They may be lobsters and shrimp, winkles and cockles and limpets, and it may be in “a language only they understand”—but...



Amorous doings in the tide pools of a wild Atlantic coast.

During a period of depression, Otte (Love in the Garden, not reviewed) was shipped to the shore, to Brittany and a “fisherman’s cabin, built of granite, facing the forcefulness of the waves.” (It was also redolent of “a rather unpleasant and indefinable odor, dank and rancid.”) Quickly, he becomes sensitized, filled with wonder, and allowed to slip from his depression—not as a thief in the night but as a free man. The vehicle for this escape turns out to be the love life of the creatures in the surf and pools, as he witnesses their elemental acts in a primitive ocean. In short, combustible chapters, Otte invites readers to share with him the outlandish acts of the gregarious sea urchin (an indifferently promiscuous “state council of fat chestnuts”) or the cuttlefish (cutting loose a tentacle and sending it as a love letter to his inamorata). These are biology lessons in miniature, as delicate and sensual as anything from the Rajput court, revealing the “ties of salt and blood, the urgency of appetites and permanent conflicts,” and wrapped in stories from the author’s fevered investigations—operatically scored and great fun. Come admire the lobster’s coolness (“she observes him at first with an impassive eye, as one might examine a stack of proposals or deals”), then be shocked by the wild, sex-mad sea snail; consider the honest wrack (“being seaweed offers a rather untroubled existence”), but keep in mind that “it is better not to become a salmon” (whose love life is one long mortal war dance). Last to be swept up in the sharp erotic interlude are the human beings, whose strange antics close the narrative.

They may be lobsters and shrimp, winkles and cockles and limpets, and it may be in “a language only they understand”—but this is surely the music of love.

Pub Date: May 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-8076-1486-6

Page Count: 128

Publisher: Braziller

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2001

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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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An authoritative, engaging study of plant life, accessible to younger readers as well as adults.


A neurobiologist reveals the interconnectedness of the natural world through stories of plant migration.

In this slim but well-packed book, Mancuso (Plant Science/Univ. of Florence; The Revolutionary Genius of Plants: A New Understanding of Plant Intelligence and Behavior, 2018, etc.) presents an illuminating and surprisingly lively study of plant life. He smoothly balances expansive historical exploration with recent scientific research through stories of how various plant species are capable of migrating to locations throughout the world by means of air, water, and even via animals. They often continue to thrive in spite of dire obstacles and environments. One example is the response of plants following the Chernobyl nuclear disaster. Three decades later, the abandoned “Exclusion Zone” is now entirely covered by an enormous assortment of thriving plants. Mancuso also tracks the journeys of several species that might be regarded as invasive. “Why…do we insist on labeling as ‘invasive’ all those plants that, with great success, have managed to occupy new territories?” asks the author. “On a closer look, the invasive plants of today are the native flora of the future, just as the invasive species of the past are a fundamental part of our ecosystem today.” Throughout, Mancuso persuasively articulates why an understanding and appreciation of how nature is interconnected is vital to the future of our planet. “In nature everything is connected,” he writes. “This simple law that humans don’t seem to understand has a corollary: the extinction of a species, besides being a calamity in and of itself, has unforeseeable consequences for the system to which the species belongs.” The book is not without flaws. The loosely imagined watercolor renderings are vague and fail to effectively complement Mancuso’s richly descriptive prose or satisfy readers’ curiosity. Even without actual photos and maps, it would have been beneficial to readers to include more finely detailed plant and map renderings.

An authoritative, engaging study of plant life, accessible to younger readers as well as adults.

Pub Date: March 17, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-63542-991-6

Page Count: 176

Publisher: Other Press

Review Posted Online: Dec. 8, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2020

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