Monday, March 30, 2015

Nonfiction Monday: Chernobyl's Wild Kingdom: Life in the dead zone by Rebecca L. Johnson

I've only recently discovered Rebecca Johnson's nonfiction, but I'm already definitely a fan. Most recently I reviewed When Lunch Fights Back and today I'm looking at another unique look at animal life.

The introduction shows a beautiful swallow with a surprise - it's radioactive. How could this happen to an animal? Well...the first chapter explains the history of the nuclear disaster at Chernobyl, explaining both the scientific and historical context. The chapter ends with a section on the long-term effect on humans in the dead zone and the creation of the Exclusion Zone around the disaster.

The next three chapters condense an extremely complicated situation, a number of species and their different reactions to the radioactive sector, and the differing opinions and theories of two groups of scientists into an admirably concise and fascinating narrative. Are animals really thriving in the dead zone? Is the radioactive area changing them for the better or worse? Can radioactive sites be reclaimed? The final chapter reflects on the lessons learned from studying Chernobyl, the part nuclear disasters continue to play in our lives, and the resilience of the animals who continue to live in these areas.

Back matter includes an author's note (primarily acknowledgements), glossary, source notes, bibliography, further information (books, websites, and videos), and index. The book is an over-sized chapter book style, which I am very happy with since it is so difficult to get older kids to check out nonfiction that looks like picture books. It's a concise 64 pages, but packs a ton of text, photographs, sidebars, and additional information into those few pages.

Verdict: This is a well-written book an a unique and interesting subject. But, it's from Lerner's Twenty-First Century Books imprint which means it's OMG EXPENSIVE. It's really, really hard to justify spending $27 on a book. It's not something timeless like Lego building either, where it makes sense to shell out extra $$ for a strong binding. This is an ongoing research project into the effect of nuclear disasters and there will undoubtedly be new titles on this subject coming out a few years down the road. So, if your budget can cover it, highly recommended. If, like me, you have a smaller budget, sigh sadly as you take it off the order cart.

ISBN: 9781467711548; Published 2014 by Twenty-First Century Books/Lerner; Borrowed from another library in my consortium (with a bigger budget); Still holding on a backlist of ordering because I really, really loved it, but will probably not purchase.

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