A delightful book sure to charm nature lovers of all ages.

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SILENT SPARKS

THE WONDROUS WORLD OF FIREFLIES

An exploration of the little-known lives of fireflies.

More so than most insects, fireflies capture our attention—and imagination—for their bioluminescence. Whether flitting across a suburban backyard or clustering in groups of thousands in the Great Smoky Mountains, these enigmatic beetles put on serious light shows after dusk, blanketing the landscape with synchronous patterns. It seems downright romantic—and, writes Lewis (Biology/Tufts Univ.) in this wide-ranging yet intimate narrative, it is indeed these flashes that ignite firefly courtship. In prose that is plenty accessible for younger readers, the author doesn’t skimp on the details as she divulges “some of fireflies’ most deeply held secrets.” She shares stories from all over the world, blending personal anecdotes drawn from her long career as an evolutionary ecologist and biologist with a bit of scientific history as she credits some of the amateur and expert researchers who have advanced the field. She also introduces a few intriguing and rarely seen firefly outliers, such as the blue-ghost firefly, whose females are wingless, and the vampire firefly, which devours its peers. In these diverse chapters, Lewis establishes just the right balance of technical language, never alienating readers with jargon. She layers her expertise with enthusiasm that conveys her decadeslong passion for firefly research and includes over 50 color illustrations and photos. She covers much of the biochemistry that drives fireflies’ ability to produce light and cracks the code of the myriad flashing patterns they display. She even provides a handy beginners’ field guide for the more adventurous readers eager to head outside and see more for themselves. After all, she writes, “Fireflies offer us the gift of wonder, an infallible recipe for falling in love again with nature.”

A delightful book sure to charm nature lovers of all ages.

Pub Date: May 10, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-691-16268-3

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Princeton Univ.

Review Posted Online: Feb. 17, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2016

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Loads of good explaining, with reminders, time and again, of how much remains unknown, neatly putting the death of science...

A SHORT HISTORY OF NEARLY EVERYTHING

Bryson (I'm a Stranger Here Myself, 1999, etc.), a man who knows how to track down an explanation and make it confess, asks the hard questions of science—e.g., how did things get to be the way they are?—and, when possible, provides answers.

As he once went about making English intelligible, Bryson now attempts the same with the great moments of science, both the ideas themselves and their genesis, to resounding success. Piqued by his own ignorance on these matters, he’s egged on even more so by the people who’ve figured out—or think they’ve figured out—such things as what is in the center of the Earth. So he goes exploring, in the library and in company with scientists at work today, to get a grip on a range of topics from subatomic particles to cosmology. The aim is to deliver reports on these subjects in terms anyone can understand, and for the most part, it works. The most difficult is the nonintuitive material—time as part of space, say, or proteins inventing themselves spontaneously, without direction—and the quantum leaps unusual minds have made: as J.B.S. Haldane once put it, “The universe is not only queerer than we suppose; it is queerer than we can suppose.” Mostly, though, Bryson renders clear the evolution of continental drift, atomic structure, singularity, the extinction of the dinosaur, and a mighty host of other subjects in self-contained chapters that can be taken at a bite, rather than read wholesale. He delivers the human-interest angle on the scientists, and he keeps the reader laughing and willing to forge ahead, even over their heads: the human body, for instance, harboring enough energy “to explode with the force of thirty very large hydrogen bombs, assuming you knew how to liberate it and really wished to make a point.”

Loads of good explaining, with reminders, time and again, of how much remains unknown, neatly putting the death of science into perspective.

Pub Date: May 6, 2003

ISBN: 0-7679-0817-1

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Broadway

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2003

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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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