Vivid, wide angled, and all too timely.

Scorching case studies of the United States’ mismanagement of its natural resources.

Marrin has plenty to say about how passenger pigeons were driven to extinction and bison nearly so. But he reserves his choicest language for recording how huge swaths of North American forest were left vulnerable to massive, uncontrollable firestorms, first by loggers who swept in, ignoring the management practices of Indigenous populations, and then by racist preservationists and conservationists, led by John Muir and Gifford Pinchot, who misguidedly decided that all forest fires were bad. In chapters with titles such as “Peshtigo: The Night Hell Yawned,” the author describes the horrific results of those practices and policies in vivid detail: “Fire had transformed some of the dead into tiny heaps of gray ash; others, still recognizable as human, lost fingers, ears, and arms when burial parties touched their remains.” Along with saluting the work of modern wildland firefighters, Marrin covers eye-opening topics ranging from how the U.S. military studied natural firestorms in order to create artificial ones in enemy cities in World War II to the toxic environmental effects of modern fire-retardant chemicals dropped on forests. The book closes with ominous evidence that climate change is bringing increasingly less controllable conflagrations. Though spare and dark, the photos add memorable contemporary and historical images of fires and their aftermaths, as well as of a diverse range of firefighters.

Vivid, wide angled, and all too timely. (notes, sources, picture credits, index) (Nonfiction. 11-16)

Pub Date: March 19, 2024

ISBN: 9780593121733

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: Dec. 6, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2024


Wordplay and wry wit put extra fun into a trove of fundamental knowledge.

With an amped-up sense of wonder, the Science Guy surveys the natural universe.

Starting from first principles like the scientific method, Nye and his co-author marvel at the “Amazing Machine” that is the human body then go on to talk up animals, plants, evolution, physics and chemistry, the quantum realm, geophysics, and climate change. They next venture out into the solar system and beyond. Along with tallying select aspects and discoveries in each chapter, the authors gather up “Massively Important” central concepts, send shoutouts to underrecognized women scientists like oceanographer Marie Tharp, and slip in directions for homespun experiments and demonstrations. They also challenge readers to ponder still-unsolved scientific posers and intersperse rousing quotes from working scientists about how exciting and wide open their respective fields are. If a few of those fields, like the fungal kingdom, get short shrift (one spare paragraph notwithstanding), readers are urged often enough to go look things up for themselves to kindle a compensatory habit. Aside from posed photos of Nye and a few more of children (mostly presenting as White) doing science-y things, the full-color graphic and photographic images not only reflect the overall “get this!” tone but consistently enrich the flow of facts and reflections. “Our universe is a strange and surprising place,” Nye writes. “Stay curious.” Words to live by.

Wordplay and wry wit put extra fun into a trove of fundamental knowledge. (contributors, art credits, selected bibliography, index) (Nonfiction. 11-15)

Pub Date: Oct. 27, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-4197-4676-5

Page Count: 264

Publisher: Abrams

Review Posted Online: Aug. 24, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2020



Intrepid explorer Lourie tackles the “Father of Waters,” the Mighty Mississippi, traveling by canoe, bicycle, foot, and car, 2,340 miles from the headwaters of the great river at the Canadian border to the river’s end in the Gulf of Mexico. As with his other “river titles” (Rio Grande, 1999, etc.), he intertwines history, quotes, and period photographs, interviews with people living on and around the river, personal observations, and contemporary photographs of his journey. He touches on the Native Americans—who still harvest wild rice on the Mississippi, and named the river—loggers, steamboats, Civil War battles, and sunken treasure. He stops to talk with a contemporary barge pilot, who tows jumbo-sized tank barges, or 30 barges carrying 45,000 tons of goods up and down and comments: “You think ‘river river river’ night and day for weeks on end.” Lourie describes the working waterway of locks and barges, oil refineries and diesel engines, and the more tranquil areas with heron and alligators, and cypress swamps. A personal travelogue, historical geography, and welcome introduction to the majestic river, past and present. (Nonfiction. 10-14)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2000

ISBN: 1-56397-756-7

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Boyds Mills

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2000

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