Tag: extinction

Review: Galapagos George by Jean Craighead George

galapagos george

Galapagos George by Jean Craighead George, illustrated by Wendell Minor

A story of evolution and extinction, this picture book explores the incredible life of the famous Lonesome George a tortoise who was the last of his kind.  The book begins by explaining how a million years ago a tortoise was driven from South America and carried to the island of San Cristobal near the equator.  There she laid eggs, used her long neck to reach food, and passed on her genetics.  Thousands of years later, all of the turtles looked different with long necks and shells that curved back to give their necks more room.  When humans discovered the Galapagos Islands, they quickly decimated the turtle population which dwindled down to only a few thousand from the hundreds of thousands that had lived there.  A hundred years later, the giant tortoise population had reduced even further, so that one lone turtle remained.  He was moved to the Charles Darwin Research Station and protected but no other turtle of the species was ever found.

George creates a vivid story of the power of evolution in our world and the effects of humans on animal species.  She steadily shows how weather forces and natural disasters impact animals as well, moving them from place to place and changing their habitats.  As the animals change slowly, George keeps the text clear and factual, making for a book that moves quickly and is filled with fascinating scientific information.

Minor’s illustrations are lush and lovely.  They are filled with the light of sun, bursting on the horizon in tropical colors.  He also shows the barren landscape of the Galapagos clearly and the frank regard of a tortoise looking right at the reader.  There is a sense of loneliness for much of the book both when the book is about the first tortoise and then later when there is one left.  That connection between the two lone turtles is made clearly in the illustrations.

Fascinating, distressing and yet ultimately hopeful, this nonfiction picture book will work well in science classrooms as well as library collections.  Appropriate for ages 6-9.

Reviewed from copy received from HarperCollins.

Review: Aviary Wonders Inc. Spring Catalog and Instruction Manual by Kate Samworth

aviary wonders

Aviary Wonders Inc. Spring Catalog and Instruction Manual by Kate Samworth

Birds are steadily going extinct, but Aviary Wonders Inc. has the solution.  Ever since 2031, they have been providing a fun and engaging way to create your own avian companion.  Each bird is made up of high-quality parts that you can put together in unique ways that never existed in nature.  You can keep your bird or set it free.  Teach it to sing and fly.  Assembly is as easy as putting together a book case.  To get started, just select the body type that you want to start with.  After that, you can pick out the beak, tail, legs, feet, wings and crests.  Assembly instructions are included in the book as are directions for feeding and caring for your pet bird.  This clever and creepy look at a potential future for birds serves as a warning for all.

Samworth marries a warning about loss of habitat and food for birds with a catalog that hearkens back to turn of the century catalogs and the wonders they contained.  There is definitely a strange and frightening factor on every page.  While the beaks, tails and wings are beautifully drawn, the images of the beakless birds turns it all odd and stomach-twisting.  It is that interplay of disturbing and lovely that makes the book very effective.

The art in the book is a large part of its success.  Samworth honors the variety and beauty of birds while also making them firmly her own with the wild colors, naming of the different styles, and hawking of her “wares.”  The image of the sepia-toned beakless, legless and featherless bird resting on a pillow is profoundly wrong in just the right way. 

Full of black humor, creepy sales pitch jargon and a message of how close we are to truly losing entire types of creatures, this book is beautiful, moving and frightening.  Appropriate for ages 8-12.

Reviewed from library copy.