A tasty distillation of history, religion, chemistry, biology, technology, and pop culture.

A BEGINNER'S GUIDE TO IMMORTALITY

FROM ALCHEMY TO AVATARS

A matter-of-fact chronicle of the long search for the elixir of life, the philosopher’s stone, the fountain of youth, and other means of exceeding our allotted spans.

As Birmingham (Tastes Like Music: 17 Quirks of the Brain and Body, 2014) observes, the search has occupied us at least since Gilgamesh found and then lost a certain magical plant. Moving from medieval alchemical concoctions to current research involving telomeres and the FoxO gene, she intersperses myths and folk beliefs, cautionary stories such as the legend of Tithonus (who was granted immortality but not eternal youth), and side looks at Dracula, Harry Potter, Tuck Everlasting, and other modern exemplars. She also catalogs places both real (the so-called Blue Zones) and fictional where death is delayed or banished, looks at promising new longevity techniques from cryogenics to uploading our minds into cloned or artificial bodies, and then closes with an array of afterlifes promised by major world religions. The big question—why we would want to live forever—she saves for a reflective finale. Holinaty’s fanciful monochrome illustrations add breezy notes, if not much information, to the narrative’s finely balanced mix of fact and generality.

A tasty distillation of history, religion, chemistry, biology, technology, and pop culture. (bibliography, index) (Nonfiction. 10-13)

Pub Date: Oct. 15, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-77147-045-2

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Owlkids Books

Review Posted Online: July 15, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2015

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A coherent if unexceptional overview of the subject given a solid boost by the visuals.

EXPLORING SPACE

FROM GALILEO TO THE MARS ROVER AND BEYOND

Finely detailed cutaway views of spacecraft and satellites launch a broad account of space exploration’s past, present, and near future.

Jenkins begins with the journey of Voyager I, currently the “most distant man-made object ever,” then goes back to recap the history of astronomy, the space race, and the space-shuttle program. He goes on to survey major interplanetary probes and the proliferating swarm of near-Earth satellites, then closes with reflections on our current revived interest in visiting Mars and a brief mention of a proposed “space elevator.” This is all familiar territory, at least to well-read young skywatchers and would-be astronauts, and despite occasional wry observations (“For longer stays [in space], things to consider include staying fit and healthy, keeping clean, and not going insane”) it reads more like a digest than a vivid, ongoing story. Biesty’s eye for exact, precise detail is well in evidence in the illustrations, though, and if one spread of generic residents of the International Space Station is the only place his human figures aren’t all white and male, at least he offers riveting depictions of space gear and craft with every last scientific instrument and structural element visible and labeled.

A coherent if unexceptional overview of the subject given a solid boost by the visuals. (index, timeline, bibliography) (Nonfiction. 10-13)

Pub Date: June 13, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-7636-8931-5

Page Count: 64

Publisher: Candlewick

Review Posted Online: March 6, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2017

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Enlightening, if not always easily legible, ruminations on the value of being in the dark.

DARK MATTERS

NATURE'S REACTION TO LIGHT POLLUTION

Reflections on the ways that artificial light upsets patterns and behaviors in the natural world.

Galat (Stories of the Aurora,2016, etc.) spins childhood memories into semifictive reminiscences. Between recalling lying on her back in the snow at 10 to trace the Big Dipper and describing links between light pollution and several environmental issues as a grown-up naturalist, the author recalls camping trips and other excursions at various ages. These offer, at least tangentially, insights into how artificial lighting could affect nocturnal insects, sea turtle hatchlings, bats, and migratory birds, as well as the general hunting, mating, and nesting behaviors of animals. She closes, after a quick mention of scotobiology (the study of life in darkness), with a plea to turn off the lights whenever possible. Though she does not support this general appeal with specific practices or, for that matter, source notes for her information, she does offer a list of internet search terms for readers who want to explore the topic further. Despite illustrations that range from a close-up of a road-kill raccoon to pointless filler and passages that, paradoxically, are hard to read except in bright light because they’re printed over speckled fields of stars, this outing covers a topic that should be of interest to young stargazers and scotobiologists alike.

Enlightening, if not always easily legible, ruminations on the value of being in the dark. (Nonfiction. 10-13)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-88995-515-8

Page Count: 72

Publisher: Red Deer Press

Review Posted Online: May 24, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2017

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