A compelling and troubling examination of the imperiled state of two important marine species.

Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT

  • Kirkus Reviews'
    Best Books Of 2021



A beautifully illustrated scientific, political, and humanitarian study of the threat posed by human encroachment to an iconic species of the Pacific Northwest.

In 2018, the eyes of the world were riveted on a real-life nature drama as Tahlequah, a female of a pod of orcas, carried her dead calf hundreds of miles through the waters of the Salish Sea in a public display of maternal grief that lasted for 17 days. Tahlequah’s tragic vigil, along with the nearby death of Scarlet, a newborn orca, from a mysterious wasting syndrome, highlighted an ecological emergency that threatens both the orcas and the chinook salmon they feed on. Indigenous nations have, historically and currently, revered the orcas as family, but White settlers in the United States and Canada have been more likely to slaughter them or capture them for display and amusement. In this book, co-published with the Seattle Times, Mapes, a Seattle Timesreporter on the environment, presents a compelling portrait of the orcas as creatures of dignity and sensitivity, with brains that are better structured for empathy and social interaction than humans’. No less impressive are the orcas’ prey, Mapes notes—the “lustrous,” ancient, and resilient chinook salmon, whose already perilous journey upstream to spawn has been rendered nearly impossible by human encroachment. Pollution and noise damage the orcas, the author points out, and interfere with their ability to hunt. Illustrated with charts, diagrams, and spectacular photos by Seattle Times photographer Ringman and others, Mapes’ vigorous, evocative writing draws readers into the intertwined story of the orcas and the chinook and also effectively highlights Indigenous stewards of the land and sea, including members of the Lower Elwha Klallam Tribe. She explicitly charges that “it is our everyday destruction and pollution of the habitat that supports the orcas—and the salmon they eat—that is the major cause of the orcas’ decline.” However, Mapes also offers cautious hope in her account of the restorative effects of dam removal on Washington state’s Elwha River.  

A compelling and troubling examination of the imperiled state of two important marine species.  

Pub Date: June 1, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-68-051326-4

Page Count: 192

Publisher: Braided River

Review Posted Online: June 18, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2021

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

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

Did you like this book?

A handful of pearls amid a pile of empty oyster shells.


Bestselling author Haig offers a book’s worth of apothegms to serve as guides to issues ranging from disquietude to self-acceptance.

Like many collections of this sort—terse snippets of advice, from the everyday to the cosmic—some parts will hit home with surprising insight, some will feel like old hat, and others will come across as disposable or incomprehensible. Years ago, Haig experienced an extended period of suicidal depression, so he comes at many of these topics—pain, hope, self-worth, contentment—from a hard-won perspective. This makes some of the material worthy of a second look, even when it feels runic or contrary to experience. The author’s words are instigations, hopeful first steps toward illumination. Most chapters are only a few sentences long, the longest running for three pages. Much is left unsaid and left up to readers to dissect. On being lost, Haig recounts an episode with his father when they got turned around in a forest in France. His father said to him, “If we keep going in a straight line we’ll get out of here.” He was correct, a bit of wisdom Haig turned to during his depression when he focused on moving forward: “It is important to remember the bottom of the valley never has the clearest view. And that sometimes all you need to do in order to rise up again is to keep moving forward.” Many aphorisms sound right, if hardly groundbreaking—e.g., a quick route to happiness is making someone else happy; “No is a good word. It keeps you sane. In an age of overload, no is really yes. It is yes to having space you need to live”; “External events are neutral. They only gain positive or negative value the moment they enter our mind.” Haig’s fans may enjoy this one, but others should take a pass.

A handful of pearls amid a pile of empty oyster shells.

Pub Date: July 6, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-14-313666-8

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Penguin Life

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2021

Did you like this book?