A small gem full of hope, determination, and wonder.



The author of The Soul of the Octopus returns with the story of the miraculous recovery of two abandoned baby hummingbirds.

When Brenda Sherburn, a volunteer hummingbird rehabilitator in California, received two orphaned birds, they were not much larger than bumblebees. Uncertain about how to proceed with their recovery, she contacted naturalist Montgomery to help. As the author explains, rehabilitating hummingbirds is difficult work. In addition to maintaining the temperature of their habitat and examining their bodies for injury and invasive insects, baby hummingbirds must be fed every 20 minutes using a tiny syringe. Furthermore, “because the food spoils easily, a fresh batch must be concocted several times a day.” The conditions under which the young are released into the wild are also fraught. Hummingbirds typically lay two eggs, which hatch two days apart. The timing difference can lead to a developmental lag in the youngest hatchling and offer additional challenges, which was the case in the recovery of this pair. With her characteristic compassion, Montgomery shows the patience and skill with which Sherburn nursed her charges back to health. She also discusses the extreme measures other rehabbers have taken to ensure the recovery of injured and orphaned hummingbirds. Montgomery packs a wealth of general information regarding hummingbirds into this slim volume, examining species differences, body mechanics, habitat range, food sources, migration patterns, and relevant mythology. As their attachment to the birds grew, Sherburn and Montgomery chose to break the unwritten rule of naming birds in the process of rehabilitation. Drawing on Aztec and Mayan mythology, they chose Maya and Zuni. Regarding the reason for writing this book, Montgomery explains that witnessing the recovery of these tiny creatures was a cherished gift. If humans, she notes, “could help transform these pathetically vulnerable infants to rulers of the sky, then perhaps our kind can heal our sweet, green, broken world.”

A small gem full of hope, determination, and wonder.

Pub Date: May 4, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-982176-08-2

Page Count: 96

Publisher: Atria

Review Posted Online: March 8, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2021

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A lucid (in the sky with diamonds) look at the hows, whys, and occasional demerits of altering one’s mind.

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Building on his lysergically drenched book How to Change Your Mind (2018), Pollan looks at three plant-based drugs and the mental effects they can produce.

The disastrous war on drugs began under Nixon to control two classes of perceived enemies: anti-war protestors and Black citizens. That cynical effort, writes the author, drives home the point that “societies condone the mind-changing drugs that help uphold society’s rule and ban the ones that are seen to undermine it.” One such drug is opium, for which Pollan daringly offers a recipe for home gardeners to make a tea laced with the stuff, producing “a radical and by no means unpleasant sense of passivity.” You can’t overthrow a government when so chilled out, and the real crisis is the manufacture of synthetic opioids, which the author roundly condemns. Pollan delivers a compelling backstory: This section dates to 1997, but he had to leave portions out of the original publication to keep the Drug Enforcement Administration from his door. Caffeine is legal, but it has stronger effects than opium, as the author learned when he tried to quit: “I came to see how integral caffeine is to the daily work of knitting ourselves back together after the fraying of consciousness during sleep.” Still, back in the day, the introduction of caffeine to the marketplace tempered the massive amounts of alcohol people were drinking even though a cup of coffee at noon will keep banging on your brain at midnight. As for the cactus species that “is busy transforming sunlight into mescaline right in my front yard”? Anyone can grow it, it seems, but not everyone will enjoy effects that, in one Pollan experiment, “felt like a kind of madness.” To his credit, the author also wrestles with issues of cultural appropriation, since in some places it’s now easier for a suburbanite to grow San Pedro cacti than for a Native American to use it ceremonially.

A lucid (in the sky with diamonds) look at the hows, whys, and occasional demerits of altering one’s mind.

Pub Date: July 6, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-593-29690-5

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Penguin Press

Review Posted Online: April 14, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2021

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A straightforward, carefully detailed presentation of how ``fruit comes from flowers,'' from winter's snow-covered buds through pollination and growth to ripening and harvest. Like the text, the illustrations are admirably clear and attractive, including the larger-than-life depiction of the parts of the flower at different stages. An excellent contribution to the solidly useful ``Let's-Read-and-Find-Out-Science'' series. (Nonfiction/Picture book. 4-9)

Pub Date: Jan. 30, 1992

ISBN: 0-06-020055-3

Page Count: 32

Publisher: HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 1991

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