hale does a great job of making U.S. history accessible and appealing to young readers. Here he combines the Civil War and the exploration of the Grand Canyon through a biography of Major John Wesley Powell who first surveyed the Colorado River. Once again, the hangman provides comic relief along with a new character, Bill Richmond. The story uses flashbacks to weave the two plot lines together, with transitions helpfully announced by the hangman for readers. He also puts a mustache on Nathan Hale does a great job of making U.S. history accessible and appealing to young readers. Here he combines the Civil War and the exploration of the Grand Canyon through a biography of Major John Wesley Powell who first surveyed the Colorado River. Once again, the hangman provides comic relief along with a new character, Bill Richmond. The story uses flashbacks to weave the two plot lines together, with transitions helpfully announced by the hangman for readers. He also puts a mustache on Powell as a child to help readers remember it’s the same guy. Overall, it’s a good historical story, even if the exploration part gets a bit tedious—a lot of dealing with rapids and running low on supplies. I also thought the way the men were illustrated made them look much older than their 20s, but the text does establish most of their ages anothe 2-color printing is a bit limiting. Bottom line, it’s a good history book about someone I’d never heard of before. I bought this for my nephew for Christmas, and as a fan of the series I think he’ll like it.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Lydia

    The stories of Major John Wesley Powel, both his Civil War exploits and his journey to map the Colorado River through the Grand Canyon.I wanted... more? Major Powel comes off as a bit of a jerk (which could be completely accurate, I haven't read any detailed history about him before), but I like the "heroes" of the book to be more likable. Maybe it was just this whole book felt more agenda/angry? Which made Mr. Hale reach for humor and devolve into anatomy humor (which he hasn't done before in The stories of Major John Wesley Powel, both his Civil War exploits and his journey to map the Colorado River through the Grand Canyon.I wanted... more? Major Powel comes off as a bit of a jerk (which could be completely accurate, I haven't read any detailed history about him before), but I like the "heroes" of the book to be more likable. Maybe it was just this whole book felt more agenda/angry? Which made Mr. Hale reach for humor and devolve into anatomy humor (which he hasn't done before in the HT books that I've read), into more violence (which, he's covered WWI!) and slightly anti-religion. Disappointed! Best part was definitely the mollusks! Content notes: Mild swearing. A naked man is shown from behind and wordplay on "buttes". A lot of perilous moments in the river, though everyone makes it out; Civil War scenes show a field of dead bodies, an injury to an arm that is shown in red, details an amputation (like a medical play by play detailed), and a POW camp with very bad conditions with men frequently dying of starvation/disease/exposure.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Edy Gies

    Nathan Hale knocks another one out of the park! The daring adventures of Powell are most often left out of history books, but this book brings excitement and intrigue to the story. I was particularly interested in this considering I am planning a hike into the canyon in a few months and appreciated learning about Powell and his exploration. There was one part that I found obnoxious. Hangman notes that his ancestors were probably awful people. My son read this with the idea that Hangman's Nathan Hale knocks another one out of the park! The daring adventures of Powell are most often left out of history books, but this book brings excitement and intrigue to the story. I was particularly interested in this considering I am planning a hike into the canyon in a few months and appreciated learning about Powell and his exploration. There was one part that I found obnoxious. Hangman notes that his ancestors were probably awful people. My son read this with the idea that Hangman's ancestors were probably also executioners, but I read that they were English. Not sure which interpretation is correct, but as someone of English descent, I am proud of my ancestors and what they accomplished. I am also willing to note their failings and prejudices and how those still tear and divide the world today but I won't be ashamed. Overall, despite that one failing, I found the book to be quite enjoyable and look forward to more in this series.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Bill

    Like the previous books in the graphic novel series "Nathan Hale's Hazardous Tales", this story is an odd but compelling mix of American history, humor, and horror. The occasionally crude humor (including a few "butte" jokes that are unavoidable when discussing the exploration of the Grand Canyon) provides much-needed relief from the depictions of the brutality of war. Flashing back to John Wesley Powell's time in the Civil War, Hale doesn't shy away from graphically illustrating the horrors of Like the previous books in the graphic novel series "Nathan Hale's Hazardous Tales", this story is an odd but compelling mix of American history, humor, and horror. The occasionally crude humor (including a few "butte" jokes that are unavoidable when discussing the exploration of the Grand Canyon) provides much-needed relief from the depictions of the brutality of war. Flashing back to John Wesley Powell's time in the Civil War, Hale doesn't shy away from graphically illustrating the horrors of battlefield amputation, or Confederate prisoner of war camps. Those flashbacks contrast well with the difficult but comparatively peaceful exploration of the Colorado River later in Powell's life. I probably would have read this book a few dozen times if I had it while growing up, but I think I'd skip that amputation bit each time.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Joseph R.

    John Wesley Powell was the son of an abolitionist preacher. John grew up more interested in science than preaching. He served in the Union Army during the American Civil War, during which he lost his right arm. He became an explorer after the war. He went out west and in 1869 formed the Colorado River Exploring Expedition. He had ten men and four boats that went down the Colorado River through what is now known as the Grand Canyon. The river adventure is the main story; his earlier life and John Wesley Powell was the son of an abolitionist preacher. John grew up more interested in science than preaching. He served in the Union Army during the American Civil War, during which he lost his right arm. He became an explorer after the war. He went out west and in 1869 formed the Colorado River Exploring Expedition. He had ten men and four boats that went down the Colorado River through what is now known as the Grand Canyon. The river adventure is the main story; his earlier life and military service make up a secondary story. Both stories are interesting and he is a little known character from American history. As usual, Hale does a great job blending historical accuracy with some good comedy, making this yet another fun read. Recommended.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Jenn O'Brien

    This book did exactly what it should. It spurred me on to action to look up more information about John Wesley Powell and the Colorado Expedition. I was fascinated by the tale of the men and their journey to explore the Green and Colorado rivers and the Grand Canyon. It is too bad this book did not release earlier in the year to coincide with the Grand Canyon Centennial. I know the author wanted to fill in the background of Powell as a man, which was educational, but less interesting (in my This book did exactly what it should. It spurred me on to action to look up more information about John Wesley Powell and the Colorado Expedition. I was fascinated by the tale of the men and their journey to explore the Green and Colorado rivers and the Grand Canyon. It is too bad this book did not release earlier in the year to coincide with the Grand Canyon Centennial. I know the author wanted to fill in the background of Powell as a man, which was educational, but less interesting (in my opinion) than the river adventure. Like the majority of the Hazardous Tales series, this one was fun, interesting, and educational.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Sesana

    I didn't care for the split timeline Hale used here. I think it's because he didn't have quite enough material with just Powell's expedition to fill out a normal book in this series, so he needed to pad it, a lot, with a bunch of stuff from his early life that just wouldn't make the cut normally. Even the actual expedition parts felt padded for this series. Maybe this just wasn't the best choice for NHHT, even if it is an interesting story.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Andrea

    Fascinating graphic novel biography of Major John Wesley Powell, alternating back and forth between Civil War accounts and Grand Canyon exploration. Makes me want to go explore the Grand Canyon more! It kind of ended up-in-the-air, though, and with an uncertainty that makes me want to check out some other sources. That's the problem with following history, I suppose -- there's not always concrete endings...

  16. 4 out of 5

    Lori

    Excellent, informative, funny, and engaging - as are all of the Hazardous Tales in this series. I highly recommend these to all who enjoy history and especially to those who don't enjoy history, because these books bring important figures and time periods to life for all who read them - as an adult, I always learn a lot from these books.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Kirsten

    I didn’t know much about Powell and this expedition, so this was interesting! Yes, a tad gory in a few spots. I like the way the Civil War experience is used to give greater context to these explorers and their lives.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Francis S. Poesy

    Nathan Hale's Hazardous Tales are always the best. This one includes a description of battlefield amputation which is an extra bonus. This one is filled with Civil War history, white water adventures in the Grand Canyon, and lots of butte jokes.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Andy Plemmons

    Full of danger, adventure, laugh-out-loud humor and sarcasm, and yes, an amputation scene that will make you cringe. I’m sure my readers will devour it and see who can look at the amputation scene the longest.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Hadyn

    This is my first NHHT book, my 9yo recommended it to me. I love the "1,001 nights" structure which I guess all the books share. Very funny and informative.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Erin

    I love that Hale finds stories that are consistently fascinating and full of adventure, but left-of-mainstream history enough that you learn SO MUCH from these books.

  22. 5 out of 5

    wildct2003

    Very good addition to the series.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Kevin Hodgson

    Solid. The entire series is great.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Tyler

    pretty good, still follows classic nathan hale humor, while not being in a war.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Melissa

    Interesting read. Especially the page dedicated to amputation during the Civil War. Middle schoolers will love it!

  26. 4 out of 5

    David

    It is so so so so so so so so so good anyone who likes the Grand Canyon will love it

  27. 4 out of 5

    Haldrin

    Hardline battlefield Hardline Islamist groups in a bit of the story was not subject matter a fact of life and death.I'm.it is also the author and then

  28. 5 out of 5

    Ellie

    Great book for middle grade readers. Humor and illustrations help tell a perilous story in history. Interesting to read about an explorer I hadn’t heard of until now...

  29. 5 out of 5

    Willa L

    good but i liked the others better.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Renee Brown

    The flashback sections were distracting for me. This title did not hold my attention as well as others in the series.

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