April 26, 2018

The Advocate's Toolbox

Earth Day | It’s a Green Thing

Since the first celebration of Earth Day on April 22, 1970, progress has been made in addressing some global environmental challenges—through both legislation and grassroots movements. Witness: the establishment of the Environmental Protection Agency, the Clean Water Act of 1972, Wangari Maathai’s The Green Belt Movement, and the “Billion Acts of Green” campaign. Still, it’s important to remember that much more needs to be done, and each new generation of students must be educated about these critical issues. In the coming years, they’ll be confronting many of these same problems, and a looming water crisis.

Educators looking for age-appropriate topics and materials to explore with their students on Earth Day, or during Climate Education Week (April 16-23), can start with a K-12 Toolkit provided by the Earth Day Network. The kit examines a range of subjects from ecosystems to “Food and Water Supplies Under Stress,” and provides cross-curricular, standards-aligned activities and lesson plans. Below are some book suggestions on environmental topics to add to library and classroom collections. These are just a few of the recently published titles that have caught our attention; included are their SLJ reviews. Feel free to add your recommendations.

AJMERA, Maya & Dominique Browning. Every Breath We Take: A Book About Air. 32p. ebook available. photos. Charlesbridge. 2016. Tr $16.95. ISBN 9781580896160. AJMERA, Maya & Dominique Browning. Every Breath We Take
PreS-Gr 2–This book from the Moms Clean Air Force is a beautiful effort to inform and inspire children to care for the environment. The clear, brightly colored photographs feature a diverse cast of young children and animals engaging in outside activities, while the text explains the features and importance of clean air. The overall message is that every living organism on Earth needs clean air to survive. The straightforward sentences explain basic concepts about air, such as its ability to carry sound. Every child can relate to the narrative and photos, but adults can use the supplementary information at the back of the book to further inform children about the causes and effects of air pollution with suggestions to improve or prevent additional air damage. VERDICT This title serves as a solid introduction to young readers’ study of basic human needs.–Maggie Chase, Boise State University, ID

BANYARD, Antonia & Paula Ayer. Water Wow!: An Infographic Exploration. illus. by Belle Wuthrich. 64p. bibliog. chart. chron. diag. further reading. glossary. maps. Annick. Apr. 2016. pap. $12.95. ISBN 9781554518210; Tr $22.95. ISBN 9781554518227. BANYARD, Antonia & Paula Ayer. Water Wow
Gr 3-6–This title presents essential information about water through written text and an abundance of visual formats, such as process diagrams, illustrated time lines, pie charts, graphs, tables, and maps. Using a mix of brief text and colorful, enlightening visuals, Banyard introduces readers to topics such as the water footprint, water power, worldwide access to water, and ways to clean polluted water. Neither alarmist nor overly comforting, this book provides the data needed for understanding the impact of water on our lives, discussing policies and issues, and making informed decisions. The text is clear and child-friendly (“If the entire Earth were the size of your bedroom, all the water would fit in two milk jugs in the corner”). The book ends with simple steps we can take right now to save water and protect this essential resource. For readers not yet ready for Stephen Leahy’s Your Water Footprint: The Shocking Facts About How Much Water We Use To Make Everyday Products, this book is a fine introduction to the subject. VERDICT An excellent source for teaching and learning about water. A useful mentor text for exploring visual literacy.–Myra Zarnowski, City University of New York 

BARROUX. Where’s the Elephant? illus. by Barroux. 32p. Candlewick. Mar. 2016. Tr $14.99. ISBN 9780763681104. BARROUX. Where’s the Elephant
PreS-Gr 3–With minimal text and bright, bold illustrations, Barroux introduces children to the topic of deforestation in a poignant fashion that invites discussion. By beginning with simple questions that ask the location of an elephant, parrot, and snake, he establishes a familiar seek-and-find narrative that is comfortable and engaging. At first, this is mildly challenging, as Barroux’s acrylic and pencil creatures are cleverly hidden in their jungle habitat. This quickly changes, however, as trees are soon removed and replaced by houses, roads, and cars. Eventually, the natural environment is gone and a zoo encapsulates the cheery animal friends until they elect to bust free, making for an ocean raft and new island home. Each spread is full of stunning art, with the lushness of the diverse tropical leaves set against the increasingly uniform and stagnant buildings. The excitement of hide-and-seek soon turns to crushing loss, forcing readers to ask why this conflict is occurring. The animals’ final flight, along with the contrast between cityscape and natural environs, conveys an important message regarding the ecosystem and the role humans play within it. VERDICT Although clearly written for a younger audience and highly recommended for all picture book collections, this introductory text can be used to spark discussion with elementary school students embarking on environmental studies.–Rachel Zuffa, Racine Public Library, WI

Eds. note: Barroux’s Starfish, Where Are You? (little bee books, April, 2016) is also available.

redstarDRUMMOND, Allan. Green City: How One Community Survived a Tornado and Rebuilt for a Sustainable Future. illus. by Allan Drummond. 40p. notes. Farrar/Frances Foster Bks. Mar. 2016. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780374379995.Green City by Allan Drummond

Gr 1-5 –On May 4, 2007, a treacherous tornado destroyed Greensburg, KS, “in nine-minutes flat.” Eleven people died; the school, “hospital, nine churches, the water tower, the drugstore with its soda fountain, the grocery store, the two hotels, the three banks, the theater, and everything else—just gone.” President George W. Bush declared Greensburg a national disaster area, and volunteers and donations arrived from all over. The inhabitants decided to rebuild: to make a tornado-proof town and to make it green. They designed models of homes with rounded walls, wood-paneled geodesic domes, and super-insulation. While many chose to relocate, the 800 residents who stayed are now proud to live in “America’s Green City.” The narrator, a boy in a red T-shirt, jeans, and a green baseball cap, tells the story in an engaging, accessible voice. Speech bubbles add drama and other townspeople’s points of view; three denser sidebars provide more information. Drummond’s ink-and-watercolor illustrations bustle with detail and activity. Some are full spreads, many are horizontal or vertical panels. An author’s note explains that while Drummond was working on this book, a fire devastated his home, causing him and his family to suddenly face the same challenges as the denizens of Greensburg. Happily, they now live in “a house built for the future.” VERDICT An inspiring read-aloud for units on natural disasters or for Earth Day.–Barbara Auerbach, New York City Public Schools

HEOS, Bridget. It’s Getting Hot in Here: The Past, Present, and Future of Global Warming. 224p. bibliog. chart. further reading. glossary. index. maps. notes. photos. websites. HMH. Feb. 2016. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780544303478. Heos, It's getting hot in here
Gr 6-9–Dismissing climate change skeptics as politically motivated, Heos surveys observational evidence that global warming is altering our “perfect world” and that the historically recent increases in our atmosphere’s carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases are due to human agency. She also presents ominous future scenarios featuring larger and more frequent storms, heat waves, and famines, plus rising tides of global warming “refugees” displaced by flooding coastlines. Along with tallying governmental and other broad initiatives designed to reduce the production of said gases, the author includes “Be the Change” suggestions that readers can undertake themselves. Though this work undeniably addresses an issue of serious universal concern, it’s well behind the curve in the currency of its information; figures for atmospheric carbon dioxide are dated December 2013 but come from a site that updates weekly, for instance, and the author mentions only the 2012 winners of the Environmental Youth Awards. Few if any of the dated sources cited in the endnotes will be less than two years old by the time of publication. Moreover, young activists are unlikely to find anything new or inspirational in the generalized suggestions to take quicker showers, move the household thermostat up or down one degree, buy used clothing rather than new, and so forth. VERDICT Worthy but, at best, supplementary to the young readers’ edition of Al Gore’s An Inconvenient Truth (Viking, 2007) and other more recent titles.–John Peters, Children’s Literature Consultant, New York City

HOFFMAN, Mary. The Great Big Green Book. illus. by Ros Asquith. 36p. glossary. websites. Frances Lincoln/Janetta Otter-Barry Bks. 2015. Tr $18.99. ISBN 9781847804457. The Great Big Green Book
Gr 2-4–A multiethnic bunch of kids (including four children in wheelchairs and one with a walker) skitter across the pages of this cheerful picture book on the importance of thinking green. Children and adults consider issues such as climate change and the shrinking rain forest, as well as ways to make a difference. Readers will appreciate the fun details of the cartoon illustrations, such as a cat who provides a comical running commentary; brief asides in speech bubbles from people, animals, and even plants; and small decorative drawings on the page borders. Many of the ideas mentioned are activities that kids can participate in (turning off the TV when it isn’t in use, recycling). The author’s simple, chatty text reassures the worried that saving the environment can be difficult because “the grown-ups make these decisions—but you can talk to them about it.” Because the book was originally published in the UK, there are some Briticisms (elevators are called lifts, sneakers are trainers), but readers won’t find these terms too intrusive. Pop this on the shelf with such titles as Michelle Mulder’s somewhat more challenging Trash Talk: Moving Toward a Zero Waste World (Orca, 2015), Kim McKay and Jenny Bonnin’s solid True Green Kids: 100 Things You Can Do to Save the Planet (National Geographic, 2008), and Brad Herzog’s simple S Is for Save the Planet: A How-to-Be-Green Alphabet (Sleeping Bear, 2009) for a sturdy quartet of inventive ways to raise kids’ awareness. VERDICT An upbeat, colorful appeal to be environmentally conscious.–Patricia Manning, formerly at Eastchester Public Library, NY

FELIX, Rebecca. 12 Things to Know About Fracking. ISBN 9781632350299; ISBN 9781632350893. LC 2014946817.
KALLIO, Jamie. 12 Things to Know About Climate Change. ISBN 9781632350282; ISBN 9781632350886. LC 2014946807.12 things to know about fracking
ea vol: 32p. (Today’s News). ebook available. further reading. glossary. index. photos. websites. Amicus/12-Story. 2015. lib. ed. $28.50. pap. $8.95.
Gr 4-6–In an attempt to get students to think critically and draw well-formed conclusions, this set takes a balanced look at complicated current events, breaking each issue down into 12 manageable facts or aspects. Each book employs a clear narrative style, as well as a clean, dynamic design, with text boxes containing supplemental information and color captioned photos with eye-catching text bubbles. The subjects are discussed from modern-day and historical perspectives, providing different contexts to consider. “Think About It” boxes interspersed throughout ask questions, encouraging readers to provide textual evidence for their answers, which aligns with Common Core standards. VERDICT The engaging format will enlighten readers and keep them turning pages. Solid general purchase options.

Sylvia Engdahl’s Energy Alternatives (Greenhaven, 2015; Gr 9 Up),  {I could not find an SLJ review} 

GOLDSTEIN, Margaret J. Fuel Under Fire: Petroleum and Its Perils. 104p. bibliog. glossary. index. notes. photos. websites. Twenty-First Century. Aug. 2015. lib. ed. $34.65. ISBN 9781467738316. LC 2014020890. GOLDSTEIN, Margaret J. Fuel Under Fire
Gr 6 Up–This well-written, handsome volume covers the issue of global dependence on oil, financial benefits and drawbacks, and the environmental costs. The book provides an overview of the history of oil and its use, Americans’ growing dependence on it, the impact on foreign and domestic politics, environmental disasters such as the Exxon Valdez and Deepwater Horizon oil spills, the North Dakota oil boom and the debate over fracking, the Keystone XL pipeline, and a look into the future with new energy sources including wind and geothermal power. This is a balanced and thought-provoking look at the issue, which demonstrates both the pros and cons of oil usage. Color photographs and attractive sidebars complement the text, while the solid back matter adds further to the appeal. VERDICT An excellent option for reports.–Patricia Ann Owens, formerly with Illinois Eastern Community Colls., Mt. Carmel

KALLEN, Stuart A. Running Dry: The Global Water Crisis. 64p. bibliog. diag. ebook available. filmog. further reading. glossary. index. notes. photos. websites. Twenty-First Century. Feb. 2015. RTE $33.32. ISBN 9781467726467. LC 2014003223. runningdry
Gr 4-8–This title provides a clear and concise look at the importance of fresh water in sustaining life on earth. An introduction explains where fresh water is available and where it is most needed, while subsequent chapters discuss how water is tainted and where, the concept of supply and demand, and our changing climate. Fast facts, statistics, and information on governmental policies and scientific innovations that may help save water are all presented, allowing readers a brief overview of this global issue. The information is organized well, and the accompanying photos will enhance understanding. Both the length and format (comprised of short sections that shed light on various topics, such as water conservation, water rights, fracking, and the water cycle) of the book will appeal to those with little or no background on the subject. An excellent source for student research.–Denise Moore, O’Gorman Junior High School, Sioux Falls, SD

KOSTECKI-SHAW, Jenny Sue. Luna & Me: The True Story of Girl Who Lived in a Tree to Save a Forest. illus. by Jenny Sue Kostecki-Shaw. 40p. photos. Holt. May 2015. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780805099768. KOSTECKI-SHAW, Jenny Sue. Luna & Me
K-Gr 3–Kostecki-Shaw’s beautifully illustrated picture book takes some liberties telling the story of Julia “Butterfly” Hill and her two-year stint tree-sitting in an ancient redwood to prevent its destruction by the Pacific Lumber Company. The tree, named Luna, is anthropomorphized through both text and images (“The redwood quivered with excitement, the way she always did when a new visitor arrived.”), and Hill is depicted as a young girl (and referred to as Butterfly), although she was in her early 20s when she began her 738-day tree-sit. This may be confusing to children, but Kostecki-Shaw clarifies in an author’s note that she made this choice so that the story would resonate more strongly with readers. The narrative is fascinating, with many jumping-off points for discussion with children (“And there wasn’t a bathroom.”; “To exercise, she climbed barefoot to the very top of Luna every morning.”). The logistics are thoughtfully considered, and Kostecki-Shaw is careful to emphasize the teamwork that went into making it possible for Hill to remain in her 180-foot high platform until Luna was safe. Rendered in acrylics, watercolors, salt, pencil, and collage, the delicate, exquisitely detailed illustrations portray Hill, Luna, and the flora and fauna of the forest that take shelter in the giant redwood. The visuals are the book’s strength, and readers will get a sense of the importance of protecting the environment. VERDICT There are few books for this age group that deal with local deforestation, making this charming introduction to environmentalism an ideal addition.–Jane Barrer, United Nations International School, New York City

MULDER, Michelle. Trash Talk!: Moving Toward a Zero-Waste World. 48p. ebook available. filmog. further reading. index. photos. reprods. websites. Orca. Apr. 2015. Tr $19.95. ISBN 9781459806924. LC 2014952068. Trash Talk cover ARC.indd
Gr 5-7–Both a history of trash and a manual of its elimination (or diminution, at least), this nifty book covers a variety of topics, from the trash pits (think archaic sanitary landfills) of the ancient Minoans to the gross filth of New York City in 1850. Employing readable language, Mulder chronicles the development of garbage disposal and goes on to castigate our throw-it-away-and-buy-a-new-one way of thinking. She discusses reformatting, reusing, and repairing to lessen the landfill burdens and presents ways to cut down the enormous amounts of rubbish humans produce on a global daily basis. “Trash Facts” pop up, as do “Take in the Trash” notes. Colorful photos record garbage issues around the world and innovative solutions to cope with this mountainous problem. Pair this with such green titles as Kim McKay and Jenny Bonnin’s challenging True Green Kids: 100 Things You Can Do to Save the Planet (National Geographic, 2008) and Brad Herzog’s simpler but eye-catching S Is for Save the Planet: A How-to-Be-Green Alphabet (Sleeping Bear, 2009) for a further look at our smelly, bulky accumulations and inventive ways to change our wasteful ways. VERDICT An informative call to action for young greenies.–Patricia Manning, formerly at Eastchester Public Library, NY

REYNOLDS, Paul A. Sydney & Simon Go Green! illus. by Peter H. Reynolds. 48p. (Sydney & Simon: Full STEAM Ahead). ebook available. Charlesbridge. 2015. Tr $12.95. ISBN 9781580896771.REYNOLDS, Paul A. Sydney & Simon Go Green!
K-Gr 3–Sydney meets Greenie the sea turtle during a field trip to the aquarium. Greenie has been harmed by plastic waste that has made its way into the ocean. When Sydney returns home, she begins to track her family’s trash production. She also discovers, with the help of custodian Mr. Clutterbuck, that her school produces an enormous amount of waste. Her campaign to reduce waste inspires an original song as well as a series of major changes in waste management and recycling at the school. In the end, Greenie is ready to be returned to the ocean and Sydney and Simon pledge to help everyone “Go Green!” The highly approachable text is beautifully complemented by Reynolds’s artwork. VERDICT A well-constructed introduction to the dangers facing the environment from human carelessness.–Wayne R. Cherry, Jr., First Baptist Academy Library, Houston, TX

TATE, Nikki. Deep Roots: How Trees Sustain Our Planet. 48p. (Footprints). ebook available. further reading. glossary. index. photos. websites. Orca. 2016. Tr $19.95. ISBN 9781459805828. Deep-Roots-256x300
Gr 3-6–Another well-done offering from this ongoing series, which tackles a wide variety of environmental issues. In four chapters (“Earth,” “Air,” “Water,” and “Fire”), Tate explores the role trees play in the world’s ecosystem. The introduction, in which the author offers her own personal connection to the topic, may draw in some students. The book features a generous number of beautiful color photographs from all over the world, making it an excellent addition to libraries seeking to enlarge their selection of multicultural offerings. Readers will appreciate the relevant historical facts along with the kid-friendly text, which explains concepts in comprehensible terminology. Key concepts are well defined and appended in a handy glossary. Quick facts and ideas for experiments are interspersed throughout. VERDICT This well-written volume is ideal for budding researchers unfamiliar with environmental issues, and teachers will welcome this attractive, curriculum-based reading options.–Anne Jung-Mathews, Plymouth State University, NH

For additional resources on our planet and the environment, consider the titles spotlighted in these two 2015 Curriculum Connections articles: “Farm to Table: The Food We Eat, the World We Live In” and “Talkin’ Trash | Spotlight On the Environment.”


Curriculum Connections

This article was featured in our free Curriculum Connections enewsletter.
Subscribe today to have more articles like this delivered to you every month.

Daryl Grabarek About Daryl Grabarek

Daryl Grabarek dgrabarek@mediasourceinc.com is the editor of School Library Journal's monthly enewsletter, Curriculum Connections, and its online column Touch and Go. Before coming to SLJ, she held librarian positions in private, school, public, and college libraries. Her dream is to manage a collection on a remote island in the South Pacific.