Today, an ancient world is vanishing right before our eyes: the age of giant animals. Over 40,000 years ago, the earth was ruled by megafauna: mammoths and mastodons, saber-toothed tigers and giant sloths. Of course, those creatures no longer exist, due to the evolution and arrival of the wildly adaptive human species, among other factors. Many more of the world’s biggest and baddest creatures—including the black rhino, the dodo, giant tortoises, and the great auk—have vanished since our world became truly global. Last of the Giants chronicles those giant animals and apex predators who have been pushed to extinction in the modern era.
Potentially Sensitive Areas: Harsh realities of the wilderness
Booklist starred (April 15, 2016 (Vol. 112, No. 16))
Grades 8-12. Bigger is better—except when it comes to wildlife. Or at least that’s how mankind has reacted against giant species, causing what scientists are now calling “the sixth extinction.” Campbell opens with an explanation of this widespread wave of extinction and our crisis of coexistence with wildlife. He then focuses on 13 giant species that once thrived—until humans arrived. Using the unscientific term giant loosely, he includes 10 megafauna (a scientific term referring to animals 100 pounds or larger) as well as smaller species that dominated their surroundings. Also representing a variety of species alive in the modern era (the last 500 years), individual chapters are devoted to a range of animals, from lions, tigers, and the California grizzly to the giant tortoises of the Indian Ocean, baiji (a river dolphin), and the passenger pigeon. Complemented by graphic novel–style illustrations, each chapter looks at what life was like when humans were introduced to the animal and the role they had in the animal’s extinction. Campbell is careful, however, to place the human activity in its historical context. Emphasizing the connection between extinction and conservation throughout, the author also relates how scientists are trying to save similar, sub-, and hybrid species of those now extinct. These timely, important, and fascinating stories will encourage readers to save all life, no matter its size.
School Library Journal (April 1, 2016)
Gr 9 Up-The extinctions of giant (both in size and number) species at the mercy of nature and humanity turn out to be a fascinating and jarring lesson for our present. Chronicling the fates of aurochs, moa, passenger pigeons, and sea cows, alongside the unresolved destinies of today’s lions and tigers, this work gazes back at evolutionary history through a retrospect that, with the aid of Campbell’s humorous and scientific tone, is truly 20/20. Thankfully, the text’s explorations of these annihilated species are complex and perceptive and go beyond the usual worn conclusion of human-wrought woe. Mixing geology, ethnography, history, zoology, biology, industry, and sociology, Campbell demonstrates how interconnected Earth’s species and societies-human and nonhuman-are. By examining the complex web of evolution through the misfortunes of these lost species, the author drives home that our present is not a final, linear result of history but rather an ever-evolving system that needs care and attention. To that end, a “Call to Action” section laden with resources for the aspiring activist appears at the end; though there is no index, an extensive list of works cited illuminates a path for those who wish to read further. VERDICT Required reading for the budding naturalist and a good pairing for a STEM or history curriculum, too.-Chelsea Woods, New Brunswick Free Public Library, NJ
About the Author
Jeff Campbell is a freelance writer, book editor, and creative writing teacher. Most recently, he’s published two nonfiction books for young adults: Last of the Giants (Zest, 2016), about extinct and endangered animals, and Daisy to the Rescue (Zest, 2014), about animals saving humans and animal intelligence. For twelve years he was a travel writer for Lonely Planet, coauthoring over a dozen guidebooks to US destinations. As an editor for over twenty years, he has specialized in pop culture, self-help, sports, and YA fiction. He also teaches creative writing to kids and adults with the Writers Circle (NJ).
Her website is www.jeffcampbellbooks.com.
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