Part of the Citizen Kid collection, this nonfiction picture book explore the story of how one village in India came to celebrate the birth of girls. Sundar grew up walking with his mother to get water through the heat. until she is killed from a snake bite. After this, Sundar takes comfort in hugging trees, thinking of his mother. Sundar grew up and taught his children to love nature as much as he does. He works for a mining company and grows so worried about what they are doing to the local environment and their unwillingness to plant trees to help that he leaves his job. He runs for election and becomes the head of the village. When his daughter dies, he plants trees in her memory. He has an idea, declaring that every girl born in the village will be welcomed by the planting of 111 trees. Sundar is mocked for this idea that goes against customs, but he does not give up. He steadily speaks with people, convincing them of the impact they could have on the local environment by planting these trees. As the trees grow, life in the village changes. Now the women don’t have to walk long distances to get water, the fruit of the trees help feed the children and families, and girls can go to school with the boys as the gender inequality is overturned.
Singh builds her story with care, showing Sundar’s childhood with his mother and then his loss of her as the deep inspiration for his idea. She demonstrates how one man’s quest to fix the environment can make an enormous difference not just for him but for an entire community, the future of the girls that grow up there, and the quality of life for all. Singh does not lecture, instead showing how resilience and perseverance can eventually pay off. The Author’s Note at the end of the book offers more information on Sundar and the other customs that he has ended, including child marriage.
The illustrations show the changing landscape as the trees are planted. From a desert-like wasteland, the steady increase in trees transforms the landscape and the pages to lush green. The images focus on the interplay between human and nature, showing a community that even when skeptical continued to listen.
An inspiring picture book that tells the true story of one man’s quest to bring back trees and stop gender inequality. Appropriate for ages 5-7.
Reviewed from e-galley provided by Kids Can Press.
A musician in a family of conservationists and scientists, Louisa finds herself sent away from her home in Canada for the summer to spend time in Australia with her mother’s family. In the remote Tasmanian rainforest, the family has a camp run by her Uncle Ruff. She has brought along her violin, determined to spend time practicing so that she can successfully compete, something her nerves when she plays publicly haven’t allowed her to do. A local resort owner’s son quickly becomes friends with Louisa, who is one of the first teens not to mock his autism and his quirky behaviors. Louisa also learns more about the camp, which is actually a sanctuary created by her great-grandmother to protect the Tasmanian tigers, thought to be extinct. At least one of these large dog-like marsupials may still live on Convict Rock, an island nearby. With a mining operation soon to destroy the sanctuary and the island, they have to work quickly to save this last tiger. By reading her great-grandmother’s journals, Louisa realizes she may be the key to its survival.
This book transports readers into the Tasmanian rainforest. Written with a focus that keeps its length nicely manageable, the novel doesn’t ever feel rushed. Instead it is a journey personally for Louisa through her own fears of performing to a desire to save a creature from true extinction. Her steadily building connection to the Australian wildlife and environment allows readers to explore it as well, falling just as hard as Louisa has for its unique habitat.
This is an environmentalist book that takes a different path. It doesn’t lecture at all, instead allowing immersion within a singular place to really speak to its importance, the vitality of threatened species, and the need to take action. All of the characters are well drawn and complete, filled with multiple dimensions that make them interesting to spend time with in this beautifully described natural wonder.
Amazing writing, vivid characters and lost species come together into a marvelous read. Appropriate for ages 10-13.
This is the third book in the Over and Under series that explores ecosystems with children. The young narrator hikes into the rain forest with Tito, their guide. They discover the hidden world in the canopies of the trees, filled with monkeys, insects and birds. They cross a rope bridge that sways above the sleep crocodiles in the river. As they get higher, they see monkeys swing in the trees. Sloths ignore the rain as it starts to fall while blue morpho butterflies take shelter on the tree trunks. Everywhere there is life, small and large, predator and prey. The two people make it home for dinner, as darkness falls.
Messner creates a story that wraps the reader in the experience of walking through a rain forest. Every page offers new animals, the sound of rain, the sway of the bridges. She shows it all with such wonder and fascination that one can’t read the book without also getting curious and wanting to learn more. She offers that in her Author’s Note as well as providing more information on the animals in the book.
Neal’s art is vibrant and beautiful, showing the play of light through the huge trees. He depicts each of the animals, some well known and others that will be new to the reader. As fog descends in the book, it fills the pages creating mystery and beauty.
A journey worth taking. Appropriate for ages 5-7.
Reviewed from e-galley provided by Chronicle Books.
This wordless picture book follows the journey of one paper bag from its beginnings as a tall tree in the forest through the hands of a family. The tree is cut down, hauled away, ground up and made into paper which then is formed into a brown paper bag. Put into a box, the bag is given to a family at a grocery store. They take it home, draw a heart on the bag, and use it for school lunches. The bag is used lots of different ways after that as the boy grows up, taking it with him to college. There he meets a girl and they draw two hearts on the bag. It’s even there when he proposes to her. When they have a baby, the bag is part of the mobile over the crib, and a third heart is added. When grandpa, the bag’s first owner visits, a fourth heart is added by his grandson. The bag becomes worn and taped, but serves one last purpose that brings the entire story full circle.
Cole beautifully shows how small acts of reusing something can become tradition in a family. The book never seems like a lecture, always just showing and demonstrating how reuse is possible and its great potential as well. The paper bag in the story if remarkably resilient for so much use by generations, but I think we all have items in our families that survive despite being used by everyone, to be handed to the next generation.
Told in images only, the book is filled with fine-line drawings that shine with light. The paper bag is the only color on the page, it’s brown color becoming all the more warm and glowing and the red hearts popping with color.
A truly great wordless picture book. Appropriate for ages 2-4.
This cumulative tale focuses on the environmental impact of our garbage, or the mess that we made. Four children in a little boat float in a sea of nets, bottles, plastic and more. As they watch, a seal is caught in a broken net, a turtle is trapped in a plastic bag, and the landfill near the water grows and grows. Then the book takes a turn and shows how people, large and small, can make a real difference by cleaning up the beach, recycling, using clean energy, protesting problematic fishing, and cleaning up the oceans.
It is the cumulative format that really works here. Lord never makes it into a towering and overwhelming “This is the house that Jack built” sort of story. She instead plays with the format in a shorter structure, creating a clear cause and effect for young readers both in the destruction of our oceans and in cleaning them up. The result is a cumulative tale that reads aloud really well and smoothly. Her twist of showing how people can help is a call to action that clearly shows how even children can make a difference in our world.
The art is particularly effective when showing underwater scenes and the huge amount of garbage in the ocean. The light from above illuminates the struggles of ocean life and yet also shows the lingering beauty of the habitat and the blue green waters.
A strong environmental message about our oceans and our responsibility. Appropriate for ages 2-4.
Oil by Jonah Winter, illustrated by Jeanette Winter (9781534430778)
This nonfiction picture book offer a devastating look at the oil spill caused by the Exxon Valdez. The book begins with the Trans-Alaska Pipeway that carries oil to the ocean. It’s surrounded by wilderness and the animals who live there. The oil is then transferred to ships, and one of the those ships had an accident in the clear water when it ran aground on a reef. From there, the oil spreads, turning the water and waves black, covering the rocks on the shore. Hurting the wildlife who call the place home. People try to help, but even thirty years later so many things are different, changes caused by the destruction of an ecosystem and environment.
The Winter mother-son duo have crafted yet another compelling picture book about a complex nonfiction topic. Jonah’s text uses powerful repeating choruses of “oil” that is almost like a drum beat of emphasis. He uses other techniques of repetition and design that speed or slow the reading of the text very effectively. The book is a mixture of tragedy and a call to action.
Jeanette’s illustrations are in her signature simple style. They work particularly well here to emphasize the impact of the oil spill, steadily covering the pages with seeping blackness. Some pages are left without words, just allowing the reader to soak in the horror of what is happening.
Powerful and tragic, this picture book is an important addition for libraries. Appropriate for ages 5-8.
Two indigenous book creators have created a picture book that celebrates the North American indigenous battles to protect our water. Water is the the first medicine; it is where we all come from and nourishes us in the womb and on earth. There is talk of a black snake that will spoil the water, poisoning it. The black snake had been foretold for many years, and now it is here. Courage is the answer to it and the willingness to stand up and insist that water be protected. Nature cannot speak for itself, so we must speak and fight on its behalf. We can all be water protectors.
Lindstrom has written a book that calls out to be shared aloud. She has used an effective refrain: “We stand/ With our songs/ And our drums./ We are still here.” The importance of standing up and of Native people being visible as modern members of our society is vital here. The call to action in this picture book is also clarion clear and incredibly empowering. This book explains to the youngest children what the protests on Native lands are all about and why they are vital to all of us.
Goade’s illustrations are done in watercolor that washes across the pages in waves, swirls, and skies. The colors are deep and dynamic, showing nature in all of its beauty and demonstrating page after page what we are fighting to protect.
Strong and important. Appropriate for ages 4-6.
Reviewed from copy provided by Roaring Brook Press.
My Friend Earth by Patricia MacLachlan, illustrated by Francesca Sanna (9780811879101)
Newbery-award winning author MacLachlan writes a lyrical story about her friend earth. Earth awakens in the spring to the busy sounds, seeing the seeds, insects and birds around her. She tucks in animals, reunites mother and child, and tends to the rich prairies. She visits the tundra and heads underwater where she guards all of the creatures. She creates rain to fill the streams and blows autumn winds across the trees. She sprinkles snow on the land in winter, watching over the hibernating animals. Then she falls asleep herself until spring comes again.
Earth here is shown as a young girl, playful in her relationship with nature and the seasons. MacLachlan’s text is marvelously detailed, pulling small elements of each season out to linger over along with Earth herself. This book is specifically focused on Earth Day without it only being able to be used then. It’s a book that celebrates our earth any day.
Sanna’s gorgeous illustrations are built into cut pages here. Readers awaken Earth themselves, glimpse her peeking through leaves, peer underwater at her side, and blow in the wind with the leaves. The cutouts are cleverly done, representing the changing locations and seasons with their forms. Sanna’s art is bold and lovely, showing a young brown-skinned Earth playfully interacting in the world.
Lush and lovely, this is an Earth Day charmer. Appropriate for ages 3-5.