________________ CM . . . . Volume XXII Number 8 . . . . October 23, 2015


A Beginner's Guide to Immortality: From Alchemy to Avatars.

Maria Birmingham. Illustrated by Josh Holinaty.
Toronto, ON: Owlkids, 2015.
48 pp., hardcover, $17.95.
ISBN 978-1-77147-045-2.

Subject Heading:
Immortalism-Juvenile literature.

Grades 3-5 / Ages 8-10.

Review by Willow Moonbeam.

***½ /4



If the idea of living forever seems completely ridiculous to you, consider this: humans already live longer today than in centuries past thanks to advances in science, improved medicine and sanitation, and an increased supply of food and clean water. We've managed to more than double our lifespan in the past two centuries. A person born in the early 1800s had an average life expectancy of 35 years. Today, the average life expectancy for a person in a developed country is 78 years. Maybe the idea of extending life several more decades isn't that much of a stretch.

internal artImmortality is a topic that has been seen many times in movies, fiction and television. There is a good reason for this as it allows for a wide variety of stories and appeals to the desire of many to live forever. In any of these formats, it is unnecessary to explain how it could work or what steps you would have to take to become an immortal. This is, however, part of the point in a reference book.

      Maria Birmingham has written extensively for Owl and Chickadee magazines and has two previous nonfiction books. In this case she has obviously done her research and has divided the book into five chapters, with each one covering a different aspect of immortality: finding a magical substance, meeting an immortal, visiting a magical place, living a long time and a look into the future. Each chapter consists of an introduction and three open pages each covering a feature of that topic. They are presented with humour and illustrations to draw in the reader.

internal art      Each two-page spread is well-presented with the text nicely broken up with different fonts and illustrations. There are historical references from all over the world, a discussion of beliefs in religion and of scientific research and opinion. Examples from the animal kingdom add another dimension to the discussion. There are even philosophical allusions to round out the ideas. The titbits presented offer a wide variety of content and context in a small space, making it easy to access while also giving depth to the information.

      The pictures by Josh Holinaty are appealing done in a single colour for each section and used to great effect to break up the text and illustrate the ideas being presented. There are as many interesting references in the drawings as there are in the text, a perfect pairing.

internal art      A Beginner's Guide to Immortality has it all. The text is snappy and presented in brief sections broken up by the copious illustrations making it good for reluctant readers. The index can aid those who want information on a single topic. The reference list contains several adult books that could be used by motivated readers to expand their knowledge of the topic. The websites included have videos and also links to university sites that lead to the scientific research. It seems likely that children will need some kind of introduction to the topic of immortality before they would seek out this book. Having said that, any interested child will find what they need here and the door to further research.

Highly Recommended.

Willow Moonbeam is a librarian living in Toronto, ON., with an interest in knitting, astrology and learning new things.

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

Copyright © the Manitoba Library Association. Reproduction for personal use is permitted only if this copyright notice is maintained. Any other reproduction is prohibited without permission.
Published by
The Manitoba Library Association
ISSN 1201-9364
Hosted by the University of Manitoba.

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