Their behavior might be comedic for us, but for penguins it translates into sex, food, and turf warfare, as explained by field researcher Naveen in this tenderhearted profile of the short-feathered denizens of the far south. What propels Naveen’s newest book (after Wild Ice, not reviewed) is a three-cylinder engine: He wants to make the reader as envious as possible of his penguin-chasing field days on the Antarctic Peninsula and the South Shetland Islands; to smite the reader with the same bewitchment he feels in a gentoo or chinstrap’s presence; and incidentally to present a brief history of penguin research in the Antarctic, starting informally with sealers and formally with Louis Gain and the Second French Antarctic Expedition. It’s a successful formula for anyone at all interested in kneeless, tux-clad bird life. A penguin field man, Naveen is there to observe and record how they “find mates, set up shop, court, lay eggs, raise chicks, and then get out before frigid weather locks in once again.” Although penguins are hardwired for predictable behavior, with little intuitive freedom, this lack of surprise is fashioned by Naveen into meaningful qualities: the penguin as messenger of environmental tidings, and the penguin as symbol of what it means to live in synch with the earth, and how we as a species fall short in comparison. Naveen knows when to turn loose penguin facts and figures, and he knows how to rein them in. He also knows how to lightly delineate a landscape of thousands upon thousands of the black-and-white, upright, animated birds set against a green and pink mountainside on a scale so vast it steals your breath away. Then again, he closes every chapter with juddering empurpled wordplay that can thankfully be seen coming and thus avoided. Naveen knows and loves his subject—he is the first to admit that he is never happier than when mired in penguin guano—and he writes of it and its place with uncommon fluency. (color photos, not seen)

Pub Date: Feb. 1, 1999

ISBN: 0-688-15894-3

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Morrow/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 1998

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Not light reading but essential for policymakers—and highly recommended for the 40 million people who rely on the Great...


An alarming account of the “slow-motion catastrophe” facing the world’s largest freshwater system.

Based on 13 years of reporting for the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, this exhaustively detailed examination of the Great Lakes reveals the extent to which this 94,000-square-mile natural resource has been exploited for two centuries. The main culprits have been “over-fishing, over-polluting, and over-prioritizing navigation,” writes Egan, winner of the J. Anthony Lukas Work-in-Progress Award. Combining scientific details, the stories of researchers investigating ecological crises, and interviews with people who live and work along the lakes, the author crafts an absorbing narrative of science and human folly. The St. Lawrence Seaway, a system of locks, canals, and channels leading to the Atlantic Ocean, which allows “noxious species” from foreign ports to enter the lakes through ballast water dumped by freighters, has been a central player. Biologically contaminated ballast water is “the worst kind of pollution,” writes Egan. “It breeds.” As a result, mussels and other invasive species have been devastating the ecosystem and traveling across the country to wreak harm in the West. At the same time, farm-fertilizer runoff has helped create “massive seasonal toxic algae blooms that are turning [Lake] Erie’s water into something that seems impossible for a sea of its size: poison.” The blooms contain “the seeds of a natural and public health disaster.” While lengthy and often highly technical, Egan’s sections on frustrating attempts to engineer the lakes by introducing predator fish species underscore the complexity of the challenge. The author also covers the threats posed by climate change and attempts by outsiders to divert lake waters for profit. He notes that the political will is lacking to reduce farm runoffs. The lakes could “heal on their own,” if protected from new invasions and if the fish and mussels already present “find a new ecological balance.”

Not light reading but essential for policymakers—and highly recommended for the 40 million people who rely on the Great Lakes for drinking water.

Pub Date: March 7, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-393-24643-8

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Norton

Review Posted Online: Jan. 4, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2017

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A tiny book, not much bigger than a pamphlet, with huge potential impact.

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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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