Suburban Safari: A Year on the Lawn

Suburban Safari: A Year on the Lawn

4.3 6
by Hannah Holmes
     
 

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The suburban lawn sprouts a crop of contradictory myths. To some, its a green oasis; to others, its eco-purgatory. Science writer Hannah Holmes spent a year appraising the lawn through the eyes of the squirrels, crows, worms, and spiders who think of her backyard as their own. Suburban Safari is a fascinating and often hilarious record of her discoveries: that…  See more details below

Overview

The suburban lawn sprouts a crop of contradictory myths. To some, its a green oasis; to others, its eco-purgatory. Science writer Hannah Holmes spent a year appraising the lawn through the eyes of the squirrels, crows, worms, and spiders who think of her backyard as their own. Suburban Safari is a fascinating and often hilarious record of her discoveries: that many animals adore the suburban environment, including bears and cougars venturing in from the woods; how plants, in their struggle for dominance, communicate with their own kind and battle other species; and that ways already exist for us to grow healthier, livelier lawns.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
When science and travel writer Holmes (The Secret Life of Dust) turned her attention to her suburban backyard, she discovered a community of wildlife desperately trying to survive in a sprawling world of "Wal-Marts and White-Crowned Sparrow Estates." Holmes manages to find signs of hope and humor amid the spread of civilization, and she reports animal activities in her yard with the fervor of Wild Kingdom's Marlin Perkins and the laconic glee of Garrison Keillor. "I'm a bit embarrassed to report that Cheeky has become the sun around which my world revolves," she confesses about her resident chipmunk. That small mammal is just one of the many creatures to whom Holmes gives names and personalities, but she keeps her naturalist credibility intact by inviting scientists and other experts to join her in her lawn chair vigil. With their help, she includes plenty of facts about the habits of common crows, insects, squirrels and even trees. Science and humor serve as well-managed launching points for environmental lessons. By the end of her year, Holmes has gently taught us that the American lawn is a pesticide-laden patchwork that's increasing by a million acres every year, that heating a house can produce five tons of pollutants annually and that stewardship of our own backyards is our responsibility. Agent, Michelle Tessler. (Mar.) Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
With infectious enthusiasm and faith in nature's doggedness in the face of encroaching humanity, science writer Holmes (The Secret Life of Dust, 2001) follows the four seasons as they play out in her own micro-habitat. Raised on a farm, the author left country life far behind when she moved to New York City for several years. Now she's compromised between the two extremes, setting up house on two-tenths of an acre in suburban Portland, Maine. She's determined to immerse herself in the workings of her patch of ground, and though it isn't a lot of land, it turns out to be more than enough to nurture many varieties of insect, bird, and mammal species. All are fodder for Holmes's meditations on natural history, zoology, and the current American landscape. The writer encourages nature in her own backyard through benign neglect; she doesn't use chemical fertilizers on the grass and grows only what can survive biweekly lawn mowing. (When her lawn mower breaks in late summer, she's fascinated by the resultant growth.) Other than that, she's a typical resident, blessed with an omnivorous curiosity and a good pair of binoculars. She gets to know intimately the crows in her yard, examines all the insects she can find under the microscope, and tames a chipmunk she dubs "Cheeky." Even the barren branches of winter are greeted with delight: Finally, she can see what's been going on behind all those leaves. Holmes doesn't confine her interest to sentient creatures. A meditation on wolves rapidly turns into a discussion of the last ice age and how it must have manifested in her little corner of the world. The lawn itself, as a feature of the modern landscape, also comes in for a sociological andhistorical examination. A cracking good reminder that an appreciation of the wonders of nature need not be reserved for special occasions. Agent: Michelle Tessler/Tessler Literary Agency
Robert Sullivan
"Suburban Safari proves once and for all that there is life in the suburbs and that it's worth thinking hard about how to handle it."
Atlanta Journal-Constitution
"Captivating. Who needs another TV show when there's all this drama in the back yard?"
Booklist
"The controversy over how to deal with this growing health threat will keep this book passing from hand to hand."
Cleveland Plain Dealer
"Armed with the vast knowledge gleaned from science writer Hannah Holmes' Suburban Safari, you can go on the offensive with yard man. Informative."
Denver Post
"Holmes reveals the intriguing, unnoticed dramas that unfold daily on suburban lawns. A fascinating journey."
discover.com
"An eye-opening plunge into a fascinating, nearly invisible world."
Entertainment Weekly
"Witty, imaginative, and powerful…Holmes is a Rachel Carson for 21st-century suburbia. A"

Los Angeles Times
"Holmes' backyard assumes strange, oversize proportions in the course of this fascinating book: the Bamboo Wilderness, the Insect Nation, the Freedom Lawn—who needs Mongolia?"

Oregonian
"The writing is punchy and chock-full of strange and wonderful facts…Holmes makes it seem utterly commonplace to invite a chipmunk into one's home or spend the afternoon observing slugs."

USA Today
"Witty environmentalists are as rare as shy politicians. But in Suburban Safari, Hannah Holmes laughs at herself while celebrating the wild kingdom she explores…Holmes is a science writer who doesn't lecture. She shares the joy of discovery about the secret lives of ants, spiders and crows."

Mary Roach
"Holmes sends even the most jaded urbanite out into the yard with a magnifying glass and a newly forged sense of awe…One of the most unusual, entertaining, effortlessly educational homages to nature since Euell Gibbons ate a pine tree."

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781596918115
Publisher:
Bloomsbury USA
Publication date:
12/01/2008
Sold by:
Barnes & Noble
Format:
NOOK Book
Pages:
272
Sales rank:
640,986
File size:
656 KB

Meet the Author

Hannah Holmes is the author of The Secret Life of Dust. Her science and travel writing has appeared in publications including the New York Times Magazine, Outside, Sierra, and the Los Angeles Times Magazine. She lives in Maine.

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Suburban Safari: A Year on the Lawn 4.3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 6 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I really enjoyed 95% of this book, I think it is worth the read. The only part I didn't enjoy was a long L O N G legnthy....did I mention LONG account of the ice age polar cap creation of Maine...extremely boring, mostly off topic of the book, and way too detailed. The book loses its continuity at that point, but if you can make it past that, it does pick up again for the most part. My over all opinion would be , The book starts out good and declines slowly after about the middle.
Anonymous 5 months ago
An engaging look at the exotic habits of the plants and animals in your own backyard. "Cheeky" the chipmunk and "Yawp" the crow are just a few of the winsome neighbors you'll meet along the way. (Bonus fact: It turns out that my low maintenance approach to lawn maintenance isn't laziness; I am cultivating a Freedom Lawn.
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