The Kingfisher Encyclopedia of Life: Minutes, Months, Millennia-How Long Is a Life on Earth?

The Kingfisher Encyclopedia of Life: Minutes, Months, Millennia-How Long Is a Life on Earth? 160p. chron. diags. glossary. illus. index. maps. photos. Kingfisher. 2012. Tr $19.99. ISBN 978-0-7534-6891-3
RedReviewStarGr 3–6—Aiming to provide an "imaginative introduction to the natural world and the huge array of species that inhabit it," this work is a spectacular success. It focuses on 230 species (considering that 18,000 new ones are discovered each year, we'll give them credit for selecting the most interesting), categorizing them according to lifespan. The chapters start with "Here today…," which includes bacteria that survive for less than an hour, and close with "Time Is on My Side," which mentions champions of longevity such as the Great Barrier Reef, portions of which are 18 million years old. Spreads focusing on a life span or on species are interspersed with features highlighting biodiversity, habitats, genetics, and other influences on Earth's lifeforms. The feature spreads include a map of the world and numbered circles that link to corresponding text. The layout of these features is sometimes more confusing than the other content, with the numbered text going against the natural reading direction. But this won't disrupt the title's Guinness Book of World Records-like appeal: it includes some truly bizarre and gross facts (a vanilla flavoring used in ice cream comes from the anal glands of beavers, for example). All measurements are given in nonmetric and metric measurements. One unifying feature woven throughout the text and the vivid color photography is how many species have their lifespans adversely affected by disease and human interference (or, as in the case of the male brown antechinus, the "stress and exhaustion of mating"). Don't let this title languish in the reference stacks. Put it in circulation where it can be taken home and enjoyed.—Kara Schaff Dean, Walpole Public Library, MA

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