Possibly of minor interest as display items but otherwise dispensable.

READ REVIEW

TROPICAL FISH

POP-UP

A compact pop-up portrait gallery of finny favorites.

It looks like a slapdash effort, with blurry, often imprecisely cut reproductions for illustrations and perfunctory informational notes. Preceded by a 3-D side view of a colorful lion fish behind a clear window on the cover, a pop-up specimen of the same in the round gives way with page turns to a toothy piranha lunging up at viewers, two clown fish peering out from a silhouetted sea anemone, and five other denizens of reefs and shallows. Each comes with a grab bag of arbitrary-feeling general facts about fish anatomy, locomotion, adaptations, or behavior—all of which are tucked behind side flaps so that (aside from an identifying label) the fish float unencumbered by distractions against minimally detailed marine backgrounds. Hawcock gives eight butterflies and moths similar (mis-)treatment in his co-published Butterflies, with at least one factual error in the notes (hummingbird hawkmoths cannot fly at 56 kph).

Possibly of minor interest as display items but otherwise dispensable. (Informational pop-up. 5-7)

Pub Date: Sept. 12, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-7893-2765-9

Page Count: 20

Publisher: Universe/Rizzoli

Review Posted Online: Nov. 13, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2017

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A history more splendid than any maharaja’s golden howdah. (b&w illustrations throughout)

ELEPHAS MAXIMUS

A PORTRAIT OF THE INDIAN ELEPHANT

A celebration of the Indian elephant, though the animal’s current precarious circumstances make this a cautionary tale as well.

While Alter (All the Way to Heaven, 1998, etc.) has spent many years in the subcontinent, this work stems from a series of journeys he made throughout India during 2001–02, ranging from Assam to Dehradun to the southern tip. It’s a story well and fondly told, of myth and art and great Indian masterworks, with a smattering (which is all that’s really known) of natural history about the Indian elephant’s behavior and biology. Alter notes that only a small percentage of Indian elephants live in national parks; the majority roam in forest reserves and private land, leaving them vulnerable to habitat encroachment and poaching. Dividing his time equally between scouring ancient texts and observation in the field, the author finds a close braiding of intimate knowledge of the elephant with the creature’s mythological status. In some instances they are portly, playful gods, in others emblems of authority, such as war elephants. As scholarly as Alter can be, he also has a knack for describing the elephants’ landscape: a gilded-green river under a saffron sky, flowers and birds flashing orange and turquoise, groves of bamboo and ordered ranks of teak trees. He works the animal’s contradictory status as both “an emblem of desire, the image of gajagamini—a woman whose walk is as seductive as an elephant’s,” and as a marauding raider, ruining a farmer’s crop in a night. The elephant’s survival cannot be assured solely by creating sanctuaries, Alter warns: it requires a “sustained commitment” from state and citizen alike.

A history more splendid than any maharaja’s golden howdah. (b&w illustrations throughout)

Pub Date: May 1, 2004

ISBN: 0-15-100646-6

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Harcourt

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2004

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A portrait of coal country as stark and galvanizing as Harry Caudill’s classic Night Comes to the Cumberland (1962).

LOST MOUNTAIN

RADICAL STRIP MINING AND THE DEVASTATION OF APPALACHIA

Reece (English/Univ. of Kentucky) spent 2003–04 closely observing the sickly, strip-mined reaches of a mountain in Kentucky’s Appalachia; his book stands witness to its devouring.

In the old days of contour mining, excavations were carried out along ridgelines. Now the name of the game is mountaintop removal: Blast the high ground to smithereens, scavenge the detritus and plow the waste into the valley below, like so much toxic dust swept under the rug. Reece chronicles these ecological scalpings in anxious chapters written with an eye for abiding, catastrophic imagery. He does not lack material. Once a superb mesophytic forest habitat with an abundant diversity of species, a crumpled and intimate landscape of weathered peaks rich in flora and fauna, the region now resembles the buttes of the American West; pretty as they are in Arizona, they are deeply alien and a sign of trouble in the East. Creeks run orange with sulfuric acid and heavy metals; wells are polluted; the foundations of local homes have cracked; and the local population suffers from illnesses obviously related to the poisoning of the environment. Union protection for workers and citizens is a laugh, government oversight under the Bush administration is a travesty: The current Deputy Secretary of the Interior, Steven Griles, is a former coal lobbyist. Orwell and Kafka in their bleakest moments would have felt right at home in Appalachian Kentucky, mired in corruption and class warfare. Reece appreciates the need for some common ground, but is there no way, he asks, that the local economy can sustain itself without destroying the cerulean warbler and the very skyline?

A portrait of coal country as stark and galvanizing as Harry Caudill’s classic Night Comes to the Cumberland (1962).

Pub Date: Feb. 2, 2006

ISBN: 1-59448-908-4

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Riverhead

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2005

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