________________ CM . . . . Volume XX Number 1. . . .September 6, 2013


10 Plants That Shook the World.

Gillian Richardson. Art by Kim Rosen.
Toronto, ON: Annick Press, 2013.
136 pp., pbk. & hc., $14.95 (pbk.), $24.95 (hc.).
ISBN 978-1-55451-444-1 (pbk.), ISBN 978-1-55451-445-8 (hc.).

Subject Heading:
Plants and history-Juvenile literature.

Grades 5-7 / Ages 10-12.

Review by Michelle Brown.

***½ /4



Plants might start out as leafy things growing in the earth, but they can come into our lives in strange and unexpected ways. And some plants have even played an exciting role in our world’s history. You might think about plants when you’re eating fruits and vegetables, but what about the pepper you add to your food, your cotton jeans, a sweet chocolate bar, or your movie-theater popcorn? All of these started life with roots and leaves.


We tend to take for granted those seemingly simple plants that we use every day. How often do you throw some pepper on your food or enjoy a sweet piece of chocolate without a second thought? Yet, if we stop for a minute to think about these plants, it’s easy to see how truly amazing they are and how dramatically different our lives would be without them. Just imagine a world with no paper, no corn or chocolate, or even no cotton to make clothes! In 10 Plants that Shook the World, Gillian Richardson invites readers to critically examine some of the world’s most popular plants.

internal art     The book features an in-depth look at 10 different plants. The selection features a blend of well-known plants, such as tea and corn, as well as some others that may be less familiar to readers. Students may not even realize that some of the popular items they use every day are made from plants. Who knew that your favourite pair of jeans started out growing in the ground?

      The book is neatly organized into 10 short chapters – one for each of the plants. A brief introduction frames the journey for the reader. The book ends with some useful added features, such as a map of where each plant is likely to be found, an index, a selected bibliography, and a list of suggestions for further reading. These last few items are great for inspired students who would like to launch into a research project on their favourite plant. More pepper anyone?

      Each chapter follows more or less the same format. The chapter begins with a profile sheet of the plant. This profile lists its common and scientific names, where it was “born” (preferred geographic location), likes and dislikes (for example, did you know that tea likes warm climates?), and many other interesting stats and facts.

      Following the profile sheet is a short fictional story featuring the plant. These little tales are a welcome aside for the reader, especially those who might find a full dose of nonfiction a bit too much to handle.

      Each chapter is rounded out by several pages of facts and interesting information. Most chapters include the history of the plant over time and place. Readers will appreciate the in-depth and balanced information which is presented. It is both the pros and the cons of each plant that are discussed. We tend to think about plants only in terms of their benefits to people; however, it is important to realize that the production and harvesting of certain plants may take a toll on the environment, world economies, or even human health.

      The content is interesting and engaging yet the book holds lots of visual appeal as well. The illustrations and images are wonderfully created with soft muted colours. The layout of the book is also well thought out with a good use of white space. Text and images fill the page without being too text heavy or busy.

      While intended for young readers (probably older elementary or middle school), adult readers might find that they learn a thing or two as well. Incredibly well-researched and beautifully illustrated, 10 Plants that Shook the World is sure to pique everyone’s interest.

Highly Recommended.

Michelle Brown is a librarian in the Faculty of Education at the University of Ottawa in Ottawa, ON.

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

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