A classy and brightly informative appreciation of insects—all you could ask for in a popular natural history.

BUZZ, STING, BITE

WHY WE NEED INSECTS

A fun introduction to the world of insects.

They have existed for some 479 million years; have (mostly) six legs, four wings, two antennae, and a three-segment body; make up over half of known multicellular species; and number 200 million for every single human being living on the planet today. Indeed, we live on the planet of insects, and Sverdrup-Thygeson (Conservation Biology/Norwegian Univ. of Life Sciences) brings it to life in this sharp, good-humored presentation. Why are there so many insects? “Put simply: because they are small, supple, and sexy.” It also helps that they can live nearly anywhere, including ice, hot springs, deep in caves, high on mountains, in baptismal fonts, and even your nostrils. The range of species runs from the tinkerbell wasp, which can land on the tip of a human hair and hardly make a disturbance, to the Chinese walking stick, which grows up to 2 feet in length. Insects are a fascinating topic, and the author milks their peculiarities for all they are worth: molting and metamorphosis, communication through scent, tasting with feet, seeing with knees, and listening through ears in their mouths. But the curios are only part of the bigger picture that situates insects in the great schemes of pollination, decomposition, soil formation, food for other creatures, keeping harmful organisms in check, dispersing seed, and even demonstrating solutions to problems that humans can adopt. In other words, insects could get along happily without humans, but humans could not survive without insects. The author’s panoptic investigation keeps the narrative fully engaging as she alternates between anecdotes about specific insects—the aggressive mimicry of the spotted predatory katydid, the cicadas that “dig their way down—down into seventeen years of darkness”—to richly telling slices of science—e.g., the causes of decline in insect numbers.

A classy and brightly informative appreciation of insects—all you could ask for in a popular natural history.

Pub Date: July 2, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-982112-87-5

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: April 28, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2019

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A tiny book, not much bigger than a pamphlet, with huge potential impact.

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NO ONE IS TOO SMALL TO MAKE A DIFFERENCE

A collection of articulate, forceful speeches made from September 2018 to September 2019 by the Swedish climate activist who was nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize.

Speaking in such venues as the European and British Parliaments, the French National Assembly, the Austrian World Summit, and the U.N. General Assembly, Thunberg has always been refreshingly—and necessarily—blunt in her demands for action from world leaders who refuse to address climate change. With clarity and unbridled passion, she presents her message that climate change is an emergency that must be addressed immediately, and she fills her speeches with punchy sound bites delivered in her characteristic pull-no-punches style: “I don’t want you to be hopeful. I want you to panic. I want you to feel the fear I feel every day. And then I want you to act.” In speech after speech, to persuade her listeners, she cites uncomfortable, even alarming statistics about global temperature rise and carbon dioxide emissions. Although this inevitably makes the text rather repetitive, the repetition itself has an impact, driving home her point so that no one can fail to understand its importance. Thunberg varies her style for different audiences. Sometimes it is the rousing “our house is on fire” approach; other times she speaks more quietly about herself and her hopes and her dreams. When addressing the U.S. Congress, she knowingly calls to mind the words and deeds of Martin Luther King Jr. and John F. Kennedy. The last speech in the book ends on a note that is both challenging and upbeat: “We are the change and change is coming.” The edition published in Britain earlier this year contained 11 speeches; this updated edition has 16, all worth reading.

A tiny book, not much bigger than a pamphlet, with huge potential impact.

Pub Date: Nov. 26, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-14-313356-8

Page Count: 112

Publisher: Penguin

Review Posted Online: Nov. 3, 2019

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Whether you call this a personal story or nature writing, it’s poignant, thoughtful and moving—and likely to become a...

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H IS FOR HAWK

An inspired, beautiful and absorbing account of a woman battling grief—with a goshawk.

Following the sudden death of her father, Macdonald (History and Philosophy/Cambridge Univ.; Falcon, 2006, etc.) tried staving off deep depression with a unique form of personal therapy: the purchase and training of an English goshawk, which she named Mabel. Although a trained falconer, the author chose a raptor both unfamiliar and unpredictable, a creature of mad confidence that became a means of working against madness. “The hawk was everything I wanted to be: solitary, self-possessed, free from grief, and numb to the hurts of human life,” she writes. As a devotee of birds of prey since girlhood, Macdonald knew the legends and the literature, particularly the cautionary example of The Once and Future King author T.H. White, whose 1951 book The Goshawk details his own painful battle to master his title subject. Macdonald dramatically parallels her own story with White’s, achieving a remarkable imaginative sympathy with the writer, a lonely, tormented homosexual fighting his own sadomasochistic demons. Even as she was learning from White’s mistakes, she found herself very much in his shoes, watching her life fall apart as the painfully slow bonding process with Mabel took over. Just how much do animals and humans have in common? The more Macdonald got to know her, the more Mabel confounded her notions about what the species was supposed to represent. Is a hawk a symbol of might or independence, or is that just our attempt to remake the animal world in our own image? Writing with breathless urgency that only rarely skirts the melodramatic, Macdonald broadens her scope well beyond herself to focus on the antagonism between people and the environment.

Whether you call this a personal story or nature writing, it’s poignant, thoughtful and moving—and likely to become a classic in either genre.

Pub Date: March 3, 2015

ISBN: 978-0802123411

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Grove

Review Posted Online: Nov. 4, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2014

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