EVERY CREEPING THING

TRUE TALES OF FAINTLY REPULSIVE WILDLIFE

A savory collection of natural history entertainments from Conniff (Spineless Wonders: Strange Tales from the Invertebrate World, 1996), who shares much with one of his subjects, the weasel—both being “very curious, investigative creatures.” Here is a pleasurable miscellany of essays on animals often near but rarely dear: the bat, the cormorant, the house mouse, the porcupine. Much of what Conniff has to report may seem odd, but it’s really only Nature steaming along on a normal day: for instance, the grizzly bear, taking August off to dine solely on moths. Or the cahow, a bird thought to be extinct for 350 years, that spends most of its life airborne at sea, returning to land only to nest in burrows under cedar woods. Or the serious scenting talents of the bloodhound (now to be found coursing the English countryside not for that ancient quarry, the fox, but for joggers who volunteer as bait), which more than compensate for all the slobber it produces. Consider the lordly moles tramping their estates, knotting and secreting earthworms against a stormy day. There is the pathological ill will that has been visited upon the cormorant, and there is the bum rap laid on that evolutionarily suicidal “mad dog of tunnel warfare,” the stoat. Conniff has also sought out darker engagements, with sharks and snapping turtles, to underscore that “mix of wonder and dread, attraction and repulsion” that characterize so much of our dealings with wild creatures (and a response that Conniff finds healthy evidence that we are still in touch with our “Pleistocene memories,” those instincts that were once elemental in human survival). After all is said and done, it is a relief that Conniff doesn’t stir the ashes of his experiences afield for deep truths. The creatures themselves are truth, and reason, enough. (line drawings)

Pub Date: Dec. 1, 1998

ISBN: 0-8050-5697-1

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Henry Holt

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 1998

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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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An authoritative, engaging study of plant life, accessible to younger readers as well as adults.

THE INCREDIBLE JOURNEY OF PLANTS

A neurobiologist reveals the interconnectedness of the natural world through stories of plant migration.

In this slim but well-packed book, Mancuso (Plant Science/Univ. of Florence; The Revolutionary Genius of Plants: A New Understanding of Plant Intelligence and Behavior, 2018, etc.) presents an illuminating and surprisingly lively study of plant life. He smoothly balances expansive historical exploration with recent scientific research through stories of how various plant species are capable of migrating to locations throughout the world by means of air, water, and even via animals. They often continue to thrive in spite of dire obstacles and environments. One example is the response of plants following the Chernobyl nuclear disaster. Three decades later, the abandoned “Exclusion Zone” is now entirely covered by an enormous assortment of thriving plants. Mancuso also tracks the journeys of several species that might be regarded as invasive. “Why…do we insist on labeling as ‘invasive’ all those plants that, with great success, have managed to occupy new territories?” asks the author. “On a closer look, the invasive plants of today are the native flora of the future, just as the invasive species of the past are a fundamental part of our ecosystem today.” Throughout, Mancuso persuasively articulates why an understanding and appreciation of how nature is interconnected is vital to the future of our planet. “In nature everything is connected,” he writes. “This simple law that humans don’t seem to understand has a corollary: the extinction of a species, besides being a calamity in and of itself, has unforeseeable consequences for the system to which the species belongs.” The book is not without flaws. The loosely imagined watercolor renderings are vague and fail to effectively complement Mancuso’s richly descriptive prose or satisfy readers’ curiosity. Even without actual photos and maps, it would have been beneficial to readers to include more finely detailed plant and map renderings.

An authoritative, engaging study of plant life, accessible to younger readers as well as adults.

Pub Date: March 17, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-63542-991-6

Page Count: 176

Publisher: Other Press

Review Posted Online: Dec. 8, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2020

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