MARGINS

A NATURALIST MEETS LONG ISLAND SOUND

A delicate, selective, and deeply personal natural history of Long Island Sound. When Buckles (Mammals of the World, not reviewed) found herself transplanted to the Connecticut shore some ten years back, she wanted to get to know the environment beyond its problematic reputation as a sewage-laden, pathogenic wasteland, its bounty contaminated. To her the sound was not diseased (indeed, it appeared to be on the mend), but rather ``a place inherently sacred by virtue of being alive.'' So she got down on her hands and knees at the water's edge, or pottered about in her little Boston Whaler, becoming intimate with the land- and waterscapes, knitting together the specialized habitats and communities that could be seen to flow into one another ``like watercolors left in the rain.'' Here she details 14 investigations of things natural that identify the sound for her: its glacial origins and geologic history, its coves and estuaries and its avian abundance—bufflehead and old squaw, mergansers, cormorants, ospreys, and many more. She marvels at the return of the oak, hickory, and tulip poplar forests, and pokes about the islands: grand Gardiners, tiny Fish, tern-colonized Falkner. She dredges for oysters, then tips back the catch, and catalogs the curious menagerie that populates a dock. And there is an extended meditation on the unique salt-marsh landscape, with its spartina, fiddlers, and pipers. Buckles's writing is careful and graceful, and she has a facility for investing the mundane with significance (barnacles, for instance) and clarifying obscure biological processes (like the mating of horseshoe crabs). Buckles tunes in to the habits and rhythms of her home shore and lets them nurture her spirit. ``Long Island Sound has a beauty and a vitality that leave me dumbfounded with love. These writings are my love letters.'' (line drawings, not seen)

Pub Date: June 15, 1997

ISBN: 0-86547-516-4

Page Count: 288

Publisher: North Point/Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: April 23, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 1997

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

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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

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

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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

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