Reviews for Plant Hunters : True Stories of Their Daring Adventures to the Far Corners of the Earth

Booklist Reviews 2012 April #2
Combining bits of botanical history and exploration with accounts of adventurers, this unusual book introduces European and North American plant hunters, primarily from the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Driven by curiosity, commerce, and "botonomania," they sought to collect valuable plant specimens around the world. Likening Baron Alexander von Humboldt to Indiana Jones and calling the plant hunters' experiences "amazing escapades," Silvey raises readers' expectations for adventure tales and satisfies them by recounting horrific experiences reported by various plant hunters. The danger is that their identities, personalities, and achievements become less memorable than the ordeals they endured. Some of the best parts of the book are the less sensational but more significant, such as the clandestine export (or, more plainly, theft) of rubber trees from Brazil and tea plants from China. Reproduced in color, archival photos, prints, and documents appear throughout the book. Source notes identify the many quotes used in the text. An accessible account of plant hunters, a topic less widely explored than, say, dinosaur hunters. Copyright 2012 Booklist Reviews.

Horn Book Guide Reviews 2012 Fall
This is a well-illustrated collection of anecdotes about naturalists, mostly from the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, who studied and gathered plants on various continents. The stories are entertaining, but Silvey stresses the hazards of their occupation (extreme weather, rough terrain, hostile natives, wild animals, etc.) at the expense of a coherent overview of the developing science of botany. Timeline. Bib., ind.

Kirkus Reviews 2012 March #1
Greed! Obsession! A passion for nature and travel! All these and more have driven intrepid explorers to search for exotic plants around the globe for centuries. Most of these hunters have been altruistic professionals seeking valuable plants to advance the cause of science and medicine or to improve their nations' economy with potential commercial crops. In their pursuit many experienced serious illness and injury, extremes of harsh weather and terrain in remote locales, not to mention encounters with dangerous animals, insects and fellow humans. Yet the thrill of the chase, the love of adventure and the outdoors and the tantalizing belief that the objects of their desire indeed lay at the end of their arduous journeys spurred these men and women on, despite the challenges. Some didn't survive the trip home. Today searches continue so that scientists may catalog Earth's biodiversity and develop massive seed stockpiles against any future catastrophic destruction of plant life. The slim, engaging narrative paints vivid portraits of these botanic adventurers. It is smoothly written, smartly paced and filled with exciting tales of risk taking and derring-do. Handsome visuals include contemporary maps, photographs, sketches, paintings and excellent botanic illustrations. Who could have imagined that something as seemingly ordinary as a plant could incite such ardor and devotion? (timeline, author's note, notes, bibliography, index) (Nonfiction. 9-13) Copyright Kirkus 2012 Kirkus/BPI Communications.All rights reserved.

School Library Journal Reviews 2012 June

Gr 5-8--Getting plants at the local garden center for one's home garden seems simple enough. But the incredible array of choices available--daffodils, tulips, hyacinths, geraniums, and begonias to name a few--is the result of centuries of global plant exploration and gathering. Organized by topic, Silvey's narrative flows from the motivation of these plant hunters, the difficulties they faced in transporting their finds across great distances, and the extreme threats to their lives (some didn't survive). The accounts of stealing such valuable plants as Brazilian rubber trees and Chinese teas for economic gain and the Ecuadorian cinchona plant for its antimalarial qualities read more like spy adventures than benign plant collectors' stories. The three-page bibliography will direct curious readers to books and websites for further information. For readers interested in specific plants, topics and/or individuals, the multipage index will lead the way to such specifics as Humboldt's description of banana trees, the discovery of a new gentian in Arkansas in 2001, and various expeditions to the Himalayas. Beautifully illustrated with color reproductions of old botanic drawings and photographs, this is a lovely presentation of amazing adventures.--Frances E. Millhouser, formerly at Chantilly Regional Library, Fairfax County, VA

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