A study brimming with endlessly fascinating fodder for animal lovers.



A Canadian biologist and mother of four offers a zoological survey of motherhood in the wild.

Using a wealth of research on instinctual behaviors, Bondar (Wild Sex: The Science Behind Mating in the Animal Kingdom, 2016) hopes new lessons can be learned about the human species through the examination of wild animals and their processes of parenthood. As numerous as they are diverse, there are no wrong approaches to the multifaceted business of motherhood. These diverse processes encompass the “broadcast spawning” of aquatic animals and the oviparity of amphibians, but the author also discusses the complicated factors associated with the egg-laying systems of certain bird species and the intrusive deceit of nest parasitism, in which a menacing foreign species deposits eggs into another nest to be hatched. Bondar also introduces readers to female mammals within the animal kingdom who must jockey for the prized social positioning necessary for even a chance at reproduction, meerkats that adopt a complex hierarchy of dominance to achieve this particular goal, and female hyenas whose retractable “pseudopenises” make gender recognition virtually impossible. From conception to birth, the author vibrantly analyzes a wide array of breeding practices and rearing methods from the cooperative to the communal; each is intriguing, unique, and “evolutionarily stable and successful.” Some of these reproductive enigmas and oddities are positively captivating. For example, many mammalian and primate females can enact a suspended animation state of gestational “diapause” until environmental conditions become optimal for birthing; toothed whales are the only other group of animals that experience menopause “to the extent that humans do.” Throughout, the author stresses how many issues that arise within the animal kingdom occur just as naturally in human child-rearing as well. The heartbreaking closing chapter on grieving animal mothers is especially poignant, providing an illuminating coda to this literary embrace of parenthood in the wild kingdom.

A study brimming with endlessly fascinating fodder for animal lovers.

Pub Date: April 3, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-68177-665-1

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Pegasus

Review Posted Online: Feb. 6, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2018

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

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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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Loads of good explaining, with reminders, time and again, of how much remains unknown, neatly putting the death of science...


Bryson (I'm a Stranger Here Myself, 1999, etc.), a man who knows how to track down an explanation and make it confess, asks the hard questions of science—e.g., how did things get to be the way they are?—and, when possible, provides answers.

As he once went about making English intelligible, Bryson now attempts the same with the great moments of science, both the ideas themselves and their genesis, to resounding success. Piqued by his own ignorance on these matters, he’s egged on even more so by the people who’ve figured out—or think they’ve figured out—such things as what is in the center of the Earth. So he goes exploring, in the library and in company with scientists at work today, to get a grip on a range of topics from subatomic particles to cosmology. The aim is to deliver reports on these subjects in terms anyone can understand, and for the most part, it works. The most difficult is the nonintuitive material—time as part of space, say, or proteins inventing themselves spontaneously, without direction—and the quantum leaps unusual minds have made: as J.B.S. Haldane once put it, “The universe is not only queerer than we suppose; it is queerer than we can suppose.” Mostly, though, Bryson renders clear the evolution of continental drift, atomic structure, singularity, the extinction of the dinosaur, and a mighty host of other subjects in self-contained chapters that can be taken at a bite, rather than read wholesale. He delivers the human-interest angle on the scientists, and he keeps the reader laughing and willing to forge ahead, even over their heads: the human body, for instance, harboring enough energy “to explode with the force of thirty very large hydrogen bombs, assuming you knew how to liberate it and really wished to make a point.”

Loads of good explaining, with reminders, time and again, of how much remains unknown, neatly putting the death of science into perspective.

Pub Date: May 6, 2003

ISBN: 0-7679-0817-1

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Broadway

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2003

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