I have to admit this right up front: I took a long time to review 10 Plants That Shook The World by Gillian Richardson and illustrated by Kim Rosen. I got it first electronically from NetGalley. The electronic version never caught my fancy and expired before I really had time to sit down with it. When I saw a hardback copy at the library last week, I decided to give it a second chance, I’m glad I did because it definitely grew on me.
Richardson has chosen ten plants that have had as big an impact on us as we have had on them, covering one per chapter. Although everyone probably has their own idea what plants should make the list, the author starts with papyrus, pepper and tea, and includes sugarcane, cotton, cacao, cinchona, rubber, potatoes and corn. In the “Map of Plant Origins” in the back matter, it is evident that Richardson chose representative plants from around the world.
Each chapter starts with a two-page spread introducing the plant as if it were a character. Sidebars include where the plant was “born,” its “likes” and “dislikes” and its “age.” That is followed by a fictional narrative account that sets the scene, followed by a detailed history of the discovery, uses of and politics surrounding each crop. Richardson pulls no punches, explaining that chocolate comes to us at the price of forced child labor or revealing that many people died needlessly from malaria because of politics surrounding the growing and sale of quinine.
10 Plants That Shook The World is unique in both its format and content. It will appeal not only to history buffs, but also those interested in gardening and plants. Reading it will definitely make you look differently at your corn flakes in the morning!
Discussion question: Do you ever find yourself evaluating electronic copies differently than physical books?
Age Range: 10 and up
Publisher: Annick Press (February 14, 2013)
The book was provided electronically by NetGalley and in hardcover at my local library.
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Today’s round up is at Prose and Kahn.