by Nancy F. Castaldo
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2016
Nancy Castaldo, author of Sniffer Dogs: How Dogs (and Their Noses) Save the World, has turned her attention to the topic of seeds. In her new nonfiction book for tweens and teens, Castaldo writes about the importance of seed diversity and health. You might wonder why an author would devote an entire book to seeds. In chapter one, the Castaldo explains that seeds are in danger. "Our diversity is shrinking fast. The world's seed are in crisis." We should pay attention because, "Seeds equal life."
The book begins with a history of Gregor Mendel and his experiments with pea plants and dominant traits before moving on to Luther Burbank, who experimented with crossing different varieties of plants. History buffs will be interested in the chapters describing how people saved seeds in times of war to ensure there would be food once the war was over. Several chapters are devoted to the thesis that diversity in seeds is essential to life. Castaldo uses the potato famine in Ireland as a prime example of what can happen when "monoculture" is practiced.
Seed banks also play a vital role in saving the world's crops. The book features seed banks in Russian, Norway and the United States. Teens who have heard about GMOs in the news will appreciate the clear and thoughtful way the book explains how GMOs have negatively impacted crops in places like India where farmers are forced to purchase expensive cotton seeds from Monsanto. Castaldo explains the difference between the natural process of hybridization and genetic modification that occurs in a laboratory. The book also introduces readers to scientists and activists from the past and present who are working to ensure the preservation of seeds from around the world.
The design of the book is ideal, including the small trim size, glossy pages, colorful photos and sidebars placed at the ends of chapters. Important vocabulary words are highlighted and defined throughout the book. The final chapter persuades readers to take action by swapping seeds, shopping at farmers' markets, and planting their own gardens. Back matter includes a list of seed libraries by state, a glossary and a list additional books and videos on the topic.
Pair The Story of Seeds with Black Potatoes: The Story of the Great Irish Potato Famine by Susan Campbell Bartoletti and The Omnivore's Dilemma: The Secrets Behind What You Eat by Michael Pollan. The Story of Seeds is recommended for high school science classes or for teen readers interested in learning about the world's food supply, genetics and gardening.
Visit the author's site to download a curriculum guide.
The reviewer received a copy of the book from the publisher.