World of Wonders: In Praise of Fireflies, Whale Sharks, and Other Astonishments
by Aimee Nezhukumatathil
I discovered this book while doing some book shopping on Barnes and Noble’s website. It was advertised as the book of the year. Because I’m a nature lover, it was one I had to try. I was pleasantly enlightened from the first pages.
The essays in this book connect nature to parts of the author’s life from childhood to adulthood and now as a married woman and mother. The writings include facts about plants and animals along with short anecdotes regarding some part of her past. The stories were interesting, and many were eye-opening for me. This book emphasizes–in a fresh, unique way–that there’s so much we can learn from the natural wonders around us if we’d only open our eyes. Some of the connections the author made seemed a tad bit far-fetched, but it was something easily overlooked, and I found most to be beautifully woven.
“I know I will search for fireflies all the rest of my days, even though they dwindle a little bit more each year. I can’t help it. They blink on and off, a lime glow to the summer night air, as if to say: I am still here, you are still here, I am still here, you are still here, I am, you are, over and over again. Perhaps I can will it to be true. Perhaps I can keep those summer nights with my family inside an empty jam jar, with holes poked in the lid, a twig and a few strands of grass tucked inside. And for those unimaginable nights in the future, when I know I’ll miss my mother the most, I will let that jar’s sweet glow serve as a night-light to cool and cut the air for me.”
Some favorites include “Firefly,” “Peacock,” “Cactus Wren,” “Corpse Flower,” and “Axolotl.” There was something I enjoyed about nearly every essay. After sharing portions of the book with my older children, it opened up discussion about the importance of encouragement and other thoughts on gratitude, appreciation, and even mindfulness. We all enjoyed the gorgeous and whimsical illustrations by Fumi Nakamura which complement the essays perfectly.
Nature lovers will enjoy this one. It’s definitely memorable for me, and I’m thankful to have it on my shelf.
- Publisher : Milkweed Editions; 1st edition (September 8, 2020)
- Language : English
- Hardcover : 184 pages
- ISBN-10 : 1571313656
- ISBN-13 : 978-1571313652
From beloved, award-winning poet Aimee Nezhukumatathil comes a debut work of nonfiction―a collection of essays about the natural world, and the way its inhabitants can teach, support, and inspire us.
As a child, Nezhukumatathil called many places home: the grounds of a Kansas mental institution, where her Filipina mother was a doctor; the open skies and tall mountains of Arizona, where she hiked with her Indian father; and the chillier climes of western New York and Ohio. But no matter where she was transplanted―no matter how awkward the fit or forbidding the landscape―she was able to turn to our world’s fierce and funny creatures for guidance.
“What the peacock can do,” she tells us, “is remind you of a home you will run away from and run back to all your life.” The axolotl teaches us to smile, even in the face of unkindness; the touch-me-not plant shows us how to shake off unwanted advances; the narwhal demonstrates how to survive in hostile environments. Even in the strange and the unlovely, Nezhukumatathil finds beauty and kinship. For it is this way with wonder: it requires that we are curious enough to look past the distractions in order to fully appreciate the world’s gifts.
Warm, lyrical, and gorgeously illustrated by Fumi Nakamura, World of Wonders is a book of sustenance and joy.
Thanks for reading my review. Have you read this book or any other memoirs lately? Feel free to share in the comments section below. Happy reading!