CHARLES DARWIN

THE LIFE OF A REVOLUTIONARY THINKER

In the introduction to Patent’s cogent, thoughtful biography of Charles Darwin, she explains his importance as an icon of science, for without his discovery of evolution through the mechanism of natural selection, “biology makes no sense.” Patent traces Darwin’s life, chronicling his childhood love of collecting, a passion he later said in his autobiography “leads a man to be a systematic naturalist, a virtuoso, or a miser,” his now famous journey on the Beagle, his life as a naturalist, and his many contributions to science. At the time, it was believed that individual species were created separately by God and were therefore perfect and immutable. When Darwin became convinced that species could and do change over time, he acknowledged in a letter to fellow scientist Joseph Hooker that his ideas were akin to “confessing a murder.” What readers should find inspiring and instructive is the way Darwin persevered. Despite various obstacles, including the fear of societal condemnation and his own ill health, Darwin struggled to figure out the vehicle for species change, integrating his ideas from a variety of sources, never giving up until his theory was whole. Additionally, youngsters should find the details of Darwin’s life, his “houseful of servants,” the highly ritualized way he organized his workday, as well as his related scientific interests and achievements, edifying and entertaining. This is not a piece that exactly pulls the reader along, but it is clear and informative and makes a creative life in science seem worthy and satisfying. (Biography. 10+)

Pub Date: July 15, 2001

ISBN: 0-8234-1494-9

Page Count: 144

Publisher: Holiday House

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2001

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WORLD WITHOUT FISH

The author of Cod (1997) successfully provides readers with a frightening look at the looming destruction of the oceans. Brief sections in graphic-novel format follow a young girl, Ailat, and her father over a couple of decades as the condition of the ocean grows increasingly dire, eventually an orange, slimy mess mostly occupied by jellyfish and leatherback turtles. At the end, Ailat’s young daughter doesn’t even know what the word fish means. This is juxtaposed against nonfiction chapters with topics including types of fishing equipment and the damage each causes, a history of the destruction of the cod and its consequences, the international politics of the fishing industry and the effects of pollution and global warming. The final chapter lists of some actions readers could take to attempt to reverse the damage: not eating certain types of fish, joining environmental groups, writing to government officials, picketing seafood stores that sell endangered fish, etc. Whenever an important point is to be made, font size increases dramatically, sometimes so that a single sentence fills a page—attention-getting but distractingly so. While it abounds with information, sadly, no sources are cited, undermining reliability. Additionally, there are no index and no recommended bibliography for further research, diminishing this effort’s value as a resource. Depressing and scary yet grimly entertaining. (Nonfiction/graphic-novel hybrid. 10 & up)

Pub Date: April 18, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-7611-5607-9

Page Count: 192

Publisher: Workman

Review Posted Online: April 4, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2011

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A breezy, bustling bucketful of courageous acts and eye-popping feats.

50 IMPRESSIVE KIDS AND THEIR AMAZING (AND TRUE!) STORIES

From the They Did What? series

Why should grown-ups get all the historical, scientific, athletic, cinematic, and artistic glory?

Choosing exemplars from both past and present, Mitchell includes but goes well beyond Alexander the Great, Anne Frank, and like usual suspects to introduce a host of lesser-known luminaries. These include Shapur II, who was formally crowned king of Persia before he was born, Indian dancer/professional architect Sheila Sri Prakash, transgender spokesperson Jazz Jennings, inventor Param Jaggi, and an international host of other teen or preteen activists and prodigies. The individual portraits range from one paragraph to several pages in length, and they are interspersed with group tributes to, for instance, the Nazi-resisting “Swingkinder,” the striking New York City newsboys, and the marchers of the Birmingham Children’s Crusade. Mitchell even offers would-be villains a role model in Elagabalus, “boy emperor of Rome,” though she notes that he, at least, came to an awful end: “Then, then! They dumped his remains in the Tiber River, to be nommed by fish for all eternity.” The entries are arranged in no evident order, and though the backmatter includes multiple booklists, a personality quiz, a glossary, and even a quick Braille primer (with Braille jokes to decode), there is no index. Still, for readers whose fires need lighting, there’s motivational kindling on nearly every page.

A breezy, bustling bucketful of courageous acts and eye-popping feats. (finished illustrations not seen) (Collective biography. 10-13)

Pub Date: May 10, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-14-751813-2

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Puffin

Review Posted Online: Nov. 11, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2015

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