The narrative is not just a sweet, unhurried travelogue; it can easily be used as a guidebook, as Pyle is scrupulous in...

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MARIPOSA ROAD

THE FIRST BUTTERFLY BIG YEAR

Ecologist Pyle (Sky Time in Gray’s River: Living for Keeps in a Forgotten Place, 2007, etc.) goes in search of as many butterfly species as he can find north of the Mexican border during 2008.

The author took the notion of a “Big Year” from birding—to find, experience and identify as many of the creatures as one could in a single year. He is a low-tech guy, using just his old binoculars, butterfly nets, jalopy and good old-fashioned sense of adventure and wonder. An enthusiastic guide, Pyle chronicles 14 journeys from his house in southwest Washington. He stops frequently to smell the coffee and check out the roadside fennel for anise swallowtails, and he follows hunches, intuition and happenstance, all thoroughly primed by his deep schooling in butterflies. But the author is tuned into more than just his metalmarks, duskywings and checkerspots. After all, there’s plenty more in the natural world to observe and remark upon, including countless other species of flora and fauna, strange foods and local ales, run-ins with the Border Patrol, odd encounters, stormy weather and bites of regional history. He travels on a shoestring, meanders freely and maintains an unjaded pleasure in simple pleasures, like a goatweed emperor flying alongside his car somewhere in Arkansas, and helpful friends along the way. Though he finds his share of habitat destruction and larvae being killed off by mosquito fogging in the wake of the West Nile virus, he encounters a healthy number and variety of butterflies.

The narrative is not just a sweet, unhurried travelogue; it can easily be used as a guidebook, as Pyle is scrupulous in detailing where and when he found each of the butterflies.

Pub Date: Sept. 27, 2010

ISBN: 978-0-618-94539-9

Page Count: 544

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

Review Posted Online: June 21, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2010

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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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