The plant world includes many curiosities whose “sneaky” adaptations help ensure their survival and reproduction.
This slim introduction to botany offers an interesting and unusual invitation to young readers to look closely at the plant world. Chapter by chapter, Blevins describes plants whose smells repel, that eat insects, use stinging or poisonous defenses, imitate something else, or survive in extreme environmental conditions; plants that can move and even catch fire. The ninja comparison—"stealthy, fierce, and sometimes deadly”—is unevenly but perhaps too frequently made. It wears thin, but the variety and unexpectedness of Blevins’ examples will keep readers’ attention. The exposition is clear and broken up by well-captioned photographs and pullout sections describing further oddities (Mexican jumping beans, rainbow eucalyptus bark, the jabuticaba tree’s crying fruit, parasitic figs), varieties of mimicry, thermogenesis, and more. An introduction covers the basics of plant evolution, survival, and reproduction, and the concluding chapter discusses plant-human relationships, including human causes for global climate change and its effect on the plant world. Specialized vocabulary is defined in context. Although the author includes new information on horizontal gene transfer, many of his examples are not plants but fungi, now said to belong to a separate kingdom.
An interesting take on a subject not often covered in books for middle school and teen readers. (glossary, selected bibliography, further information, index) (Nonfiction. 12-17)