Grass, miracle from the earth

David Campbell Callender with Maria Teresa Agozzino

Publisher: Balestier Press Pages: 164 Price: (paperback) $49.60 ISBN: 9781911221586 Reviewed: February, 2020 Author Website: Visit »

Grass, miracle from the earth is part of the Hearing Others’ Voices series, a venture aimed towards providing general readers – particularly “sixth formers” (students in the final one-three years of secondary education in some countries)– with straightforward, “unstuffy” information to engage their interests.

This short volume explores a seemingly mundane topic: the humble weed called grass. With 10,000 species, the authors note, the grass plant family is one of the largest on Earth.

The narrative touches on many topics, including the history of grass and its uses, such as in medicine and the more placid benefit of providing “a soft tread for feet and hooves, gentle falling ground for autumn leaves…” It also discusses crop circles, the symbolism of grass (“green brings with it a sense of hope, health, adventure and renewal…”), lawn care tips—and even how to mow “spirals, diamonds or a chequerboard into your handsome green canvas.”

Readers will find interesting nuggets throughout. But the book suffers from several technical issues. The text could use a closer edit to group ideas more tightly, and the tone is uneven; while some passages are conversational, others are academic (“Some species such as bluegrass have shallow rooting depths while more drought tolerant species like smooth broom have a higher proportion of their roots distributed deep with the soil profile”).

In addition, the target audience is a bit unclear. Readers looking for the history or mythology of grass may be deterred by its pragmatic discussion of mowing height and acidity. Conversely, someone expecting practical advice on lawn care may not appreciate the inclusion of the historic evolution of the plant or poetic allegories.

The book helpfully provides suggestions for additional reading. Its pictures are colorful, yet most are small and can seem randomly chosen, and the font size inexplicably changes throughout.

Grass is ubiquitous in our lives, and the topic has wonderful potential. Some rethinking of the approach would help this book fulfill its promise more successfully.

Also available in hardcover and ebook.

Author's Current Residence
London, England