Wicked Plants: The Weed That Killed Lincoln’s Mother & Other Botanical Atrocities by Amy Stewart
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
I picked up Wicked Plants as a brain-break after NaNoWriMo, and it was a great decision!
It turns out much of the natural world is trying to kill us. This book will permanently banish the idea that “natural” means “good for you.” Plants are downright homicidal, and they’re quite creative with all the ways they are out to poke, poison, incapacitate, intoxicate, inflame, nauseate, and kill us.
While it’s not exactly written as a chapter book, I choose to read it straight through as if it were. It is organized loosely alphabetically by plant name, with occasional breaks for themed sections. While the named areas go into detail and history on one particular plant, the themed sections pile in a bunch of plants with only short descriptions. The inclusion of these “quick-hits” is fantastic, because you really get more information, but they are also what make this book useless as any identification guide.
The plants are labeled with markers like “illegal,” “dangerous,” “offensive,” “deadly,” and “intoxicating,” so you’ll know exactly what kind of trouble you’re getting yourself into. The information included is basic locational and taxonomical stuff, with anecdotes about people who were killed or drugged or in some way related to this plant (including the detail about Lincoln’s mother).
One of the added pluses for this book is the detailed and beautiful cover. It’s a hardback with old-book style, and really lights up your bookshelf. It comes with a ribbon bookmark sewn into the spine and a light gold shimmer on the light parts of the cover. The interior is just as lavish, with black-and-white etchings of the plants, just in case you really need to identify something, and morbid or garish illustrations of all the ways we’re going to be murdered by our flowering foe. The pages have a faux-aged patina that looks really great. This book is an attention-getter, for sure.
This book is a riot. It’s educational, beautiful, and fun. Triple-whammy. I’ll be dipping into it for trivia night for sure. Plus, any writer worth his salt needs this book; it’s chock-full of incredible, natural, believable ways to kill off your characters.