Readers may prefer swimming alone in fin-dotted waters to muddling through this modern horror.

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TWELVE DAYS OF TERROR

A DEFINITIVE INVESTIGATION OF THE 1916 NEW JERSEY SHARK ATTACKS

A toothless tale of pelagic terror.

For two weeks in the summer of 1916, as fans of Peter Benchley’s Jaws will recall, New Jersey beachgoers were forced from the water by a roving shark—or, as medical doctor and conservationist Fernicola hazards, a group of sharks—that had chomped five swimmers to death. Already burdened with a polio epidemic and unseasonably hot weather, the state government had its hands full trying not only to find and exterminate the culprit(s), but also to calm panicked hordes of humans. In the first enterprise it may or may not have been successful, since sharks were destroyed wherever they were encountered; time took care of the second task: war and other calamities eventually drove the doings of the New Jersey sharks from the front page. Fernicola relates this history in a manner that is sometimes melodramatic (“modern shark knowledge suggests that the sharks are always there and capable of attacking”), sometimes breezy (“President Wilson was one of the guys to look to for help. Eventually, the House of Representatives would appropriate $5,000 to search for and eradicate the New Jersey shark threat. In those days, five grand was a lot of money”), but never very good. The narrative, though dotted with useful natural-historical information on sharks, is confused, rambling, and repetitive; much of it is given over to determining the identity of the homicidal shark (or sharks) who committed such heinous crimes all those years ago, a forensic exercise of limited utility at best—just where sharks will turn up and what mood they’ll be in are matters subject to many variables, as Fernicola admits, and thus knowing just what kind of shark ate those poor swimmers will not be of much help in protecting modern-day oceangoers from a similarly gruesome fate.

Readers may prefer swimming alone in fin-dotted waters to muddling through this modern horror.

Pub Date: May 1, 2001

ISBN: 1-58574-297-X

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Lyons Press

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2001

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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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