Environmental chemistry that is eminently readable and hopeful.

SOLUTIONS FOR A CLEANER, GREENER PLANET

ENVIRONMENTAL CHEMISTRY

This is a solutions-driven survey of the greatest threats to our increasingly toxic planet.

While covering just the tip of the proverbial iceberg, this overview of environmental chemistry touches on topics ranging from CO2 emissions and pesticides to nuclear fission. It at times delves into scientific details—such as the subatomic breakdown of the elements—and this information is presented in a way that is generally friendly to its intended young adult audience. Zimmer (Lighting up the Brain, 2018, etc.), a professor of chemistry, includes numerous anecdotes that make for compelling reading, for example, relating how Marie Curie’s notebooks are so radioactive that to this day they have to be stored in lead-lined boxes. Included in every chapter are up-to-date events such as the environmental and human injustice of the Flint water crisis. With the litany of hazards explored, it would be easy to feel hopeless, but Zimmer ends each chapter with the heading, “What Can You Do?” These sections provide advice for achievable lifestyle changes as simple as bringing your own reusable bags to the market. Also woven throughout are viable solutions that have already been implemented, such as the Sono arsenic filtration system being used in Bangladesh. Despite the dire subject matter, this slim, amply illustrated book is engaging and even uplifting. Terrific for classroom use.

Environmental chemistry that is eminently readable and hopeful. (source notes, glossary, further information, index) (Nonfiction. 12-15)

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-5415-1979-4

Page Count: 124

Publisher: Twenty-First Century/Lerner

Review Posted Online: Nov. 7, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2018

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A perceptive character study afflicted with excess and inconsequential detail.

A HOPEFUL HEART

LOUISA MAY ALCOTT BEFORE LITTLE WOMEN

From birth to fame, a versatile writer’s growth, education, travels, and early influences.

Louisa May Alcott led a copiously well-documented life—her own journals, begun at age 8, were preceded by her father Bronson’s record of his young daughters’ antics that ultimately ran to 2,500 pages. Here Noyes falls victim to that weight of available detail, embedding valuable insights into Bronson’s pedagogical methods (well ahead of their time), Alcott’s independent spirit, and the Alcott family’s connections with leading intellectual lights of the day in tedious references to neighbors, boarders, debts and payments, travel arrangements, and quotidian comings and goings. The generally penniless Alcotts changed addresses over 30 times in Alcott’s first 20-some years, for example, and if the author doesn’t mention each and every move, readers will still feel as if she has. She also, disappointingly, shows more interest in detailing what Alcott was paid for her potboilers than in describing what they were about and takes at best cursory notice of the themes or plotlines of her early novels The Inheritance and Moods. On the other hand, Alcott’s experiences nursing dying Civil War soldiers in a Washington hospital make a vivid and heart-rending lead-up to a climactic account of the genesis of Little Women, and readers who have fallen under that novel’s spell will at least come away with a clear picture of its author’s maverick nature.

A perceptive character study afflicted with excess and inconsequential detail. (bibliography, endnotes) (Biography. 12-15)

Pub Date: Oct. 6, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-525-64623-5

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Schwartz & Wade/Random

Review Posted Online: Aug. 18, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2020

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Science literally on the cutting edge, offering prospects of wonder and terror in equal measure.

CRISPR

A provocative report on world-changing developments promised by a dawning breakthrough in biotechnology.

Ridge first goes over the ins and outs of chromosomes and genomes, then explains how certain clusters of “palindromic repeats” found in the DNA of single-celled creatures can be employed to edit with precision any cell’s genetic “instruction manual.” Though just missing the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, she goes on to explore the technique’s current and potential uses and misuses. The former include creating better medicines, cures for cancer and other systemic diseases, new plant varieties, and better livestock; the latter, scrambling ecological balances, cooking up frightening bioweapons, and “Playing God” with human germlines to make designer babies. In general she comes down on the positive side (if for no other reason than that it’s too late to get the cat back into the bag) but doesn’t skimp on laying out complications and quandaries for readers to chew over in formulating their own views. She leavens the hefty informational load as best she can (“The genetic similarity between a human and a banana is 60%”), and Boersma supplies a generous array of staid but lucid diagrams, schematics, and infographics in support. Though it is marketed as a book for readers 14 and up, both graphic design and complexity of language seem to suit it better for middle schoolers. 

Science literally on the cutting edge, offering prospects of wonder and terror in equal measure. (sources, resource lists, index) (Nonfiction. 12-14)

Pub Date: Sept. 8, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-77321-424-5

Page Count: 116

Publisher: Annick Press

Review Posted Online: May 17, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2020

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