A refreshing change of pace for readers weary of hearing that things are just getting worse.

A revealing look at some of the reasons why average life spans have skyrocketed over the past century.

Trimming down an adult version published in 2021 in conjunction with a PBS limited series, Johnson offers younger reading audiences a highlights reel of, mostly, scientific advances that have worked to reduce mortality rates—from variolation and vaccination to the controversial but famine-reducing effects of producing nitrates and chickens in industrial quantities. Though the author delivers proper nods to Lady Mary Montagu, Alexander Fleming, and like iconic figures, he cogently argues that each advance actually required the work of collaborative networks to effect lasting change. So it was that, for instance, Louis Pasteur might have learned how to sterilize milk, but it was grassroots efforts such as one led by New York City health commissioner Nathan Straus that first persuaded parents to use it and so drastically reduce infant mortality numbers. Collective efforts have also, Johnson writes, given us safer autos and drugs and eradicated smallpox. In keeping with the positive tone, he neglects to mention how the burgeoning use of antibiotics is resulting in super-resistant bacteria, but he does acknowledge the effects of systemic racism on Covid-19 death rates and the impending challenges of climate change. And, he notes in closing, if economic inequality is skyrocketing in Western countries like the United States, globally, both health outcomes and income levels are actually converging toward equality.

A refreshing change of pace for readers weary of hearing that things are just getting worse. (recommended reading, endnotes, bibliography, index, photo credits) (Nonfiction. 11-14)

Pub Date: Jan. 3, 2023

ISBN: 978-0-593-35149-9

Page Count: 128

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: Oct. 11, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2022



A well-intentioned description of life before birth. The illustrations make use of photographs (including ultrasound) and artist’s drawings, often in the same image, and these are well used to clarify the text. How babies grow and develop inside the womb is both described and illustrated, and while the tone is one of forced cheer, the information is sound. Also offered are quite silly exercises for children to experience what life in the womb might be like, such as listening to a dishwasher to experience the sounds a baby hears inside its mother’s body, or being held under a towel or blanket by an adult and wiggling about. The getting-together of sperm and egg is lightly passed over, as is the actual process of birth. But children may be mesmerized by the drawings of the growing child inside the mother, and what activities predate their birth dates. Not an essential purchase, but adequate as an addition to the collection. (Picture book/nonfiction. 4-8)

Pub Date: Dec. 1, 2000

ISBN: 1-894379-01-2

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Firefly

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2000



In the same format as his Newbery Honor title The Great Fire (1995), Murphy brings the blizzard of 1888 to life. He shows how military weather-monitoring practices, housing and employment conditions, and politics regarding waste management, transportation monopolies, and utilities regulation, all contributed to—and were subsequently affected by—the disaster. He does so through an appealing narrative, making use of first-hand accounts whose sources he describes in his notes at the end (though, disappointingly he cites nothing directly in the text). The wealth of quotable material made available through the letters of members of “the Society of Blizzard Men and Blizzard Ladies” and other sources help to make the story vivid. Many drawings and photographs (some of the blizzard, but most of related scenes) illustrate the text. These large reproductions are all in a sepia-tone that matches the color of the typeface—an effect that feels over-the-top, but doesn’t detract significantly from the power of the story. Murphy’s ability to pull in details that lend context allows him to tell this story of a place in time through the lens of a single, dramatic episode that will engage readers. This is skillfully done: humorous, jaw-dropping, thought-provoking, and chilling. (index) (Nonfiction. 9-14)

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 2000

ISBN: 0-590-67309-2

Page Count: 160

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2000

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