A lucidly informative tour of the natural world’s astonishing complexity, cheerfully conveyed.




A collection of short essays reflecting on the surprising majesty of the natural world that surrounds us.

Debut author Sura Jeselsohn routinely marvels at the hidden wonders of the natural environment, spectacles that can be enjoyed without the fuss of exotic travel. In a series of brief essays that originally appeared in the Riverdale Press in her regular column, “Green Scene,” the author recounts adventures big and small in encountering the ecological gems hiding in plain sight: “It always amazes me what you do not see when your eye is not sensitized.” Jeselsohn takes the reader on a guided tour of these barely concealed delights, many of which she finds around her home in Riverdale, New York: She goes beachcombing on Coney Island, searches for fossils in nearby streams, and explains how midtown Manhattan can be seen as a “geological opportunity.” She also makes grander excursions, too, to Israel, Uganda, London, and the Red Sea, among others. The book is organized thematically; for example, there are sections that collect essays on marine biology, plants, insects, and birds, and a few others. As the collection’s title suggests, she returns repeatedly to the notion of noticing and enjoying the natural beauty accessible to all with the patience to look for it—all that is “happening beneath the radar”: “I have always thought that I was reasonably aware of the natural world around me; yet as I am repeatedly reminded, a whole lot goes on out there, right under my nose, that I’m completely unaware of.” She vividly describes her often fascinating findings, like the “extraordinary structural complexity and surprising coloration” of flowers. Jeselsohn writes with great clarity and informal unpretentiousness; her expertise is undeniable, but she expresses it without a hint of professional arrogance. In fact, quite the contrary, she infectiously invites the reader to share the experiences she believes are open to all, given a heightened attentiveness. And while there is a more urgent lesson that lurks beneath her explorations—that nature is precious and we “ignore it at our peril”—this is not a work of activism but a quietly inviting paean to the infinite beauty of the Earth.

A lucidly informative tour of the natural world’s astonishing complexity, cheerfully conveyed. 

Pub Date: Nov. 7, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-946989-30-7

Page Count: 234

Publisher: Full Court Press

Review Posted Online: Jan. 20, 2020

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Stricter than, say, Bergen Evans or W3 ("disinterested" means impartial — period), Strunk is in the last analysis...



Privately published by Strunk of Cornell in 1918 and revised by his student E. B. White in 1959, that "little book" is back again with more White updatings.

Stricter than, say, Bergen Evans or W3 ("disinterested" means impartial — period), Strunk is in the last analysis (whoops — "A bankrupt expression") a unique guide (which means "without like or equal").

Pub Date: May 15, 1972

ISBN: 0205632645

Page Count: 105

Publisher: Macmillan

Review Posted Online: Oct. 28, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 1972

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Possibly inspired by the letters Cleary has received as a children's author, this begins with second-grader Leigh Botts' misspelled fan letter to Mr. Henshaw, whose fictitious book itself derives from the old take-off title Forty Ways W. Amuse a Dog. Soon Leigh is in sixth grade and bombarding his still-favorite author with a list of questions to be answered and returned by "next Friday," the day his author report is due. Leigh is disgruntled when Mr. Henshaw's answer comes late, and accompanied by a set of questions for Leigh to answer. He threatens not to, but as "Mom keeps nagging me about your dumb old questions" he finally gets the job done—and through his answers Mr. Henshaw and readers learn that Leigh considers himself "the mediumest boy in school," that his parents have split up, and that he dreams of his truck-driver dad driving him to school "hauling a forty-foot reefer, which would make his outfit add up to eighteen wheels altogether. . . . I guess I wouldn't seem so medium then." Soon Mr. Henshaw recommends keeping a diary (at least partly to get Leigh off his own back) and so the real letters to Mr. Henshaw taper off, with "pretend," unmailed letters (the diary) taking over. . . until Leigh can write "I don't have to pretend to write to Mr. Henshaw anymore. I have learned to say what I think on a piece of paper." Meanwhile Mr. Henshaw offers writing tips, and Leigh, struggling with a story for a school contest, concludes "I think you're right. Maybe I am not ready to write a story." Instead he writes a "true story" about a truck haul with his father in Leigh's real past, and this wins praise from "a real live author" Leigh meets through the school program. Mr. Henshaw has also advised that "a character in a story should solve a problem or change in some way," a standard juvenile-fiction dictum which Cleary herself applies modestly by having Leigh solve his disappearing lunch problem with a burglar-alarmed lunch box—and, more seriously, come to recognize and accept that his father can't be counted on. All of this, in Leigh's simple words, is capably and unobtrusively structured as well as valid and realistic. From the writing tips to the divorced-kid blues, however, it tends to substitute prevailing wisdom for the little jolts of recognition that made the Ramona books so rewarding.

Pub Date: Aug. 22, 1983

ISBN: 143511096X

Page Count: 133

Publisher: Morrow/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Oct. 16, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 1983

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