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Many: The Diversity of Life on Earth

Many: The Diversity of Life on Earth

Nicola Davies, Illustrated by Emily Sutton
40 pp.
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In Many, a rosy-cheeked, red-haired explorer tries to answer the question so many scientists have pondered: “How many different kinds of living things are there on the planet?” She discovers elephants and oak trees, mushrooms and beetles, and mites and microbes. All of these species, she realizes, are interdependent, forming complex ecosystems.

Here, the story takes a dark turn: Humans have been poisoning and destroying these ecosystems, and many living things have disappeared forever. We have a responsibility, our forlorn narrator warns: We don’t want to reach a point at which we have to “count down instead of up.”

The story’s whimsical tone, which belies its sobering message, will engage readers, but the highlights of the book are the detailed watercolor illustrations that infuse each landscape and statistic with warmth and appeal. Vibrant colors throughout the pages of discovery contrast with the abrupt shift to muted browns on the pages of destruction. The emotional punch the images deliver will be more effective in motivating readers to act than trivia about mushrooms ever could be.

About the author

The reviewer is the letters editor at Science.