This charmingly illustrated collection of nature essays is more than it might appear to be at first glance ... I thought this was going to be another earnest tome of nature writing...But within a few lines of the first essay in this book it is clear that Aimee Nezhukumatathil is giving us more than that, much more ... This book is like the moment when you go to a familiar outside place and suddenly you see some amazing thing you had never expected ... Within two pages, nature writing feels different and fresh and new. Nezhukumatathil has written a timely story about love, identity and belonging ... a beautiful, poetic and powerful memoir ... Each story is a carefully crafted gem in which the personal and the natural history are woven together, to create a loving portrait of her family ... Nezhukumatathil takes us in to her childhood world and shows us life through the eyes of that little girl. It is a beguiling and charming tale ... a book that in less skillful and honest hands might have been yet another 'book about nature' becomes something much richer and deeper. Anyone who ever felt small and shy, like they didn’t quite fit in, will find a reflection in these thoughtful stories ... The voice that emerges from the pages is charming and thoughtful, with the confidence and playfulness of a writer who has published four collections of poetry to critical acclaim. But beyond the autobiography and the crafted prose, the book is also a plea for us to remember the beauty and wonder of the wild things around us. It betrays a sincere fear that they are being lost to our indoor and asphalt worlds, where we stare at screens, phones or the pavement instead of at trees, butterflies and the endless sky above us ... a very fine book indeed, truly full of wonder.
... shimmering ... Nakamura’s delicate, elegant illustrations frame these emotive, tender writings ... The essays uncover the astonishing habits of ribbon eels, whale sharks, flamingos, dancing frogs, and other lovelies, while other less popular but no less wondrous flora and fauna also shine. Alluring lines about the Corpse Flower, an Indonesian native that grows large and stinky to attract nocturnal pollinating beetles, are enough to make anyone a fan. Cassowaries with killer claws, the bizarro Vampire Squid, and the Potoo of Central America (a bird with a croaking, retching call) are also described with passion, artful wordsmithing, and reverence ... Natural world subjects are touchstones for heartfelt personal revelations and meditations about social and cultural issues ... There’s also sly humor ... a bibliophilic and visual delight that dazzles the senses, much like Nezhukumatathil’s beloved comb jellies. Her entrancing essays are a reminder to spend more time outdoors wondering at and cherishing this 'magnificent and wondrous planet.'
Nezhukumatathil’s delight in the world isn’t dulled by the world’s racism, but she doesn’t shy away from sharing her experiences of being on the receiving end of discrimination ... By examining the world around her, Nezhukumatathil finds an ongoing sense of connection to that world ... as sparkling as an armful of glass bangles and as colorful as the peacocks that first captured Nezhukumatathil’s imagination.
Nezhukumatathil stuns with her nonfiction debut ... These essays explore the natural world and the human experience, finding parallels, meaning and beauty in the intersections ... The red-spotted newt and dragon fruit that title their respective essays receive Nezhukumatathil's attentive study and yes, wonder, but the author's own experience is always a second thread. She brings a poet's ear for language and an eye for commonality and metaphor, both reverent of the natural world and specific in her personal story ... offers a series of brief naturalist lessons, but is perhaps at its best in drawing connections ... Wisdom, wonder and beauty make this slim collection one to treasure.
The nature writing we have been exposed to has been overwhelmingly male and white, which is just one reason that Aimee Nezhukumatathil’s latest essay collection, World of Wonders: In Praise of Fireflies, Whale Sharks, and Other Astonishments, is a breath of fresh air ... Nezhukumatathil’s background as an accomplished poet makes her debut collection of nonfiction essays anything but dry, and the accompanying illustrations by Fumi Nakamura help elevate the lyricism of her prose ... What makes her work shine is its joyful embrace of difference, revealing that true beauty resides only in diversity.
... vivid and provocative ... Creatures big and small have offered instruction as well as consolation during periods of displacement and episodes of discrimination in her life and Nezhukumatathil’s thirst for the unknown, and sometimes unexplainable, is contagious ... The beautiful seamlessness between mother and daughter, giant tree and place, shyness and safety, illuminates the potent transfiguration found within these essays ... Wherever she lands, Nezhukumatathil roots herself firmly within the natural world and her revelations are as invigorating as her anger ... decorated with the distinct humor and grace found throughout her poetry ... Interestingly, Nezhukumatathil’s own profuse questions throughout this collection are just as piercing ... Nezhukumatathil’s resiliency, and her constant ability to find beauty and connection in the world, is perhaps the real astonishment ... a poignant reminder that the voices gently referred to as 'new' in environmental writing have been here doing the work for decades and they demand a broader audience. Nature writing has largely been a white enterprise; however, Nezhukumatathil’s point of view clears a path to redemption—one in which we acknowledge that we all belong (and are accountable) to each other as well as to this strange and wonderous Earth.
The book is as much about color and race in our modern world as it is about gratitude for the smallest and strangest miracles it still manages to hold ... Each [essay] is wrapped in language that engages so deeply with its own curiosity, and with such a taste for the way certain words move in the mouth, that all we can do is share in the wonder—even taste it, if we dare follow our gasping breath into a repetition of the words that called it forth.
... awe-inducing and delightfully whimsical ... Nezhukumatathil cultivates optimism through the sparkle and shrieks of the animals she describes and the flora and fauna right outside our windows. Perhaps counterintuitively, she sometimes imbues the natural world with human qualities, which contributes to the collection’s whimsy, but she points out, too, how humans have put at risk some of the most wonderous species and phenomena, cautioning us to consider our actions and how they impact all of the living things around us. Despite the catastrophes of climate change and flagrant racism, Nezhukumatathil’s essays radiate wonder and delight.
This moment of pause and panic created by the pandemic is pushing people to delve into nature and to take time to savor it during the rare times we are not housebound. And Nezhukumatathil’s World of Wonders is the perfect literary companion for this ... Although her descriptions are filled with fascinating facts, what makes them come alive is Nezhukumatathil’s obvious astonishment and affection, which comes through in the text ... Nezhukumatathil is an ideal guide on this journey through nature’s treasures because although she conveys her own deep curiosity and compassion for these plants and animals, her explorations never take on a stuffy professorial tone, which can make those who haven’t had many experiences with the natural world feel excluded ... The strongest chapters are those where Nezhukumatathil meditates on plants or animals with whom she has direct experiences and memories. She evokes not only the beings’ significance to the world but also to a moment in her life that continues to impact her ... As we ponder what the world will look like after this moment, an inspiring vision is one in which the creatures and plants Nezhukumatathil animates are able to thrive and offer up their wonders to the next generation.
In beautifully illustrated essays, poet Aimee Nezhukumatathil writes of exotic flora and fauna and her family, and why they are all of one piece ... In days of old, books about nature were often as treasured for their illustrations as they were for their words. World of Wonders, American poet and teacher Aimee Nezhukumatathil’s prose ode to her muses in the natural world, is a throwback that way. Its words are beautiful, but its cover and interior illustrations by Fumi Mini Nakamura may well be what first moves you to pick it up in a bookstore or online ... The book’s magic lies in Nezhukumatathil’s ability to blend personal and natural history, to compress into each brief essay the relationship between a biographical passage from her own family and the life trajectory of a particular plant or animal ... Her kaleidoscopic observations pay off in these thoughtful, nuanced, surprise-filled essays.
... fresh and engaging, and offers frequent surprises and perceptive commentary. Author Nezhukumatathil has previously published volumes of poetry, and now her prose flows effortlessly, with precise vocabulary that evokes clear images and captures insightful nuance ... Nezhukumatathil’s essays, with vibrant illustrations from Fumi Mini Nakamura, are in turn humorous, poignant, relatable, passionate (especially when she’s bemoaning disappearing species and habitats), and always interesting.
... fascinating ... A lyrical exploration of a woman finding her true home in the world, interspersed with hauntingly beautiful descriptions of the lives of the animals and plants that illuminate it, this natural history will appeal to nature lovers and readers who relish thoughtful, introspective works.
A poet celebrates the wonders of nature in a collection of essays that could almost serve as a coming-of-age memoir ... frequently enchanting essays ... Nezhukumatathil’s investigations, enhanced by Nakamura’s vividly rendered full-color illustrations, range across the world, from a rapturous rendering of monsoon season in her father’s native India to her formative years in Iowa, Kansas, and Arizona, where she learned from the native flora and fauna that it was common to be different ... Nezhukumatathil isn’t only interested in nature as metaphor. She once devoted most of a year’s sabbatical to the study of whale sharks, and she humanizes her experience of natural splendor to the point where observation and memory merge, where she can’t see or smell something without remembering the details of her environment when she first encountered it. Among other fascinating species, the author enlightens readers on the vampire squid, the bonnet macaque, and the red-spotted newt ... The writing dazzles with the marvel of being fully alive.
Nezhukumatathil applies her skill as a poet to a scintillating series of short essays on nature ... Throughout, she vividly describes sounds, smells, and color—the myriad hues of a 'sea of saris' from India—and folds in touches of poetry. Fumi Nakamura’s lush illustrations add to the book’s appeal. Readers of Terry Tempest Williams and Annie Dillard will appreciate Nezhukumatathil’s lyrical look at nature.