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Book Review: Hot Season by Susan DeFreitas

In Book Reviews, Conservation, Fiction by Mindy Mejia

Undergrads navigating a desert year during the Bush Administration frame this debut novel from Susan DeFreitas. Deep Canyon College is an environmentally-focused mecca in the historic Wild West town of Crest Top, Arizona where three roommates try to find their path. Jenna, the freshman soil science major, doesn’t know how to leave a stagnant high school relationship. Katie, eager to escape the shadow of her pseudo-liberal politician mother, finds herself drawn to activism. The graduating senior of the house, Rell, tries to decide where her life will lead as she finishes her senior thesis on pyrophitic plants. Pyrophytes are native …

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Book Review: Rescued

In Animal Rights, Book Reviews, Children's Books, Endangered Species, Fiction by Mindy Mejia

Rescued, Eliot Schrefer’s third entry in his anticipated quartet of ape novels published by Scholastic, represents a departure in many ways from the first two books in the series. Endangered and Threatened both took place in Africa and featured early teen narrators fighting to survive alongside bonobos and chimpanzees. In Rescued, Schrefer brings his series to the United States and introduces us to John, a sixteen-year-old football player who is the product of a broken home, and Raja, the orangutan his father smuggled into the country to become the family’s pet. We first meet these two as they are separated, Raja …

Book Review: We Are All Crew by Bill Landauer

In Book Reviews, Conservation, Fiction, Trees by Mindy Mejia

I have to make a confession. In writing circles, there are certain types of books one is supposed to hold dearer than all others. Important books. Literary books. Books that bravely ponder the desperate squalor of the human condition. I hate these books. The truth is I’m a complete plot junkie. I want to read a book that will keep me up until three in the morning because I have to know what comes next. If the book happens to be Dostoyevsky—awesome; I’ll stay up all night pondering that desperate squalor, but Fyodor better keep the blood pumping. Enter We …

Book Review: Steelies and Other Endangered Species: Stories on Water, by Rebecca Lawton

In Book Reviews, Endangered Species, Fiction by Mindy Mejia

I began reading this short story collection during a stay at a tiny cabin on Minnesota’s Gull Lake and couldn’t have asked for a more perfect setting to enjoy Rebecca Lawton’s stories. Flipping pages to the soundtrack of the waves hitting the shore, I became effortlessly drawn in to the worlds of the Western whitewater river guides. The stories span decades and many circle the lives of two female guides, R.J. and Mare, who make the rivers their home. In the only story in which they appear together, “Weaker than Water,” they discuss the river they are navigating: This is …

Book Review: Threatened by Eliot Schrefer

In Animal Rights, Book Reviews, Children's Books, Endangered Species by Mindy Mejia

Eliot Schrefer’s Threatened reads like a thematic sequel to his 2012 National Book Award finalist Endangered. Both books tell the story of a teenager who leaves human society in Africa for the jungle and the company of other hominines. Where Endangered focused on a Congolese girl’s life changing journey with bonobos, Threatened moves east to Gabonese AIDS orphan, Luc, and his voyage into the jungle to study chimpanzees with a mysterious Egyptian professor. When the professor, Luc’s last link to the human world, disappears in the middle of the night, Luc finds himself turning to two similarly orphaned chimpanzees in his desperation for a family. …

Book Review: Endangered by Eliot Schrefer

In Book Reviews, Children's Books, Endangered Species, Fiction by Mindy Mejia

I stumbled on Elliot Schrefer’s young adult novel Endangered while searching my library’s catalog for fiction about endangered species. Other than two genre novels, this was the only hit and it felt, well, a little too obvious. I probably should have noticed this title when it was released in 2012, or at the very least when it earned recognition from the ALA, NPR, or became a National Book Award finalist, so it was with some chagrin that I checked it out and sat down to read. And read. And read. This book is a serious page turner. A veteran of …

Book Review: Love, Life, and Elephants: An African Love Story by Dame Daphne Sheldrick

In Book Reviews by Mindy Mejia

Let’s start with a friendly reviewer disclaimer. I usually read fiction because I enjoy stories about uncompromising people who do extraordinary things. Memoir, biography, and autobiography don’t typically interest me because I couldn’t care less about famous or political figures and, to be frank, most of my attention for someone’s struggles and triumphs through life is reserved for family and friends. Enter Dame Daphne Sheldrick and her astounding autobiography, Love, Life and Elephants; An African Love Story. The book charts Sheldrick’s life from her grandparents’ immigration to Kenya, through her childhood playing in the WWII biltong camps, into her star-crossed …

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Book Review: The Lorax by Dr. Seuss

In Book Reviews, Children's Books, Pollution by Mindy Mejia

In a quiet part of town where the houses stand close and evening stretches long the shade of the garden hose and the baby falls asleep clutching her teddy bear’s toes . . . it’s time to read my son The Lorax. We’ve read this book for almost a month to the day and our ritual always begins the same way, snuggling on top of my bed, he tilts up his tow head and asks, “Why the Lorax is lifted away?” We pretend not to know why the Lorax will leave and we crack the book and start the nightly …