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The SB&F Reviews page is updated regularly with new reviews. See our featured reviews below. Check back often for the latest science book reviews from SB&F.

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Featured Children's Book Review

Wilson, Joseph S. and Olivia J. Messinger Carril. The Bees in Your Backyard: A Guide to North America’s Bees. (Illus.) Princeton, NJ: Princeton, 2016. 288pp. $29.95. 2015007075. ISBN 9780691160771. Index; C.I.P.


Rating: **

Written for gardeners and amateur naturalists in hopes they can learn to better appreciate and protect bees, this book focuses on the bees that gardeners in North America are likely to see. The content is written in a conversational tone that is both accessible and encouraging.

This book is large and is not a field guide that can easily be carried in a pack. Instead, readers are encouraged to observe, photograph, or capture specimens. To identify bees, the authors provide three options: a dichotomous key, a five-page section that consists of photographs and descriptions, and detailed chapters of each genus. Call-outs with fun and interesting facts on most pages should appeal to children. At the same time, for those wanting more information, the pages are packed with scientific details that readers would normally find only in entomology texts. The two shortcomings with this educational book are the small font size for such a large book and no additional readings or key resources are provided.

The size, weight, and stunning photography make this book similar to your standard coffee table book; fortunately the price makes this book more accessible. It should make a great gift for naturalists, gardeners, and families interested in exploring their backyards. Libraries should also have this book as it is comprehensive and up-to-date.--Kristan Majors Chilcoat, Emory University, Atlanta, GA


Featured Young Adult Book Review


Castaldo, Nancy F. The Story of Seeds: From Mendel's Garden to Your Plate and How There's More of Less to Eat Around the World. New York, NY: Houghton Mifflin, 2016. 136pp. $17.99. 2016302487. ISBN 9780544320239. Glossary; Index; C.I.P.


Rating: **

The Story of Seeds is a book detailing the actual and proposed impact of the extinction of multiple species of seeds and plants on the world's food supply. The 136-page book with illustrations contains eight chapters, a call to action section, a section on resources, a listing of seed libraries, an additional resources section, a glossary, Author's notes, a sources section, a timeline, and an index.

The author exercises the belief that one in five plant species, worldwide, are on the verge of extinction. The primary causes of the proposed extinctions are: climate changes, over exploitation, bio-terrorism, modern agriculture practices, and loss of seed and plant bio-genetic diversity.

The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations has indicated that approximately 75 percent of plant genetic diversity has been lost since the early 1900s and that 90 percent of all crop species are no longer being farmed anywhere in the world. Only about 150 to 200 plant species of the 300,000 edible plants worldwide are still being cultivated. The United Nations in response to this situation has funded the Global Crop Diversity Trust, which collects and maintains the world's duplicate seed collection. The loss of seed and plant varieties reduce the number of plants we cultivate and use for food, thus reducing overall biodiversity.

Multiple individuals have been involved in the development and use of the basic information needed to help guide us in the reduction of the loss of seed and plant species. Mendel discovered the laws of plant inheritance: The Law of Segregation, The Law of Independent assortment, and The Law of Dominance. Luther Burbank created more than 800 new varieties of vegetables, fruits, and flowers. He showed that many plants could be altered and created to meet our needs. Nikolai Vavilov is considered to be the founding father of seed collection and for developing centers of origins of cultivated plants, and developing the world's first seed bank.

Many other individuals and scientists have contributed to our knowledge and to the importance of the world's seed and plant populations and the possible results of the loss of large numbers of seed and plant populations due to: changes in climatic conditions, large agribusiness agricultural practices, loss of pollinators, overuse of pesticides, old and new lethal pathogens in the form of viruses, bacteria and fungi. We need to save the world's seed and plant populations and to widen the overall biodiversity of our food plant populations.--Felix M. Massey III, Rising Sun High School, Rising Sun, IN

Featured Adult Book Review

Kelly, Robert L. The Fifth Beginning: What Six Million Years of Human History Can Tell Us about Our Future. Berkeley, CA: University of California, 2016. 149pp. $24.95. 2016012935. ISBN 9780520293120. Index; C.I.P.

C, T, GA

Rating: **

Professor Kelly is a University of Wyoming archaeologist who specializes in the early cultures of the American west. He is still an active “dirt archeologist” who makes his writing personal by including anecdotes about his career and field excavations. He also provides interesting insights into the workings of modern archaeology.

Kelly begins this book with a quotation from one of his early students: “The way things are is the way things always will be.” This quote sets the theme for the author’s story where he clearly shows that this has NOT been the case. We are taken through four stages of human advancement, the “Beginnings”: technology (tools), culture (social customs), agriculture, political organization (the state). In addition to in depth descriptions and analysis of each of these beginnings, Kelly shows that each of them was unanticipated, and had unpredictable consequences, both positive and negative.

The final chapter of the book describes what archeologists 10,000 years in the future will see when they uncover our era. This is illuminating, (and a little disturbing.) Then Kelly, stopping short of actual predictions, imagines what the next beginning of man might be, and why. This chapter could serve to stimulate a good seminar discussion on this topic. The Fifth Beginning is highly recommended for interested readers.--Blaise J. Arena, Arena Consulting, Des Plaines, IL