*FINALIST FOR THE 2020 GENERAL NONFICTION MINNESOTA BOOK AWARDS*
Interested in the origins of the species? Consider the Platypus uses pets such as dogs and cats as well as animal outliers like the axolotl and naked mole rat to wittily tackle mind-bending concepts about how evolution, biology, and genetics work.
Consider the Platypus explores the history and features of more than 50 animals to provide insight into our current understanding of evolution. Using Darwin's theory as a springboard, Maggie Ryan Sandford details scientists' initial understanding of the development of creatures and how that has expanded in the wake of genetic sequencing, including the:
- Peppered Moth, which changed color based on the amount of soot in the London air;
- California Two-Spotted Octopus, which has the amazing ability to alter its DNA/RNA not over generations but during its lifetime;
- miniscule tardigrade, which is so hearty it can withstand radiation, lack of water and oxygen, and temperatures as low as -328 F and as high 304 F;
- and, of course, the platypus, which has so many disparate features, from a duck's bill to venomous spur to mammary patches, that scientists originally thought it was a hoax.
Surprising, witty, and impeccably researched, Sandford describes each animal's significant features and how these have adapted to its environment, such as the zebra finch's beak shape, which was observed by Charles Darwin and is a cornerstone of his Theory of Evolution. With scientifically accurate but charming art by Rodica Prato, Consider the Platypus showcases species as diverse as the sloth, honey bee, cow, brown kiwi, and lungfish, to name a few, to tackle intimidating concepts is a accessible way.
- ISBN-13: 9780316418393
- ISBN-10: 0316418390
- Publisher: Black Dog & Leventhal Publishers
- Publish Date: August 2019
- Dimensions: 10.3 x 7.4 x 1.1 inches
- Shipping Weight: 2.25 pounds
- Page Count: 272
- Reading Level: Ages 13-17
Gift books: For the eternally, incurably curious
They’ve got probing minds and roving intellects. They simply must unlock the secrets of every subject. And they’re going to love these books.
Nowadays, maps do much more than keep us on the proper path. Researchers use cartographic methods to harness all sorts of information, and the results, as Ian Wright demonstrates with Brilliant Maps for Curious Minds: 100 New Ways to See the World, are intriguing. In this fascinating atlas, Wright—the mastermind behind the popular website Brilliant Maps—sheds light on the politics, economies, customs and cultures of countries across the globe. Wright uses colorful, easy-to-decode infographics to answer questions many of us might never think to ask (e.g., Where can the highest speed limits for driving be found? Which countries have no rivers?). He also analyzes in-the-news issues, presenting maps that depict the world’s open borders and the nations with the greatest immigrant populations. His book connects readers with an astonishing range of international data—no passport required.
Readers are bound to get a rush from The Amusement Park: 900 Years of Thrills and Spills, and the Dreamers and Schemers Who Built Them by historian Stephen M. Silverman. Delivering a wonderfully detailed account of how the amusement park as we know it came to be, Silverman traces the roots of tourist hot spots like Ferrari World Abu Dubai—home of the fastest roller coaster on the planet—back to the medieval pleasure gardens of Europe. In this exhilarating compilation, Silverman spotlights noteworthy parks of the 19th and early 20th centuries and the innovative, often controversial thinkers behind their construction. He also considers contemporary attractions such as Disneyland, Cedar Point and Six Flags Great Adventure, and discusses today’s daringly designed roller coasters, including theme-park behemoths Steel Vengeance and Kingda Ka. Filled with photographs, illustrations and archival advertisements, this high-flying history will thrill adrenaline junkies and history buffs alike.
Anyone who’s curious about the early years of commercial flight—those distant days when tickets, terminals and take-offs inspired excitement (the good kind) in the hearts of travelers—will want to log some hours with Airline Maps: A Century of Art and Design. Map historians Mark Ovenden (author of the bestselling Transit Maps of the World) and Maxwell Roberts organized this nifty volume, which explores the evolution of air travel through a fabulous selection of visuals, with an emphasis on maps and flight charts. Beginning in 1919, the book documents the growth of the industry, marking milestones like the rise of big-brand carriers and the debut of the jumbo jet, and shows how that growth was reflected in the creative work of cartographers and designers. From the art deco-influenced flight maps and stylish travel posters of the 1930s and ’40s to the heady ads of the ’60s and beyond, this volume is a fun, informative flashback.
Capturing a sense of the infinite unknown that enraptures dedicated stargazers, Mark Holborn’s Sun and Moon: A Story of Astronomy, Photography, and Mapping is an extensive—and stunning—visual history of space exploration. The volume begins with a look at the space observatories of prehistoric times and moves forward to chronicle the rise of telescopes and satellites that brought the vast reaches of the heavens closer to home. The book also examines the allure of the moon, which endures even 50 years after the Apollo 11 mission, and its particular appeal to astronomers and intellectuals. Holborn used materials from the collections of the Royal Observatory Greenwich and the Royal Astronomical Society in producing this majestic volume. Elegantly designed, with nearly 300 images, Sun and Moon is an altogether grand retrospective of humankind’s attempts to make sense of the mysteries of space.
For readers who take pleasure in pondering the enigmas of the natural world, Consider the Platypus: Evolution Through Biology’s Most Baffling Beasts is a can’t-miss gift. In this frequently funny, thoroughly accessible volume, science writer Maggie Ryan Sandford investigates the nature of genetic development through a study of 40-plus animals. Tracking the history of each creature, she reveals how its traits and behavior have adjusted over time for the purposes of survival. Along with the friendly and familiar (bottlenose dolphin, domestic dog), Sandford’s cross-section of specimens features examples of evolution’s odder offerings, like the hoatzin—a red-eyed, blue-faced tropical bird that, despite sizable wings, is a flying failure—and that great hodgepodge the platypus, to all appearances a cross between beaver, otter and duck. Rodica Prato’s masterful illustrations showcase the quirks and foibles of her singular subjects. If only biology class could have been this much fun.