Hopeful news in the natural world.

CONDOR COMEBACK

From the Scientists in the Field series

A veteran nature writer explores and explains the work in progress of restoring the near-extinct California condor population.

Montgomery, no stranger to science in the field, opens her introduction to this ongoing captive breeding program with a visit to the Santa Barbara Zoo. The zoo’s director of conservation, Estelle Sandhaus, introduces the writer and her readers to the species and the restoration process. They join ongoing California fieldwork in the form of condor checkups. These birds are still so endangered that wildlife specialists attempt to recapture each condor living in the wild every year, to check on its health and tracking devices. In an immediate, present-tense narrative, the writer describes the details of these checkups and some of the hazards: While holding birds, she was pooped on and bitten. They visit a biologist watching a nest site and see a new fledgling. After readers are thoroughly engaged with the birds, the writer steps back to describe continuing dangers—lead poisoning and microtrash—and the lab work that identifies the problems. She touches on the effects of wildfires in the birds’ neighborhoods; visits another nest watch; and talks with a tribal educator with the Santa Ynez Band of Chumash Indians, who revere the condors and are especially interested in their return. She and Dr. Sandhaus watch a chick webcam and meet third graders who’ve been studying condors. Close-up and long-range photos enliven every page. Most but not all of the researchers are White; the students are mostly Latinx, and one uses a wheelchair.

Hopeful news in the natural world. (timeline, epilogue, what you can do, bibliography, to learn more, index) (Nonfiction. 9-14)

Pub Date: July 28, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-544-81653-4

Page Count: 96

Publisher: HMH Books

Review Posted Online: May 3, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2020

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Like oil itself, this is a book that needs to be handled with special care.

OIL

In 1977, the oil carrier Exxon Valdez spilled 11 million gallons of oil into a formerly pristine Alaskan ocean inlet, killing millions of birds, animals, and fish. Despite a cleanup, crude oil is still there.

The Winters foretold the destructive powers of the atomic bomb allusively in The Secret Project (2017), leaving the actuality to the backmatter. They make no such accommodations to young audiences in this disturbing book. From the dark front cover, on which oily blobs conceal a seabird, to the rescuer’s sad face on the back, the mother-son team emphasizes the disaster. A relatively easy-to-read and poetically heightened text introduces the situation. Oil is pumped from the Earth “all day long, all night long, / day after day, year after year” in “what had been unspoiled land, home to Native people // and thousands of caribou.” The scale of extraction is huge: There’s “a giant pipeline” leading to “enormous ships.” Then, crash. Rivers of oil gush out over three full-bleed wordless pages. Subsequent scenes show rocks, seabirds, and sea otters covered with oil. Finally, 30 years later, animals have returned to a cheerful scene. “But if you lift a rock… // oil / seeps / up.” For an adult reader, this is heartbreaking. How much more difficult might this be for an animal-loving child?

Like oil itself, this is a book that needs to be handled with special care. (author’s note, further reading) (Informational picture book. 9-12)

Pub Date: March 31, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-5344-3077-8

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Beach Lane/Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Nov. 24, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2019

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The photos effectively convey the scope of Harvey’s impact, but while journalistically sound, this informative book doesn’t...

HURRICANE HARVEY

DISASTER IN TEXAS AND BEYOND

The devastation of 2017’s Hurricane Harvey is explained, from the storm’s origin to its ongoing aftermath, in this photo-heavy book.

In retelling the story of how a storm got so big it caused 82 deaths and billions of dollars in damage along the Texas coast, Minneapolis-based author Felix details the science of hurricanes for those unfamiliar and unpacks why this and a series of other hurricanes made for one of the most damaging weather years on record. Although it’s packed with info-boxes, a glossary, tips for safety during a hurricane and helping survivors afterward, a snapshot of five other historic hurricanes, and well-curated photos, it misses an opportunity to convey some of the emotion and pain victims endured and continue to feel. Instead, much of the text feels like a summation of news reports, an efficient attempt to answer the whys of Hurricane Harvey, with only a few direct quotations. Readers learn about Virgil Smith, a Dickinson, Texas, teen who rescued others from floodwaters with an air mattress, but the information is secondhand. The book does answer, clearly and concisely, questions a kid might have about a hurricane, such as what happens to animals at the zoo in such an emergency and how a tropical storm forms in the first place. A portion of the book’s proceeds are to be donated to the Texas Library Association’s Disaster Relief Fund.

The photos effectively convey the scope of Harvey’s impact, but while journalistically sound, this informative book doesn’t capture the fear and shock those who lived through the hurricane must have felt. (Nonfiction. 9-10)

Pub Date: Feb. 1, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5415-2888-8

Page Count: 36

Publisher: Millbrook/Lerner

Review Posted Online: March 19, 2018

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