Cogent of topic, but for readability, it’s aptly titled.

RUNNING DRY

THE GLOBAL WATER CRISIS

In urgent tones, a call for action as climate change and continuing waste and pollution of available fresh water pose imminent threats to human health and agriculture.

Drawing from recently published reports and news stories, Kallen paints an alarming picture. Aquifers are being sucked dry by large-scale agriculture, lake levels are falling, and water sources above- and belowground are being polluted. Though he points to a few significant counterefforts—the Clean Water Act (1972) in the United States and local initiatives elsewhere, such as “rainwater harvesting” ponds in India and Kenya—these come off as spotty responses that are often hobbled by political and corporate foot-dragging. He also points to shrinking glaciers and snow packs (plus, for added gloom, superstorms like Sandy) as harbingers of climate change that will lead to widespread future disaster. Aside from occasional incidents or examples and rare if telling photos, though, this jeremiad is largely composed of generalities and big numbers—not a formula for motivating young readers. Nor does the author offer budding eco-activists much in the way of either hope or ways to become part of the solution; for the latter, at least, Cathryn Berger Kaye’s Going Blue: A Teens Guide to Saving Our Oceans, Lakes, Rivers, & Wetlands (2010) is a better choice.

Cogent of topic, but for readability, it’s aptly titled. (source notes, multimedia resource lists, index) (Nonfiction. 12-14)

Pub Date: Feb. 1, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-4677-2646-7

Page Count: 64

Publisher: Twenty-First Century/Lerner

Review Posted Online: Nov. 4, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2014

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Painstaking, judicious, and by no means exculpatory but with hints of sympathy.

BONNIE AND CLYDE

THE MAKING OF A LEGEND

A portrait of two victims of the Great Depression whose taste for guns and fast cars led to short careers in crime but longer ones as legends.

Blumenthal (Hillary Rodham Clinton, 2016, etc.) makes a determined effort to untangle a mare’s nest of conflicting eyewitness accounts, purple journalism, inaccurate police reports, and self-serving statements from relatives and cohorts of Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow. Though the results sometimes read as dry recitations of names and indistinguishable small towns, she makes perceptive guesses about what drove them and why they have become iconic figures, along with retracing their early lives, two-year crime spree, and subsequent transformations into doomed pop-culture antiheroes. She does not romanticize the duo—giving many of their murder victims faces through individual profiles, for instance, and describing wounds in grisly detail—but does convincingly argue that their crimes and characters (particularly Bonnie’s) were occasionally exaggerated. Blumenthal also wrenchingly portrays the desperation that their displaced, impoverished families must have felt while pointedly showing how an overtaxed, brutal legal system can turn petty offenders into violent ones. A full version of Bonnie’s homespun ballad “The Story of Bonnie and Clyde” and notes on the subsequent lives of significant relatives, accomplices, and lawmen join meaty lists of sources and interviews at the end.

Painstaking, judicious, and by no means exculpatory but with hints of sympathy. (photos, timeline, author’s note, source notes, bibliography, index) (Biography. 12-14)

Pub Date: Aug. 14, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-451-47122-2

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: May 15, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2018

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Science literally on the cutting edge, offering prospects of wonder and terror in equal measure.

CRISPR

A provocative report on world-changing developments promised by a dawning breakthrough in biotechnology.

Ridge first goes over the ins and outs of chromosomes and genomes, then explains how certain clusters of “palindromic repeats” found in the DNA of single-celled creatures can be employed to edit with precision any cell’s genetic “instruction manual.” Though just missing the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, she goes on to explore the technique’s current and potential uses and misuses. The former include creating better medicines, cures for cancer and other systemic diseases, new plant varieties, and better livestock; the latter, scrambling ecological balances, cooking up frightening bioweapons, and “Playing God” with human germlines to make designer babies. In general she comes down on the positive side (if for no other reason than that it’s too late to get the cat back into the bag) but doesn’t skimp on laying out complications and quandaries for readers to chew over in formulating their own views. She leavens the hefty informational load as best she can (“The genetic similarity between a human and a banana is 60%”), and Boersma supplies a generous array of staid but lucid diagrams, schematics, and infographics in support. Though it is marketed as a book for readers 14 and up, both graphic design and complexity of language seem to suit it better for middle schoolers. 

Science literally on the cutting edge, offering prospects of wonder and terror in equal measure. (sources, resource lists, index) (Nonfiction. 12-14)

Pub Date: Sept. 8, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-77321-424-5

Page Count: 116

Publisher: Annick Press

Review Posted Online: May 17, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2020

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