In both of today’s nonfiction titles, the authors speak directly to their readers. Both have the potential to become favorites with the right teen reader.
First up, Edward O. Wilson’s passionate and inspiring Letters to a Young Scientist. Maybe it’s the time of year, but I can’t help thinking that this would make a terrific graduation gift for any budding scientist. Wilson is the world’s leading expert on ants, and has won the Pulitzer Prize twice. First, for his book On Human Nature in 1979, in which he turned his interest in sociobiology to human applications, and again for The Ants in 1991. In 2010, he published a novel, Anthill, which follows a young man growing up in Alabama who falls in love with nature and science and fights for the survival of the marshlands near his home when developers threaten to destroy them.
Why Knot? is a terrific suggestion for teens who like to be hands-on. Philippe Petit, most famous for his 1974 illegal high wire performance between the towers of the New York World Trade Center (and the resulting film Man on Wire), is passionate about knots. And this quirky, generously and cleverly illustrated book reflects that passion.
Watch Petit create a knot installation at the Abrams offices on Youtube.
Adult/High School–Wilson entreats potential scientists everywhere to follow their passions. He bluntly and forcefully says, “You are needed” in the world of science. His storytelling skills superbly weave his own experiences together in a way that changes the book from a series of advice snippets to a letter of passionate encouragement. Learn from me, he is saying. Here is what you can do. Don’t worry if you are not a mathematician; find one with whom to collaborate. Use your creativity to look for ways to solve important problems in science: indulge in fantasy, daydream, talk to yourself, share with others. Understand how to do good research and work hard. You will be rewarded with new knowledge. All of this advice is brought to life in stories from his many and varied experiences as a scientist, collaborator, mentor, college professor, and writer. Earning a Boy Scout badge in zoology as a 14-year-old was only the beginning. Young adults who may or may not be contemplating a future in one of the sciences will enjoy this well-written book. It is a fast read that is potentially life-changing.–Vicki Emery, Lake Braddock Secondary School, Fairfax County, VA
PETIT, Philippe. Why Knot?: How to Tie more than Sixty Ingenious, Useful, Beautiful, Lifesaving and Secure Knots. 255p. bibliog. diags. glossary. index. photos. Abrams. May. 2013. Tr $19.95. ISBN 978-1-4197-0676-9. LC 2012035658.
Adult/High School–An entire book about knots that will leave readers wanting to know even more when they’re finished? Aerialist/artist/magician Petit, probably best known for being the subject of the movie Man on Wire, delivers exactly that in this compact book. While largely a how-to book, it’s equally fascinating in the sections on knot history and photographs of Petit using his knots to complete his high-wire walks. The chapters are loosely divided into types of knots, such as binding, hitches, and lashes, and then several knots of each type are demonstrated with Petit’s drawings and chatty instructions, including the best use for each one. Who would this book be for? Not just Eagle Scouts, but also campers, builders, artists, craftsmen, hikers, fishermen, and undoubtedly more. Included is a red string for practicing and blank pages for note taking (called “knotes”) but neither of these is too intrusive to keep this beautifully designed book out of a library.–Jamie Watson, Baltimore County Public Library, MD