Chernobyl’s Wild Kingdom: Life in the Dead Zone


As young adult literature should be, this book by Rebecca L. Johnson is about hope, despite the infamous noun in its title, and the spooky photographs at the beginning. Its 88 pages are packed with well-researched information which Johnson is clearly trying to present objectively.

Many Americans may have forgotten that in 1986, the nuclear reactor accident in Chernobyl released “four hundred times more radioactivity than the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima.” The first quarter of the book details the grim facts about the explosion and its aftermath, such as its effects as far away as Sweden and the United Kingdom.

But the meadows and forests around the plant are lush now and full of wildlife. In fact, there are species of animal and plant life that are thriving, species that were rare before the accident. Interestingly the wildlife can proliferate especially because of the absence of human population. Of course that is not the end of the story, since, like those of us who live near the Hudson River know, there are some human-made disasters that Nature cannot redress.

The book presents the theories about what kind of danger the wildlife may be in and what danger it may present to the bigger environment. It gives important definitions that we should know in the post-Fukushima world, terms like half-life and dosimeter. The sidebar pages offer mini-lessons, and there are beautiful photographs of the contemporary area surrounding the doomed plant .

Chernobyl’s Wild Kingdom: Life in the Dead Zone is published by Twenty First Century Books, which suggests a reading interest range between the ages of eleven and eighteen.


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