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Alien Invaders: Species That Threaten Our World

by Jane Drake and Ann Love; Mark Thurman, illus.

The enormous interest during the last 10 years in global warming, green politics, and the environment is a hugely positive development. But all too often, young readers view environmental issues through a narrow “humans bad/nature good” perspective, in which people are at fault for all the damage. And while humans do have a lot to answer for when it comes to environmental disasters, authors Jane Drake and Ann Love show here how many plant and animal species have done their share of damage as well.

Drake and Love, sisters and bestselling writers (The Kids Cottage Book and Sweet!: The Delicious Story of Candy), take a look at several invasive species – including humans – that have, over the centuries, made their way into existing ecosystems to bring destruction, disease, and chaos. The detailed examples run from pest invaders (such as cane toads in Australia; European green crabs in North America, South Africa, Japan, and Australia; and rats all over the world) to plant destroyers (such as purple loosestrife, the potato fungus that caused the Irish famine, and Dutch elm disease). Particularly useful are the summaries at the end of each chapter showing an invader’s size, homeland, invasion area, and mode of travel (for example, the brown tree snake, which likes to hitch rides on military planes to Guam, has nearly wiped out several other animal species there).

The large, vibrant, colourful illustrations by veteran Toronto artist Mark Thurman do an excellent job of bringing the text to life. As well, there’s a superb map of  Earth, annotated with descriptions of how species travel, and a “lessons learned” section on how to curb these invasions.

In all, Alien Invaders provides excellent reading for any young person looking for a unique perspective on environmental disasters, and contains lots of new information.