Recommended reading, from mycorrhizal fungi to canopy.

THE WISDOM OF TREES

HOW TREES WORK TOGETHER TO FORM A NATURAL KINGDOM

In poetry, prose, and art, examples from around the world teach both basic botany and current, even cutting-edge, research about trees.

Each double-page spread includes detailed watercolor art, a short, titled poem, and prose paragraphs that extend each poem’s meaning. As the text explains: “The poems in this book reveal what trees might say if they did use words.” The poems are written in an accessible free verse with a pleasing rhythm and near rhymes, and they include sly homage to both Shakespearean verse and more modern memes. Equally accessible prose introduces readers to the humorously—but appropriately—designated Wood Wide Web, which allows trees long-distance, intra-tree communication through mycorrhizal fungi at their roots. That knowledge, and the tale of savvy, giraffe-battling acacias, will be familiar to readers of Peter Wohlleben’s Can You Hear the Trees Talking? (2019). This text goes further by stressing cooperation rather than competition among different tree species and, indeed, by declaring that trees are the entire planet’s “best defense against climate change.” There are excellent explanations of standard topics such as photosynthesis along with revelations about how many insect species were found on one tree in Costa Rica, why most of Malaysia’s tualang trees are protected (home to Asian rock bees, a type of honeybee), and the urgent necessity of reforestation. Final pages offer further information, organized by the poem titles. With the exception of some awkwardly depicted animals, the illustrations complement the text’s quality of reverence. (This book was reviewed digitally with 11-by-18-inch double-page spreads viewed at 38.9% of actual size.)

Recommended reading, from mycorrhizal fungi to canopy. (glossary, sources, websites) (Informational picture book/poetry. 8-12)

Pub Date: March 2, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-250-23707-1

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Roaring Brook Press

Review Posted Online: Dec. 15, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2021

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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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What better way to make natural history slide down easily? (index) (Nonfiction. 8-10)

GET THE SCOOP ON ANIMAL SNOT, SPIT & SLIME!

FROM SNAKE VENOM TO FISH SLIME, 251 COOL FACTS ABOUT MUCUS, SALIVA & MORE

Cusick floats a slick, select gallery of nature’s spitters, nose-pickers, oozers, and slimers—most but not all nonhuman—atop nourishing globs of scientific information.

Title notwithstanding, the book is limited just to mucus and saliva. Following introductory looks at the major components of each, Cusick describes their often similar uses in nature—in swallowing or expelling foreign matter, fighting disease, predation and defense, camouflage, travel, communication (“Aren’t you glad humans use words to communicate?”), home construction, nutrition, and more. All of this is presented in easily digestible observations placed among, and often referring to, color photos of slime-covered goby fish, a giraffe with its tongue up its nose, various drooling animals, including a white infant, and like photogenic subjects. Two simple experiments cater to hands-on types, but any readers who take delight in sentences like “Some fungus beetles eat snail slime mucus” come away both stimulated and informed.

What better way to make natural history slide down easily? (index) (Nonfiction. 8-10)

Pub Date: Dec. 15, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-63322-115-4

Page Count: 80

Publisher: Moondance/Quarto

Review Posted Online: Sept. 19, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2016

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