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Wednesday, May 15, 2013

10 Plants That Shook the World, written by Gillian Richardson with art by Kim Rosen. Annick Press, 2013. $14.95 ages 10 and up

"Cotton is recyclable. Your old denim jeans can even be reused to make insulation for buildings. But growing cotton in the first place is not so hot for the environment, because it requires more hazardous pesticides than any other agricultural crop. That means health risks for people and livestock, major die-offs of fish, birds, and beneficial insects..."

The ten plants that Gillian Richardson has chosen to include in this new book are the following: tea, sugarcane, corn, potatoes, cacao, pepper, cotton, rubber, chinchona (quinine bark), and papyrus. What a job she did of holding my interest so that I just wanted to keep on reading about each one!

I have been telling my friends about the book and will surely share it in upcoming workshops. There is so much there to know...don't you just love that? Set it out where kids will pick it up and soon they will be regaling you with new and fascinating bits of information; many will be new to you, too. 

Did you know that Henry Ford was a dreamer? You have probably figured that out given his legacy. But, did you know that he built an industrial city named Forlandia in the Amazon rain forest to ensure the rubber needed for his motor company. It was built in1928 and has been abandoned. That is just the tip of the iceberg. 

Gillian Richardson includes ten plants that have changed life and the way we live it! They make our lives easier, more comfortable, healthier, and of course, tastier (which may or may not be a good thing!). Along with those benefits come the inherent dangers and the profiteers who want to make more money than they need and they do it by lying, cheating, stealing and being generally dishonest. You may be surprised by some of the inclusions, and even more surprised that some of your favorites are left out. These are indeed plants that 'shook' our world. 

Exploration changed because of their discoveries, trade between countries around the world were forever different because of their properties. You will know some of how trade in tea, cotton and sugarcane have impacted the human condition. There is so much more to know than what I had in my head! Changes in our world came because of these ordinary plants...each and every one of them.

There is much to tell. This astute author gives us the lowdown on the plants she has chosen to include. Some of it's good, some bad...she lets you decide for yourself. That, of course, opens up opportunities for discussion and further study. Each plant is described in terms of discovery, how it is cultivated and its impact on the world's history. The format is sure to grab attention and will have eager readers keen to find out more through the bibliography and 'further reading' list provided. 

Now, get out there and find a copy for your family, your classroom, or your library. You won't be sorry!

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