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Sunday, March 16, 2014

Review: 10 Plants that Shook the World by Gillian Richardson

10 Plants that Shook the World Gillian Richardson, authorKim Rosen, illustratorAnnick Press Ltd.

The ten plants are papyrus (writing), pepper (spice trade), tea, sugarcane, cotton (clothing), cacao, cinchona, rubber, potato, and corn. What makes this fascinating or unusual is that it's usually the machines we focus on having changed the world (and they have) as opposed to the plants that occur naturally. If you doubt their importance, Richardson points out that wars were fought over these plants.

It's nice to find an author who captures the secret language of kids--a language of charm and fun--that often gets lost when we become adults. Richardson does just that:
"[P]epper has another, unexpected effect. It can make you sneeze. Achoo!"
Richardson occasionally tells things that needn't be told but on the whole, the balance of interesting information weighs in its favor. Richardson, also performs well on the delivery of information: boxes of information describing the plants' born, age, likes, dislikes, stats, history of names, pros + cons, facts, as well as other related information tightly packaged in a few paragraphs, trying to capture the impact these plants have made on civilization.

The author also tries to place readers in the historical shoes of those who might experience the plants firsthand--a fantastic idea to incorporate fiction and nonfiction. While the results are a little uneven (the brief narratives have nowhere to go), they are worth doing to get a sense of what this crop originally meant to those who helped shape modern civilization.

On the whole, this slender volume is a fast, enjoyable read and bound to convert hundreds into becoming new botanists for the world, out to make civilization better for everyone.

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