Monday, July 16, 2012

The Plant Hunters by Anita Silvey


The Plant Hunters: 
True Stories of Their Daring Adventures to the Far Corners of the Earth
by Anita Silvey
88 pages

Book Jacket Summary
Driven by an all-consuming passion, the plant hunters traveled around the world, facing challenges at every turn: tropical illnesses, extreme terrain, and dangerous animals. They battled piranhas, tigers, and vampire bats. Even the plants themselves could be lethal! But these intrepid eighteenth- and nineteenth-century explorers were determined to find and collect new and unusual specimens, no matter what the cost. Then they tried to transport the plants—and themselves—home alive. Creating an important legacy in science, medicine, and agriculture, the plant hunters still inspire the scientific and environmental work of contemporary plant enthusiasts.
Working from primary sources—journals, letters, and notes from the field—Anita Silvey introduces us to these daring adventurers and scientists. She takes readers into the heart of their expeditions to then-uncharted places such as the Amazon basin, China, and India. As she brings a colorful cast of characters to life, she shows what motivated these Indiana Jones–type heroes. In The Plant Hunters, science, history, and adventure have been interwoven to tell a largely forgotten—yet fascinating—story.
My Thoughts
I am trying to improve my non-fiction selection on the blog because it is going to become a large concern to find good non-fiction books that engage readers because of the Common Cores standards. This book caught my eye because of the colorful and interesting cover that was covered in maps and plants. It discusses the history of plant hunters and the lengths they would go to to find new plants all over the globe. Many would face hardships such as drought, starvation, robbery, drowning, and even death to find the plant that could make them famous. Silvey makes the history leap off the page and the adventures can be truly exciting. There are vampire bats, tigers, and pirates that attack our adventurers. One, Baron Alexander von Humboldt, is known as the Indiana Jones of the nineteenth century. He discovered many new and exciting plants through his life time. 
 Original maps, photos, drawings, and lithographs are used to show what was discovered and where. The author used primary sources from the Arnold Arboretum library and other botanic libraries. She looked through leather bound diaries and volumes on their discoveries. It is a fascinating book and might encourage students to start taking an interest in botany, especially since modern plant hunters are discovering new plants everyday. I would recommend this one to those who might think that science is boring. In the case of plant hunter, nothing could be further from the truth. They travel, explore, and see things that no one has ever seen before!

Book Pairings
Elephant Talk by Ann Downer  
by Kathi Appelt and Jeanne Cannella Schmitzer 



  1. Love books about science and discovery. By the way, came across the explorer Humboldt in a book I am reading by David McCullough (The Path Between the Seas).

    1. That is so cool! It was fun learning about all these people who found all the plants we have in our everyday culture!


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