A fascinating and accessible adaptation for science-minded or history-obsessed youngsters.

A youth-friendly reimagining of Pollan’s seminal work on the intersection of evolutionary botany and human desires.

Adapted by Chevat, this title examines the relationships between four foundational human desires and plants that have evolved alongside us to satisfy them. Apples, tulips, coffee and tea (filling in for marijuana in the original), potatoes—each has had an effect on and in turn been affected by human civilization, satisfying our innate cravings for sweetness, beauty, energy (intoxication in the previous book), and control (the modifications we’ve made to the potato represent an attempt to exert power over the natural landscape), respectively. A deep dive into the biology of each plant as it intertwines with the history of humanity will entice readers with historical or scientific interests. Pollan’s friendly, conversational tone and first-person recollections bring levity and enthusiasm; his sharp wit and self-awareness give much-needed life to what would otherwise have been more esoteric and dryly scientific sections. Pollan’s passion for his subject is evident and infectious as he encourages readers to psychologically reconnect with nature. The omission of marijuana and some sexual content will make this a more acceptable choice for young people’s collections, and adult readers of the source material may want to check out this adaptation for the added chapter on the desire for energy and our beloved caffeinated beverages. Though readership for this work may be somewhat narrow, those who are drawn to it will find a wealth of information and food for thought.

A fascinating and accessible adaptation for science-minded or history-obsessed youngsters. (glossary, partial sources) (Nonfiction. 10-14)

Pub Date: May 9, 2023

ISBN: 9780593531525

Page Count: 208

Publisher: Rocky Pond Books/Penguin

Review Posted Online: April 11, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2023


From the Giants of Science series

Hot on the heels of the well-received Leonardo da Vinci (2005) comes another agreeably chatty entry in the Giants of Science series. Here the pioneering physicist is revealed as undeniably brilliant, but also cantankerous, mean-spirited, paranoid and possibly depressive. Newton’s youth and annus mirabilis receive respectful treatment, the solitude enforced by family estrangement and then the plague seen as critical to the development of his thoughtful, methodical approach. His subsequent squabbles with the rest of the scientific community—he refrained from publishing one treatise until his rival was dead—further support the image of Newton as a scientific lone wolf. Krull’s colloquial treatment sketches Newton’s advances in clearly understandable terms without bogging the text down with detailed explanations. A final chapter on “His Impact” places him squarely in the pantheon of great thinkers, arguing that both his insistence on the scientific method and his theories of physics have informed all subsequent scientific thought. A bibliography, web site and index round out the volume; the lack of detail on the use of sources is regrettable in an otherwise solid offering for middle-grade students. (Biography. 10-14)

Pub Date: April 1, 2006

ISBN: 0-670-05921-8

Page Count: 128

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2006



Entomophobes will find all of this horrifyingly informative.

This junior edition of Stewart’s lurid 2011 portrait gallery of the same name (though much less gleeful subtitle) loses none of its capacity for leaving readers squicked-out.

The author drops a few entries, notably the one on insect sexual practices, and rearranges toned-down versions of the rest into roughly topical sections. Beginning with the same cogent observation—“We are seriously outnumbered”—she follows general practice in thrillers of this ilk by defining “bug” broadly enough to include all-too-detailed descriptions of the life cycles and revolting or deadly effects of scorpions and spiders, ticks, lice, and, in a chapter evocatively titled “The Enemy Within,” such internal guests as guinea worms and tapeworms. Mosquitoes, bedbugs, the ubiquitous “Filth Fly,” and like usual suspects mingle with more-exotic threats, from the tongue-eating louse and a “yak-killer hornet” (just imagine) to the aggressive screw-worm fly that, in one cited case, flew up a man’s nose and laid hundreds of eggs…that…hatched. Morrow-Cribbs’ close-up full-color drawings don’t offer the visceral thrills of the photos in, for instance, Rebecca L. Johnson’s Zombie Makers (2012) but are accurate and finely detailed enough to please even the fussiest young entomologists.

Entomophobes will find all of this horrifyingly informative. (index, glossary, resource lists) (Nonfiction. 11-14)

Pub Date: Aug. 8, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-61620-755-7

Page Count: 192

Publisher: Algonquin

Review Posted Online: June 26, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2017

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