World of Wonders: In Praise of Fireflies, Whale Sharks, and Other Astonishments

Milkweed. Sept. 2020. 184p. ISBN 9781571313652. $25. NAT HIST
Award-winning poet Nezhukumatathil (English, Univ. of Mississippi; Oceanic) intertwines snapshots of memoir with a fascinating look at various animals and plants in this account weaving memories of growing up feeling like an outsider, a brown girl in an overwhelmingly white world, with facts about the flora and fauna that are important touchstones for her. She shares reminiscences about her family, her work, and the importance of the natural world in her life. Racism follows her from childhood, including an instance when a teacher dismisses her drawing of a favorite bird because it’s not an American species. Throughout, she describes how she turned to nature in times of need, finding both comfort and solace. Elegant illustrations by Nakamura enhance the text.
VERDICT A lyrical exploration of a woman finding her true home in the world, interspersed with hauntingly beautiful descriptions of the lives of the animals and plants that illuminate it, this natural history will appeal to nature lovers and readers who relish thoughtful, introspective works. Also suggest to fans of Margaret Renkl’s Late Migrations.
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