The Sixth Extinction (Young Readers Adaptation): An Unnatural History

Macmillan/Godwin. Feb. 2024. 224p. Tr $24.99. ISBN 9781250793423.
Gr 3-7–“We are living through a revolution on every face of the Earth, which we created,” states Pulitzer Prize winner Kolbert. This book discusses a final mass extinction that will trail five previous massive extinctions in the earth’s history, the last being the dinosaurs. Humans are the only creatures to have altered the physical planet and continue to contribute to its species’ downfall. People can view firsthand the effects of ocean acidification, invasive species, loss of species, higher levels of carbon dioxide, rising temperatures, and compromised accessible fresh water, signaling our end unless we take action. Highly expressive and vividly detailed writing conveys the tragedy that humanity is bringing on itself. Kolbert divides the work into the same 13 chapters as the adult version with little condensing; the text resonates with readers by focusing each chapter on a single species we have lost forever. The young reader’s adaptation has black-and-white illustrations and a glossary to buffer a challenging text. While the book is eye-opening, the tone is not all negative, and Kolbert makes strong connections to history. Humans have “succeeded extravagantly at the expense of other species [like an] evolutionary arms race.” Educators could use this work in literary nonfiction units analyzing Kolbert’s metaphors and idioms, as well as units on natural history and current events. Even though this is a dense text, the subject matter alone should render it required curriculum.
VERDICT Essential for science discussions on mass extinctions to challenge advanced middle grade readers.

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