Koch, Falynn. History Comics: The National Parks. First Second, 2022. ISBN 978-1250265876 128 pp. $19.99
This comic panel format history is a fascinating look at the personalities (and egos) behind the creation of the National Park Service. An introduction from William Gwaitney, retired assistant regional director of the National Park Service, sets a passionate tone for the NPS in his introduction.
The book uses two characters, Bigfoot and a bald eagle, to represent the parks and the United States and frame the narrative. They introduce presidents and naturalists, legislators and business tycoons, and famous properties. They also define preservation versus conservation, where they are at odds and where they align.
The system evolved from a single park that straddled two states (Yellowstone) to include all federal parks: national monuments, recreation areas, military sites, urban parks, historic sites and natural wonders. The book also briefs on funding and management, environment and wildlife issues, and Mission 66 in 1966 to address visitor services (entrance fees, parking, and visitor centers).
Missing is coverage of the National Park System going rogue and actively resisting President Trump, the creation of @AltUSNatParkService and it’s 72.9K followers, and the government seeking to overturn laws and protections that keep the parks and their environments clean. Koch does not shy away from the reality of lands being stolen from indigenous peoples, or from dark and tragic parts of our history.
The art is cartoony with a subdued color palette. The characters are slightly caricatured which matches the fun and informal tone of the book. As each park is established, a name and date appear in the panel, culminating with a timeline that covers the establishments of all the parks, from 1851 to 2019. The book concludes with resources for further research (title and author, monographs only).
Informative and enjoyable, this just might inspire junior ranges or at least a road trip to visit your closest park!