Though long and sometimes rambling, this troubling narrative raises important questions about humans’ relationships with and...




Sympathetic account of a chimpanzee raised in a human family and taught sign language.

Hess (Lost and Found: Dogs, Cats, and Everyday Heroes at a Country Animal Shelter, 1998) augments the narrative with the stories of many amazingly dedicated animal lovers and researchers, as well as a goodly supply of other chimps. She begins in 1973 with Nim’s birth in Norman, Okla., at the Institute for Primate Studies (IPS), directed by Dr. William Lemmon. Herbert Terrace, a behavioral psychologist at Columbia University, obtained the newborn chimp with the aim of showing that nonhuman primates could acquire language, in contradiction to linguist Noam Chomsky’s claim that language is an exclusively human trait (hence the chimp’s name). Terrace’s former student, Stephanie LaFarge, was willing to take Nim into her Manhattan home and raise him with her children. For Hess, the tribulations of Lemmon, Terrace and the LaFarge family are as much a part of the story as the charming, obstreperous chimp. In 1975, Nim was transferred to an estate in Riverdale, N.Y., where Terrace’s graduate students took over the challenges of caring for the chimp, teaching him sign language and recording his behavior. In 1977, when Nim had outlived his usefulness as a research subject, he was returned to IPS. Here, Hess expands her story again with more personal portraits and anecdotes, including some choice details about Lucy, a chimp whose humanized lifestyle included French wine and whiskey sours. In 1981, Nim and other IPS chimps were sent to the Laboratory for Experimental Medicine and Surgery in Primates in Texas. Media attention and animal-rights activists saved him from experimentation, and Nim eventually found sanctuary at Cleveland Amory’s Black Beauty Ranch. A female companion and an empathetic human with whom to communicate brightened the years before his death in 2000.

Though long and sometimes rambling, this troubling narrative raises important questions about humans’ relationships with and responsibility toward other primates.

Pub Date: March 4, 2008

ISBN: 978-0-553-80383-9

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Bantam

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2008

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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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Exemplary writing about the world and a welcome gift to readers.


Distinguished natural history writer and explorer Lopez (Outside, 2014, etc.) builds a winning memoir around books, voyages, and biological and anthropological observations.

“Traveling, despite the technological innovations that have brought cultural homogenization to much of the world, helps the curious and attentive itinerant understand how deep the notion goes that one place is never actually like another.” So writes the author, who has made a long career of visiting remote venues such as Antarctica, Greenland, and the lesser known of the Galápagos Islands. From these travels he has extracted truths about the world, such as the fact that places differ as widely as the people who live in them. Even when traveling with scientists from his own culture, Lopez finds differences of perception. On an Arctic island called Skraeling, for instance, he observes that if he and the biologists he is walking with were to encounter a grizzly feeding on a caribou, he would focus on the bear, the scientists on the whole gestalt of bear, caribou, environment; if a native of the place were along, the story would deepen beyond the immediate event, for those who possess Indigenous ways of knowledge, “unlike me…felt no immediate need to resolve it into meaning.” The author’s chapter on talismans—objects taken from his travels, such as “a fist-size piece of raven-black dolerite”—is among the best things he has written. But there are plentiful gems throughout the looping narrative, its episodes constructed from adventures over eight decades: trying to work out a bit of science as a teenager while huddled under the Ponte Vecchio after just having seen Botticelli’s Venus; admiring a swimmer as a septuagenarian while remembering the John Steinbeck whom he’d met as a schoolboy; gazing into the surf over many years’ worth of trips to Cape Foulweather, an Oregon headland named by Capt. James Cook, of whom he writes, achingly, “we no longer seem to be sailing in a time of fixed stars, of accurate chronometers, and of reliable routes.”

Exemplary writing about the world and a welcome gift to readers.

Pub Date: March 20, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-394-58582-6

Page Count: 592

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: Nov. 26, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2018

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