A very credible overview.

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ANIMAL TALK

BREAKING THE CODES OF ANIMAL LANGUAGE

USA Today science writer Friend provides an amiable, anecdotally rich tour of communication as witnessed throughout the animal kingdom, fresh with the latest ideas behind how and why we all send signals.

Songs, dances, scents, chirps, hoots, yowls, body movement, eye contact, elements of flash—the author examines them all “to learn how animals communicate with each other and what they spend so much time chattering to each other about.” Stripped to its essentials, his main interest is how a sender provides information to a receiver, how the receiver responds to that signal, and the relationship between these two acts. The signals might entail, for example, electrical fields, or bioluminescence, or quorum-sensing by bacteria to decide if they are numerous enough to play dirty with their host’s cells. It isn’t any wonder that much signaling involves sex, real estate, and chow, nor does it come as much of a surprise that communication is thought to have “evolved as a more economical substitute for physical violence.” Underneath the dense, idiosyncratic layering each species has draped upon the signaling process can be seen peeking out a captivating set of motivational and structural rules of engagement. Tones can be harsh, low-frequency attack accompaniments or the high-frequency sounds of submission. Songs of love should not be confused with the sparrows’ singing competitions, which have been interpreted as the equivalent of “Yo’ mama”; “No, yo’ mama” and “Piss off”; “No, you piss off.” Friend handles the nature vs. nurture, instinctive vs. learned behavior debates with aplomb, just as he explains with dexterity the growing recognition of a body of shared gestures between species and the significance of gesture as language. His text boasts its own communicative clarity: nothing here need suspend disbelief; indeed all the signals seem strangely, comfortably familiar, from honeyguide bird to humpback whale.

A very credible overview.

Pub Date: Jan. 8, 2004

ISBN: 0-7432-0157-4

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Free Press

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2003

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A tiny book, not much bigger than a pamphlet, with huge potential impact.

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NO ONE IS TOO SMALL TO MAKE A DIFFERENCE

A collection of articulate, forceful speeches made from September 2018 to September 2019 by the Swedish climate activist who was nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize.

Speaking in such venues as the European and British Parliaments, the French National Assembly, the Austrian World Summit, and the U.N. General Assembly, Thunberg has always been refreshingly—and necessarily—blunt in her demands for action from world leaders who refuse to address climate change. With clarity and unbridled passion, she presents her message that climate change is an emergency that must be addressed immediately, and she fills her speeches with punchy sound bites delivered in her characteristic pull-no-punches style: “I don’t want you to be hopeful. I want you to panic. I want you to feel the fear I feel every day. And then I want you to act.” In speech after speech, to persuade her listeners, she cites uncomfortable, even alarming statistics about global temperature rise and carbon dioxide emissions. Although this inevitably makes the text rather repetitive, the repetition itself has an impact, driving home her point so that no one can fail to understand its importance. Thunberg varies her style for different audiences. Sometimes it is the rousing “our house is on fire” approach; other times she speaks more quietly about herself and her hopes and her dreams. When addressing the U.S. Congress, she knowingly calls to mind the words and deeds of Martin Luther King Jr. and John F. Kennedy. The last speech in the book ends on a note that is both challenging and upbeat: “We are the change and change is coming.” The edition published in Britain earlier this year contained 11 speeches; this updated edition has 16, all worth reading.

A tiny book, not much bigger than a pamphlet, with huge potential impact.

Pub Date: Nov. 26, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-14-313356-8

Page Count: 112

Publisher: Penguin

Review Posted Online: Nov. 3, 2019

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Exemplary writing about the world and a welcome gift to readers.

HORIZON

Distinguished natural history writer and explorer Lopez (Outside, 2014, etc.) builds a winning memoir around books, voyages, and biological and anthropological observations.

“Traveling, despite the technological innovations that have brought cultural homogenization to much of the world, helps the curious and attentive itinerant understand how deep the notion goes that one place is never actually like another.” So writes the author, who has made a long career of visiting remote venues such as Antarctica, Greenland, and the lesser known of the Galápagos Islands. From these travels he has extracted truths about the world, such as the fact that places differ as widely as the people who live in them. Even when traveling with scientists from his own culture, Lopez finds differences of perception. On an Arctic island called Skraeling, for instance, he observes that if he and the biologists he is walking with were to encounter a grizzly feeding on a caribou, he would focus on the bear, the scientists on the whole gestalt of bear, caribou, environment; if a native of the place were along, the story would deepen beyond the immediate event, for those who possess Indigenous ways of knowledge, “unlike me…felt no immediate need to resolve it into meaning.” The author’s chapter on talismans—objects taken from his travels, such as “a fist-size piece of raven-black dolerite”—is among the best things he has written. But there are plentiful gems throughout the looping narrative, its episodes constructed from adventures over eight decades: trying to work out a bit of science as a teenager while huddled under the Ponte Vecchio after just having seen Botticelli’s Venus; admiring a swimmer as a septuagenarian while remembering the John Steinbeck whom he’d met as a schoolboy; gazing into the surf over many years’ worth of trips to Cape Foulweather, an Oregon headland named by Capt. James Cook, of whom he writes, achingly, “we no longer seem to be sailing in a time of fixed stars, of accurate chronometers, and of reliable routes.”

Exemplary writing about the world and a welcome gift to readers.

Pub Date: March 20, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-394-58582-6

Page Count: 592

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: Nov. 26, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2018

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