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Major Impossible

(Nathan Hale's Hazardous Tales #9)

4.12  ·  Rating details ·  259 ratings  ·  43 reviews
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
Hardcover, 128 pages
Published December 3rd 2019 by Harry N. Abrams
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Average rating 4.12  · 
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 ·  259 ratings  ·  43 reviews

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Rod Brown
Dec 11, 2019 rated it really liked it
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
Mary Thomas
Dec 10, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Another great Nathan Hale book. The amputation scene had my stomach in knots! Now I want to go visit the Grand Canyon.
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?
Quinn McKeever
Jan 09, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 40-books
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.
Jan 24, 2020 rated it really liked it
It was slightly gross.
Jan 30, 2020 rated it it was amazing
If you want to learn about history in a very fun and easy way read Nathan Hale's Hazardous Tales! They are exceptional!
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
tony dillard jr
Jan 10, 2020 rated it really liked it
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
Dawn Stahl
Feb 16, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: reviewed
This is the ninth book in Nathan Hale's graphic novel history series for middle graders, but the first I've read. I get why they're so popular — the entire premise is the kind of cartoon gallows humor that plays so well with kids and can make adults a little squeamish. And I mean "gallows humor" literally: Our narrator, Nathan Hale (the Revolutionary-era spy who had but one life to give for his country), is on the gallows, stalling his British executioner and hangman by telling them outrageous ...more
Dec 24, 2019 rated it liked it
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, ...more
Dec 24, 2019 rated it really liked it
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
Jan 03, 2020 rated it liked it
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

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
Dec 17, 2019 rated it really liked it
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 ...more
Joseph R.
Dec 19, 2019 rated it really liked it
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 ...more
Jenn O'Brien
Dec 19, 2019 rated it really liked it
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
Jan 09, 2020 rated it really liked it
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...
Dec 10, 2019 rated it really liked it
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.
Feb 21, 2020 rated it really liked it
I think young people will really enjoy this one as you live along side the Powell expedition down the Green and Colorado rivers and through the Grand Canyon. The flashbacks of Powell's young life and his experiences in the Civil War are interesting as well. The research babies were hard at work on this book! (Hey author, if you're reading this...I really like the research babies..)
Nathan Hale takes us on a harrowing ride through the Grand Canyon with John Wesley Powell and his crew as they explore the rapids and falls of the Colorado River back in 1869.
Those who appreciate this series will not be disappointed in the blend of history and humor.
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.
Dec 19, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: graphic-novels
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.
Andy Plemmons
Jan 14, 2020 rated it it was amazing
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.
Jan 16, 2020 rated it really liked it
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.
Dec 08, 2019 rated it really liked it
Very good addition to the series.
Dec 23, 2019 rated it really liked it
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.
Mary Thomas
I've read the whole series, and this is one of my favorites! I didn't know anything about this expedition, so I learned a lot! Keep it up!
Jan 21, 2020 rated it really liked it
pretty good, still follows classic nathan hale humor, while not being in a war.
Jan 22, 2020 rated it liked it
Shelves: middle-school
Interesting read. Especially the page dedicated to amputation during the Civil War. Middle schoolers will love it!
Kevin Hodgson
Jan 06, 2020 rated it liked it
Solid. The entire series is great.
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Nathan Hale is the New York Times best-selling author/illustrator of the Hazardous Tales series, as well as many picture books including Yellowbelly and Plum go to School, the Twelve Bots of Christmas and The Devil You Know.

He is the illustrator of the Eisner-nominated graphic novel Rapunzel's Revenge and its sequel, Calamity Jack. He also illustrated Frankenstein: A Monstrous Parody, The

Other books in the series

Nathan Hale's Hazardous Tales (9 books)
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  • Big Bad Ironclad!
  • Donner Dinner Party
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  • Lafayette!