Red Wasteland

Bruce Brooks, Selected by, Bruce Brooks, Author, Bruce Brooks, Compiled by Henry Holt & Company $15.95 (144p) ISBN 978-0-8050-4495-9
Brooks's (The Moves Make the Man; What Hearts?) aim with this collection of works from 20 naturalist writers is to demonstrate ""not how people write about what happens in the natural world, but how they think about it."" He begins with the most approachable, Roethke's poem ""The Bat,"" which neatly sets up Brooks's criteria for each selection--that it ask the question ""Where does man fit? Where do I?"" He concludes forcefully with a call to action, via Rachel Carson's ""The Sea Around Us."" Along the way, he conveys a diversity of credos with selections ranging from Edward Abbey's (Desert Solitaire) musings on ""the image of the ideal place"" (which lies in the titular ""red wasteland"" of Utah's canyons), to Italo Calvino's fantastical tale of mining for moon milk. However, Brooks has forsaken the accessible approach of his Knowing Nature series and adopted an adult, almost rhetorical voice in this one. For example, he does not set D.C. Peattie's rarefied introduction to Green Laurels: The Lives of the Great Naturalists in its historical context, leaving readers adrift; in other instances the style is mannered, to the point of off-putting, as when Brooks introduces Joanna Greenfield's riveting recount of being devoured by a hyena (""This woman watched a hyena as it was eating her, and now she is writing about it, and the result of reading what she wrote is feeling not only that we didn't experience it, but also that in a way she herself did not""). Brooks represents a commendable range of adult naturalist thinkers, but fails to mediate them for young readers. Ages 11-14. (July)
Reviewed on: 06/29/1998
Release date: 07/01/1998
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