LONGITUDE

THE TRUE STORY OF A LONE GENIUS WHO SOLVED THE GREATEST SCIENTIFIC PROBLEM OF HIS TIME

The subtitle here tells the reader exactly what the book is about; what it doesn't say is how much fun it is to read. The Greek astronomers could measure latitude as early as the third century b.c., but more than 2,000 years passed before the development of a reliable method for measuring longitude. Former New York Times reporter Sobel (coauthor, Arthritis: What Works, 1989, etc.) sets the stage by recounting the difficulties early navigators had in determining their exact longitude. After the loss of many ships and human lives as a result of navigational errors, in 1714 Parliament offered a rich prize for a practical way to measure longitude at sea. British astronomers saw a solution in the stars, by making sufficiently accurate measurements of lunar positions and comparing them to positions calculated for a known reference point. But the calculations could take hours and were tricky even in the best of circumstances; one future astronomer royal, under pressure, botched a measurement of the longitude of Barbados. Enter John Harrison, an apparently self-taught English clockmaker. Over a period of 40 years, he developed four increasingly precise chronometers capable of holding accurate time over a long, rough sea voyage. Comparing the chronometer's time to local sun time, a navigator could measure longitude with high precision in short order. Despite fierce opposition from astronomers (who scorned a "mere mechanic"), Harrison's clocks were enthusiastically endorsed by every mariner who put them to the test (including such luminaries as Cook and Bligh). With the support of King George III, the clockmaker eventually prevailed and won the prize. Sobel tells his story (and the larger history of the search for longitude) clearly, entertainingly, and with a fine sense of the era in which it took place. Breezily written and full of fascinating characters and facts, here's a science book as enjoyable as any novel.

Pub Date: Oct. 19, 1995

ISBN: 0-8027-1312-2

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Walker

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 1995

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BLIZZARD!

THE STORM THAT CHANGED AMERICA

In the same format as his Newbery Honor title The Great Fire (1995), Murphy brings the blizzard of 1888 to life. He shows how military weather-monitoring practices, housing and employment conditions, and politics regarding waste management, transportation monopolies, and utilities regulation, all contributed to—and were subsequently affected by—the disaster. He does so through an appealing narrative, making use of first-hand accounts whose sources he describes in his notes at the end (though, disappointingly he cites nothing directly in the text). The wealth of quotable material made available through the letters of members of “the Society of Blizzard Men and Blizzard Ladies” and other sources help to make the story vivid. Many drawings and photographs (some of the blizzard, but most of related scenes) illustrate the text. These large reproductions are all in a sepia-tone that matches the color of the typeface—an effect that feels over-the-top, but doesn’t detract significantly from the power of the story. Murphy’s ability to pull in details that lend context allows him to tell this story of a place in time through the lens of a single, dramatic episode that will engage readers. This is skillfully done: humorous, jaw-dropping, thought-provoking, and chilling. (index) (Nonfiction. 9-14)

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 2000

ISBN: 0-590-67309-2

Page Count: 160

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2000

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One of those rare thrillers whose answers are even more scarifying than its mysteries.

AFTER ALL I'VE DONE

A middle-aged woman sidelined by a horrific accident finds even sharper pains waiting on the other side of her recuperation in this expert nightmare by Hardy, familiar to many readers as Megan Hart, author of All the Secrets We Keep (2017), etc.

Five months ago, while she was on her way to the hospital with an ailing gallbladder, Diana Sparrow’s car hit a deer on a rural Pennsylvania road. When she awoke, she was minus her gallbladder, two working collarbones (and therefore two functioning arms), and her memory. During a recovery that would’ve been impossible without the constant ministrations of Harriett Richmond, the mother-in-law who’s the real reason Diana married her husband, Jonathan, Diana’s discovered that Jonathan has been cheating on her with her childhood friend Valerie Delagatti. Divorce is out of the question: Diana’s grown used to the pampered lifestyle the prenup she’d signed would snatch away from her. Every day is filled with torments. She slips and falls in a pool of wine on her kitchen floor she’s sure she didn’t spill herself. At the emergency room, her credit card and debit card are declined. She feels that she hates oppressively solicitous Harriett but has no idea why. Her sessions with her psychiatrist fail to heal her rage at her adoptive mother, an addict who abandoned her then returned only to disappear again and die an ugly death. Even worse, her attempts to recover her lost memory lead to an excruciatingly paced series of revelations. Val says Diana asked her to seduce Jonathan. Diana realizes that Cole, a fellow student in her watercolor class, isn’t the stranger she’d thought he was. Where can this maze of deceptions possibly end?

One of those rare thrillers whose answers are even more scarifying than its mysteries.

Pub Date: Nov. 10, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-64385-470-0

Page Count: 310

Publisher: Crooked Lane

Review Posted Online: Aug. 19, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2020

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I WANT TO BE AN ENVIRONMENTALIST

This glossy, colorful title in the “I Want To Be” series has visual appeal but poor organization and a fuzzy focus, which limits its usefulness. Each double-paged layout introduces a new topic with six to eight full-color photographs and a single column of text. Topics include types of environmentalists, eco-issues, waste renewal, education, High School of Environmental Studies, environmental vocabulary, history of environmentalism, famous environmentalists, and the return of the eagle. Often the photographs have little to do with the text or are marginal to the topic. For example, a typical layout called “Some Alternative Solutions” has five snapshots superimposed on a double-page photograph of a California wind farm. The text discusses ways to develop alternative forms of energy and “encourage environmentally friendly lifestyles.” Photos include “a healer who treats a patient with alternative therapy using sound and massage,” and “the Castle,” a house built of “used tires and aluminum cans.” Elsewhere, “Did You Know . . . ” shows a dramatic photo of Australia’s Great Barrier Reef, but the text provides odd facts such as “ . . . that in Saudi Arabia there are solar-powered pay phones in the desert?” Some sections seem stuck in, a two-page piece on the effects of “El Niño” or 50 postage-stamp–sized photos of endangered species. The author concludes with places to write for more information and a list of photo credits. Pretty, but little here to warrant purchase. (Nonfiction. 9-11)

Pub Date: Aug. 1, 2000

ISBN: 0-15-201862-X

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Harcourt

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2000

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