A peaceful stroll for waterfowl lovers.



A debut collection of full-color photographs, inspirational quotes, and information about the breathtaking waterfowl of Swan Lake Iris Gardens in Sumter, South Carolina.

In this brief, gentle paean to the graceful beauty of swans, Gochnauer notes that Swan Lake Iris Gardens is home to all eight known species of the waterfowl. The park was first envisioned in 1927 by entrepreneur Hamilton Carr Bland, an avid outdoorsman who acquired 50 swampy acres and painstakingly transformed it into a serene lake with multiple small islands. Ultimately, Bland deeded his land to the city of Sumter, notes Gochnauer, and on top of that donation, the A.T. Heath family deeded 79 acres to the city. Thanks to Bland’s vision and work, the park now boasts more than 150 acres and remains free and open to the public. He also acquired numerous swans, which continue to make the gardens their home. Gochnauer presents photos of all eight species of the bird—including mute, trumpeter, whooper, Bewick’s, tundra, black, coscoroba, and black-necked varieties. These images feature lush details; in one photo, for instance, a pair of mute swans curve their necks as they daintily feed in brackish water that’s thick with sun-soaked green plants. Another image of a black swan with her chicks in rippling water radiates the energy of youth, and still another photo’s watery reflections of a trumpeter swan among shady cypress trees will particularly appeal to nature lovers. This lovely, easily browsable assemblage also contains some compelling information that may be useful to young students; for example, Gochnauer notes that the trumpeter swan was hunted into near extinction by the 1930s. The author sprinkles in quotes from nature enthusiasts, such as Henry David Thoreau, throughout the book.

A peaceful stroll for waterfowl lovers.

Pub Date: N/A


Page Count: 119

Publisher: Manuscript

Review Posted Online: May 12, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2020

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


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 virtuoso performance and an ode to an undervalued medium created by two talented artists.



The veteran actor, comedian, and banjo player teams up with the acclaimed illustrator to create a unique book of cartoons that communicates their personalities.

Martin, also a prolific author, has always been intrigued by the cartoons strewn throughout the pages of the New Yorker. So when he was presented with the opportunity to work with Bliss, who has been a staff cartoonist at the magazine since 1997, he seized the moment. “The idea of a one-panel image with or without a caption mystified me,” he writes. “I felt like, yeah, sometimes I’m funny, but there are these other weird freaks who are actually funny.” Once the duo agreed to work together, they established their creative process, which consisted of working forward and backward: “Forwards was me conceiving of several cartoon images and captions, and Harry would select his favorites; backwards was Harry sending me sketched or fully drawn cartoons for dialogue or banners.” Sometimes, he writes, “the perfect joke occurs two seconds before deadline.” There are several cartoons depicting this method, including a humorous multipanel piece highlighting their first meeting called “They Meet,” in which Martin thinks to himself, “He’ll never be able to translate my delicate and finely honed droll notions.” In the next panel, Bliss thinks, “I’m sure he won’t understand that the comic art form is way more subtle than his blunt-force humor.” The team collaborated for a year and created 150 cartoons featuring an array of topics, “from dogs and cats to outer space and art museums.” A witty creation of a bovine family sitting down to a gourmet meal and one of Dumbo getting his comeuppance highlight the duo’s comedic talent. What also makes this project successful is the team’s keen understanding of human behavior as viewed through their unconventional comedic minds.

A virtuoso performance and an ode to an undervalued medium created by two talented artists.

Pub Date: Nov. 17, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-250-26289-9

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Celadon Books

Review Posted Online: Aug. 31, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2020

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