Monday, August 1, 2016

Nonfiction Monday: The Story of Seeds by Nancy F. Castaldo

Castaldo's last book, Sniffer Dogs, was awesome but I was a little taken aback to see she'd jumped to such a different subject. Still, I decided to sample it and was intrigued enough that I ordered it for the library before I'd finished reading it!

Castaldo begins by explaining the vital importance of seeds and biodiversity. She discusses how seeds have been viewed and used through history and then the current discussions surrounding genetic modification of seeds. Finally, she discusses the vaults and processes being put into place around the world to protect seeds and biodiversity and how readers can get involved from local seed libraries to buying heirloom seeds and plants.

The resources include a list of seed companies, an overview of seed libraries along with locations in each state, further information that includes organizations, documentaries, books and museums. There is a glossary, author's note about the inspiration behind the book, timeline from Gregor Mendel's birth to Vermont's GMO labeling law in 2014, and index.

Throughout the book are included stories from personal anecdotes to tales of past and current "seed warriors" who are fighting for genetic diversity and saving seeds. There are also discussions of topics such as labeling foods made with GMOs, and interesting facts and seeds and crops.

There are a couple things that bother me, one personal and one just confusing. The seed library in my town (Walworth County Seed Library) is listed, but as far as I know it has not been active since 2014. It might still be ongoing, but their web presence is gone. But if the author knows how to contact them I wish I knew because we could get them involved in our library garden project! Secondly, and this is somewhat a personal gripe, but I feel that books suggesting environmental protection and conservation are always packed with a lot of privilege. Suggestions include buying via a CSA, getting in touch with local farmers, composting and community gardens, the usual suggestions for reducing use of fossil fuels and other projects. However, the assumption that you have time, an appropriate space, money and education to invest in these things bothers me. Of course, that's not the point of the book and I did appreciate that the book didn't just discuss how a typical, middle class suburban family would be affected by biodiversity and GMOs but also other countries, farmers at different levels, and people from many different cultures.

Verdict: Mature readers will appreciate the thoughtful discussion of a controversial current issue; for them, it would make a good pairing with Fleischman's Eyes Wide Open, discussing news and the environment. Less mature readers will be drawn in by Castaldo's excellent storytelling skills and will be fascinated, horrified, and inspired by the stories she tells. I look forward to booktalking this one to upper level students and adults. Highly recommended.

ISBN: 9780544230239; Published 2016 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt; Borrowed from another library in my consortium; Purchased for the library

1 comment:

Annette Bay Pimentel said...

I appreciate your thoughtfulness about the privilege often inherent in environmental books. It's something I hadn't thought about when I read this book, but I think it's an important criticism. Thanks!