PositiveThe Wall Street Journal... the book’s scholarly and subtle approach avoids glib claims about how sharing a hormone like dopamine with shrimp and penguins means we are all the same. Wildhood has enough humility to see that the gulf between us and other species isn’t uncrossable, but is still very real ... No book about adolescence would be complete without a discussion of teenage sex, and here Wildhood shines ... It’s hard to write about amazing animals without being anthropomorphic, but Ms. Natterson-Horowitz and Ms. Bowers mostly succeed. Wildhood is also quite vertebrate-centric, even though adolescence, or something like it, can be seen in insects, crustaceans and a host of other spineless creatures. Nevertheless, readers will come away with an appreciation for a host of other qualities—friendship, social status, cooperation, leaving home and coming back—that are rooted in that one crucial stage of life.
RaveThe Wall Street JournalThis combination of insider and outsider perspective is uniquely suited to a book on creatures whose internal organs are visible through transparent outer layers ... Readers interested in biological superlatives can find them here: the largest jellyfish, the deadliest, the one that occurs in the highest numbers. Ms. Berwald goes to Japan in search of the largest but finds only a 250-pounder perhaps 3 to 4 feet in diameter; they can grow to nearly twice that size, a feat enabled by prodigious growth during their juvenile stage, when they can increase their weight by 11% a day. But the physical size of jellyfish is dwarfed by their importance. Jellyfish may well be what biologists call a keystone species, one that plays such an essential role in an ecosystem that its absence would cause the system to collapse. Yet their world is being destroyed by humans. Juli Berwald calls on us to rescue the jellyfish and, in so doing, perhaps rescue ourselves.
PositiveThe Los Angeles Review of BooksTracing the evolution of the cephalopod line from its earliest ancestors, Godrey-Smith wants to understand how it has arrived at a seemingly similar cognitive destination to our own … A renowned philosopher, he takes the sparse scientific literature on octopus cognition, combines it with his own observations scuba-diving at ‘Octopolis’ off the east coast of Australia, and then gracefully and unsparingly analyzes what these creatures can tell us about the mind, consciousness, and being human. He is not overly concerned with defining what a mind is, nor with any of the other tendentious minutiae that have caused many a book on consciousness to sink under the weight of its own prose. Godfrey-Smith is reasonably content with not having all the answers.