Well-crafted and inspiring.



Championing seeds as one of our planet’s most precious and vulnerable resources, Castaldo delivers a sobering global status report—and a call to action.

Citing our food’s precipitous decline in genetic biodiversity, Castaldo introduces readers to the pioneering plant scientists Gregor Mendel, Luther Burbank, and Nikolai Vavilov. Their respective work (in genetics, hybridization, and the collection and preservation of threatened seed varieties) contrasts starkly with the modern practice of genetically engineering and patenting seed for profit by corporate monoliths. Castaldo vividly sketches Vavilov, whose visionary global conservation expeditions yielded the world’s first seed bank. Falsely implicated and imprisoned by Stalin’s regime, Vavilov died of starvation in a prison camp. Indeed, seeds are both casualties and spoils of war. The Nazis, the Taliban, and other aggressors have stolen or destroyed seed stores, while brave scientists have transported and hidden these critical resources. Blending clear exposition with urgent polemic, Castaldo highlights the important distinction between hybridization and genetic modification of seed, the perils of monoculture, and the David-and-Goliath battles of family farmers vs. Monsanto. She profiles the work of Dr. Vandana Shiva and others—worldwide advocates for farmers’ rights to reclaim, sow, and save genetically clean seeds. Concluding chapters explore heirlooms, the farm-to-table food movement, and exhilarating efforts—both formal and grass-roots—to save and safeguard our remaining, regionally adapted seed.

Well-crafted and inspiring. (call to action, resources, seed libraries, glossary, author’s note, sources, timeline, index) (Nonfiction. 12-15)

Pub Date: Feb. 23, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-544-32023-9

Page Count: 160

Publisher: HMH Books

Review Posted Online: Nov. 3, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2015

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An engaging, admiring, and insightful portrait of an uncompromising, civic-minded, visionary artist.



One of the world’s most celebrated creators of civic architecture is profiled in this accessible, engaging biography.

Similar in style and format to her Everybody Paints!: The Lives and Art of the Wyeth Family (2014) and Wideness and Wonder: The Life and Art of Georgia O’Keeffe (2011), Rubin’s well-researched profile examines the career, creative processes, and career milestones of Maya Lin. Rubin discusses at length Lin’s most famous achievement, designing the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C. Chinese-American Lin was a reserved college student who entered and won the competition to design and build the memorial. Her youth and ethnicity were subjects of great controversy, and Rubin discusses how Lin fought to ensure her vision of the memorial remained intact. Other notable works by Lin, including the Civil Rights Memorial for the Southern Poverty Law Center in Montgomery, Alabama, a library and chapel for the Children’s Defense Fund, the Museum of Chinese in America, and the outdoor Wave Field project are examined but not in as much depth as the Vietnam Veterans Memorial. Attractively designed, the book is illustrated extensively with color photos and drawings.

An engaging, admiring, and insightful portrait of an uncompromising, civic-minded, visionary artist. (bibliography, source notes, index) (Biography. 12-15)

Pub Date: Nov. 7, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-4521-0837-7

Page Count: 112

Publisher: Chronicle Books

Review Posted Online: Aug. 21, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2017

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Painstaking, judicious, and by no means exculpatory but with hints of sympathy.



A portrait of two victims of the Great Depression whose taste for guns and fast cars led to short careers in crime but longer ones as legends.

Blumenthal (Hillary Rodham Clinton, 2016, etc.) makes a determined effort to untangle a mare’s nest of conflicting eyewitness accounts, purple journalism, inaccurate police reports, and self-serving statements from relatives and cohorts of Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow. Though the results sometimes read as dry recitations of names and indistinguishable small towns, she makes perceptive guesses about what drove them and why they have become iconic figures, along with retracing their early lives, two-year crime spree, and subsequent transformations into doomed pop-culture antiheroes. She does not romanticize the duo—giving many of their murder victims faces through individual profiles, for instance, and describing wounds in grisly detail—but does convincingly argue that their crimes and characters (particularly Bonnie’s) were occasionally exaggerated. Blumenthal also wrenchingly portrays the desperation that their displaced, impoverished families must have felt while pointedly showing how an overtaxed, brutal legal system can turn petty offenders into violent ones. A full version of Bonnie’s homespun ballad “The Story of Bonnie and Clyde” and notes on the subsequent lives of significant relatives, accomplices, and lawmen join meaty lists of sources and interviews at the end.

Painstaking, judicious, and by no means exculpatory but with hints of sympathy. (photos, timeline, author’s note, source notes, bibliography, index) (Biography. 12-14)

Pub Date: Aug. 14, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-451-47122-2

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: May 15, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2018

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