THE WAY OF THE PANDA

THE CURIOUS HISTORY OF CHINA'S POLITICAL ANIMAL

Like his beloved cousin the teddy bear, the cuddly panda is also a mascot—an emissary of good will, an icon of the World Wildlife Fund and a symbol of China's national identity.

Science writer Nicholls (Lonesome George: The Life and Loves of the World’s Most Famous Tortoise, 2007) deconstructs the panda as a cultural icon and unravels the fascinating story of its real life—not as a bored, sometimes fractious presence in a zoo, but as a remarkably resourceful, elusive inhabitant of the forests of China. The giant panda first came to Western notice in the mid-1800s, and author relates exciting tales of those early encounters. For the next 100 years, naturalists argued about whether this huge animal with its distinctive markings was more closely related to the raccoon, whose markings were somewhat similar, or the bear. (Modern DNA testing has resolved the issue in favor of the bear.) The Chinese have used the panda as a brand for its state electronic factories, and the WWF puts it forward to rally support for endangered species. The gifts of young pandas of opposite sexes were a symbol of moves toward detente with the Soviets, even though the two pandas in question refused to cooperate and the efforts to breed them were abortive. More significant was China's 1978 agreement to partner with the WWF in a major research program to observe pandas in the wild, in order to protect its continued existence in its natural habitat and understand how to breed and manage them more humanely in captivity. Nicholls provides a deeper, more meaningful understanding of “real wild pandas” and why their continued existence matters, not for our amusement but so that we can come to understand their “undeniable mystery.” He also writes that “[t]he conservation of wild pandas has also become a test of ourselves as a species.” A welcome addition to the panda bookshelf.

 

Pub Date: June 15, 2011

ISBN: 978-1-60598-188-8

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Pegasus

Review Posted Online: April 18, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2011

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

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

Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT

  • New York Times Bestseller

  • IndieBound Bestseller

NO ONE IS TOO SMALL TO MAKE A DIFFERENCE

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

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

Jahren transcends both memoir and science writing in this literary fusion of both genres.

Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT

  • Kirkus Reviews'
    Best Books Of 2016

  • New York Times Bestseller

  • National Book Critics Circle Winner

LAB GIRL

Award-winning scientist Jahren (Geology and Geophysics/Univ. of Hawaii) delivers a personal memoir and a paean to the natural world.

The author’s father was a physics and earth science teacher who encouraged her play in the laboratory, and her mother was a student of English literature who nurtured her love of reading. Both of these early influences engrossingly combine in this adroit story of a dedication to science. Jahren’s journey from struggling student to struggling scientist has the narrative tension of a novel and characters she imbues with real depth. The heroes in this tale are the plants that the author studies, and throughout, she employs her facility with words to engage her readers. We learn much along the way—e.g., how the willow tree clones itself, the courage of a seed’s first root, the symbiotic relationship between trees and fungi, and the airborne signals used by trees in their ongoing war against insects. Trees are of key interest to Jahren, and at times she waxes poetic: “Each beginning is the end of a waiting. We are each given exactly one chance to be. Each of us is both impossible and inevitable. Every replete tree was first a seed that waited.” The author draws many parallels between her subjects and herself. This is her story, after all, and we are engaged beyond expectation as she relates her struggle in building and running laboratory after laboratory at the universities that have employed her. Present throughout is her lab partner, a disaffected genius named Bill, whom she recruited when she was a graduate student at Berkeley and with whom she’s worked ever since. The author’s tenacity, hope, and gratitude are all evident as she and Bill chase the sweetness of discovery in the face of the harsh economic realities of the research scientist.

Jahren transcends both memoir and science writing in this literary fusion of both genres.

Pub Date: April 5, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-101-87493-6

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: Jan. 5, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2016

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet
more