Aimed at grades 4 to 7, 10 Plants That Shook the World is a treat to read no matter what age you are. Canadian author Gillian Richardson expanded on an existing magazine sidebar to create a full-length treatment of this interesting subject. The ten plants include well-known ones that have created speculative booms and even caused nations to go to war—such as tea, pepper, sugar and cotton—but also more obscure ones, like the Peruvian cinchona, the source of quinine that cures malaria. Each section begins with a fact sheet on the plant and its place of origin, various “pros + cons” associated with the species (which might involve nutritional benefits versus environmental issues), followed by a one-page short story designed to pique the reader’s interest. The bulk of the chapters then flesh out how the world has been affected by the spread of items, such as corn or rubber, which underpin modern civilization. Richardson is a fine writer and the text is accompanied by vibrant illustrations. There are useful maps, as well as a bibliography, a suggested further reading section and an index.
This would be a great addition to any middle school library or classroom as a stand-alone resource. There would be ample opportunities to use this work for geography assignments (in Ontario, for example, all grade seven students study “Natural Resources Around the Word: Use and Sustainability”) or in a variety of Social Studies/History classes.
[Review by George Sheppard.]