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Ann Littlewood has commented on (3) products.

America's National Parks, a Pop-Up Book by Don Compton
America's National Parks, a Pop-Up Book

Ann Littlewood, April 2, 2013

This wonderful pop-up book is not for little kids, but it might bring out the kid in any adult. The pop-ups are elaborate, with the Grand Canyon yawning wide, Old Faithful shooting up, and a mountain goat on a pinnacle for Glacier National Park. The construction includes several "mini-pop-ups" in the lower corners of the pages. The text is well written and led me, for the first time, to yearn to see the eastern US national parks. There's plenty of information and inspiration. Part of the (reasonable) price is donated to the National Parks Conservation Foundation, making this the perfect gift for yourself or anyone else.
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Beautiful Corn: America's Original Grain from Seed to Plate by Anthony Boutard
Beautiful Corn: America's Original Grain from Seed to Plate

Ann Littlewood, February 1, 2013

Anthony Boutard is not writing about the corn of the Corn Belt, source of corn syrup, auto fuel, and sick cattle. He's writing about the corn of corn bread, polenta, and tortillas, corn that has fed people for millennia. He's an Oregon farmer growing for local markets, and the man loves corn. His farming experience is enriched by a background in biology and natural history, resulting in a keen eye for plant associations and wildlife. Plus, he can write a clear and crafty prose.

This is fascinating stuff if you care the least bit about food, gardening, or pre-history. Boutard covers the origin and diversity of the grain--how people transformed a weedy little plant into a staple and guided it into spreading across North and South America far from its tropical origins. It grows in Connecticut, after all. He covers a little of how, in historical times, Europeans incorporated it into their culture. (I would have liked to read more about corn in Africa.)

The botany is detailed and well-illustrated, a little overwhelming for an amateur, but reasonably accessible, with good drawings and photos. The descriptions of a corn plot through the seasons are delightful. And, of course, there are recipes at the end.

I learned that while most corn strains are readily cross-pollinated by other varieties, popcorn is not. Popcorn was the first domestic corn. Soaking corn kernels in lye for hominy actually makes it more nutritious, not less. You'll find many such gems of information. You'll also learn about farming on a small scale and how to grow and process your own corn.

If you are passionate about--or merely interested in--sustainable agriculture, food, the history of the ancient Americas, the history of farming, or the botany of a truly odd plant, you are likely to find this book an appealing read.
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Skulls: An Exploration of Alan Dudley's Curious Collection by Simon Winchester and Nick Mann
Skulls: An Exploration of Alan Dudley's Curious Collection

Ann Littlewood, December 1, 2012

This hardcover is a beautiful collection of Nick Mann's photos of skulls that were prepared by a private collector, Alan Dudley. Dudley came to Winchester's attention after getting busted buying an illegal howler monkey skull. He pleaded guilty, did his service and paid his fine, and the implication is that he isn't normally one to slip up in this way. (Replicas of many species are readily available, by the way.) Dudley gets almost all of his skulls from zoos.

Among this book's virtues are a plethora of bird, fish and reptile skulls. Photographs of mammal skulls are widely available as they are the taxonomic touchstone for mammals. The others, not so much. Partly they are less common because (I know from trying) fish and reptile skulls can be the very devil to prepare.

Of special interest: a great assortment of hornbills, odd and fragile skulls of venomous snakes, wild pigs with their seemingly self-destructive curving tusks. Be sure to take a look at the domestic dog skulls and consider what we have done to the sturdy wolf.

Most of the photos are by Nick Mann, who has done great work on other Workman Publishing science books as well, and most are excellent. Many of the smaller skulls are out of focus, however. Printing the images against a black background works very well for most skulls, but much detail is lost for black bird bills (such as the Northern Shoveler) and the black horns of some bovids.The photo of Holbein's large painting The Ambassadors lacks details discussed in the text. Most of these weaknesses are demerits for the printer, not the author or photographer.

The photos are interspersed with text about skulls in art, history, human evolution, etc. These are interesting, written for a non-technical audience, but this is primarily a visual book and a beautiful addition to the natural history library.
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