CHARLES DARWIN AND THE MYSTERY OF MYSTERIES

This engaging and insightful biography focuses primarily on Darwin’s five-year voyage aboard the Beagle and the years following in which he formulated and published his revolutionary theories on evolution and natural selection. As a child and adolescent, Darwin is depicted as precocious and insatiably curious but a reluctant student regarding formal studies. Readers are left with a strong understanding of which scientists influenced Darwin in his own research and the process by which he arrived at a unique understanding through his own discoveries and observations. Darwin’s writings are quoted extensively. Sidebars throughout citing cultural and historical milestones offer readers a good sense of Darwin’s times. In an epilogue, the authors offer a concise overview of the controversy Darwin’s theories on evolution and natural selection continues to stir. The text is effectively supported by maps, photographs and other archival images. Backmatter includes chronologies, notes and suggestions for further reading. The detailed focus on Darwin’s scientific pursuits makes this book a good complement to the personal portrait offered in Deborah Heiligman’s Charles & Emma: The Darwins’ Leap of Faith (2009). (Biography. 10-14)

Pub Date: May 1, 2010

ISBN: 978-1-59643-374-8

Page Count: 144

Publisher: Neal Porter/Flash Point/Roaring Brook

Review Posted Online: Dec. 15, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2010

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Uneven pacing and clunky writing undermine this examination of trauma and PTSD.

IF WE WERE GIANTS

Matthews, of the Dave Matthews Band, and co-author Smith offer a fantasy that explores the damage done by violence inflicted by one people against another.

Ten-year-old Kirra lives in an idyllic community hidden for generations inside a dormant volcano. When she and her little brother make unwise choices that help bring the violent, spindly, gray-skinned Takers to her community—with devastating results—Kirra feels responsible and leaves the volcano. Four years later, Kirra’s been adopted into a family of Tree Folk that live in the forest canopy. Though there are many Tree Folk, individual families care for their own and are politely distant from others. Kirra, suffering from (unnamed) PTSD, evades her traumatic memories by avoiding what she calls “Memory Traps,” but when the Takers arrive in the forest, she must face her trauma and attempt to make a community of the Tree Folk if they’re to survive. Although Kirra’s struggles through trauma are presented with sympathy and realistically rendered, some characters’ choices are so patently foolish they baldly read like the plot devices they are. Additionally, much preparation goes into one line of defense while other obvious factors are completely ignored, further pushing the story’s credibility. Kirra is brown skinned, as is her first family; Tree Folk appear not to be racially homogenous; and the Takers are all gray skinned.

Uneven pacing and clunky writing undermine this examination of trauma and PTSD. (Fantasy. 10-14)

Pub Date: March 3, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-4847-7871-5

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Disney-Hyperion

Review Posted Online: Nov. 10, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2019

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BRIAN'S RETURN

Paulsen brings the story he began in Hatchet (1987) and continued in the alternate sequels The River (1991) and Brian’s Winter (1996) around to a sometimes-mystical close. Surviving the media coverage and the unwanted attention of other high school students has become more onerous to Brian than his experiences in the wild; realizing that the wilderness has become larger within him than the need to be with people, Brian methodically gathers survival equipment—listed in detail—then leaves his old life behind. It takes some time, plus a brutal fight and sessions with a savvy counselor, before Brian reaches that realization, but once out under the trees, it’s obvious that his attachment to the wild is a permanent one. Becoming ever more attuned to the natural wonders around him, he travels over a succession of lakes and streams, pausing to make camp, howl with a wolf, read Shakespeare to a pair of attentive otters and, once, to share a meal with an old man who talks about animal guides and leaves a medicine bundle for him. Readers hoping for the high adventure of the previous books may be disappointed, as Brian is now so skilled that a tipped canoe or a wild storm are only inconveniences, and even bears more hazard than threat; still, Paulsen bases many of his protagonist’s experiences on his own, and the wilderness through which Brian moves is vividly observed. Afterword. (Fiction. 11-13)

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1999

ISBN: 0-385-32500-2

Page Count: 116

Publisher: Delacorte

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 1998

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