Elem. – Harriet’s Ruffled Feathers: The Woman Who Saved Millions of Birds

McCullough, Joy. Harriet’s Ruffled Feathers: The Woman Who Saved Millions of Birds. Atheneum Books for Young Readers, 2022.  Unpaged.  978-1-534-48676-8. Grades 1-3. $17.99.

Harriet Hemenway loved hats, as did many women in Boston in 1896. At that time, millinery was decorated with all manner of bows, flowers, ribbons, feathers, and even dead birds-the more the better. One day at breakfast, Harriet was surprised to read in the newspaper that millions of birds were killed every year to supply these decorative notions. With the support of her cousin Minna, Harriet began a campaign to stop the slaying of these beautiful creatures for fashion’s sake.  The cousins invited society women to tea, where the guests were horrified to hear about the carnage. More women pledged to boycott feathered fashions and the movement to save birds gained traction. The cousins asked bird scientists to give lectures and recruited influential people to help form an organization whose mission was the protection of earth’s feathered friends. And so the Audubon Society was founded. Word spread to other states and even to Queen Victoria and President Theodore Roosevelt, who signed a bill establishing federal bird reservations. McCullough uses avian word play to make the text more engaging, with such witty phrases as “[Harriet’s] feathers were too ruffled to eat” and “great big ostrich of a problem.” Galotta’s large scale illustrations done in watercolor are soft and very appealing. The color and detail in the drawings of various birds is wonderful. The back matter contains more information about the Audubon Society and birdwatching.

THOUGHTS: This fictionalized picture book account of the accomplishments of Harriet Hemenway is a delight. It will ignite a discussion on conservation and advocacy and shows how one person can effect change. This book is a good choice for Earth Day and is a must have for elementary collections. McCullough’s middle grade novel Across the Pond, is also about birds and was inspired by a British girl who loved and wrote about birdwatching.

Picture Book          Denise Medwick, Retired, PSLA Member 

Elem. – The Leaf Detective: How Margaret Lowman Uncovered Secrets in the Rainforest

Lang, Heather. The Leaf Detective: How Margaret Lowman Uncovered Secrets in the Rainforest. Calkins Creek, 2021. 978-1-68437-177-8. Unpaged. $18.99 Grades 2-5.

From childhood Meg was always interested in nature, opting to spend time outside studying plants. As an adult she moved from her Elmira, New York hometown to Australia where she pioneered rainforest studies. In 1979, she invented a slingshot harness allowing her to study trees from the canopy of branches sitting up to one hundred and fifty feet tall. From dizzying heights Meg studied the rainforest in ways scientists had not previously attempted prior to her invention. Nearly a decade later, Meg was instrumental in developing plans for the first canopy walkway making rainforest ecology accessible to more people and fostering an understanding of its importance to Australian citizens. In her quest to learn even more about rainforests,  Meg joined a team in Cameroon who launched a hot air balloon permitting the scientists a view from the top of the canopy. It was here that Meg realized conservation as her next calling. She began traveling the world, pioneering conservation preservation projects in Cameroon, Western Samoa, and Ethiopia. Mesmerizing full color digital illustrations saturate every page with rainforest scenery. Animals, plants, trees, insects and birds emphasize the biodiversity of the rainforest. Leaf-shaped text boxes nearly blend into the scenery, rewarding a close reading with  additional facts about the rainforest.

577.34 Rain Forest Ecology          Jackie Fulton, Mt. Lebanon SD
Biography
Picture Book

Elem. – The Octopus Escapes

Meloy, Maile. The Octopus Escapes. Putnam, 2021. 978-1-984-81269-8. $17.99. 32 p. Grades K-2.

An octopus is captured from his undersea home and placed in an aquarium to be studied. The octopus soon realizes that he cannot stay in his small glass enclosure and plots his escape.  

THOUGHTS: After watching My Octopus Teacher, I have to admit I’m a bit obsessed with octopus! This sweet little story sends a subtle message about conservation and studying animals in their natural habitats.

Picture Book         Krista Fitzpatrick, Wissahickon Charter School

Elem. – Except Antarctica!

Sturgell, Todd. Except Antarctica! Sourcebooks. 978-1-728-23326-0. 40 p. $17.99. Grades K-3. 

When an unseen animal fact writer shares that turtles are found on every continent except Antarctica, one bold turtle sets off to prove him wrong. Along the way, he befriends an owl and a dung beetle who also live everywhere except Antarctica. They too join the turtle on his quest to reach the frozen continent. Soon, a snake, a mouse, a bee, and a frog join in, determined to prove the fact writer wrong and show that they are indeed found in Antarctica. The band of unlikely friends ultimately reach their destination, only to discover that the bitter temperatures, howling wind, and frozen conditions are not their ideal habitats. While in Antarctica, the fact writer mentions how penguins are only found here, and the final pages show one indigent penguin diving off an iceberg in hot pursuit of the turtle and his friends. Several pages of backmatter round out the title and provide additional facts about each featured animal. A section titled “Animals of Antarctica” highlights the continent’s native species, and a section called “The Frozen Continent” details the region’s extreme weather conditions. Also included is Information about how Antarctica is designated as a scientific preserve and a map of each country’s scientific research stations. The book’s final pages discuss climate change and share ideas about how readers can help make the world a better place, including ideas for recycling and planting trees. 

THOUGHTS: Imaginative illustrations, witty dialogue, and a conversational writing style will hook students from page one. They will laugh at the animals’ silly interactions and the fact writer’s frustrations as he tries to keep the book on track. This will be an engaging introduction to units about animals’ habitats and the differences in biomes around the world. 

Picture Book          Anne Bozievich, Southern York County SD

MG – Planet Ocean: Why We All Need a Healthy Ocean

Newman, Patricia. Planet Ocean: Why We All Need a Healthy Ocean. Photographs by Annie Crawley. Millbrook Press, 2021. 64 p. 978-1-541-58121-0. $31.99. Grades 5-8.

Writer Newman and diver Crawley team up for a second book, after the success of their first collaboration Plastic Ahoy! Investigating the Great Pacific Garbage Patch (2014). Their excitement over the beauty of the ocean is evident and contagious as they visit three distinct areas of ocean: the Coral Triangle near Indonesia, the Salish Sea in the Pacific Northwest, and the Arctic Ocean at the top of the world. Since Earth is about 70% ocean and 30% land, they contend that a better name for it would be Planet Ocean. The facts they share about the importance and wonder of the ocean and its creatures make it seem amazing that much of the ocean is yet unexplored because of its size and depth. In each location they highlight young people who are working to improve the health of the oceans. Examples include a group of children who regularly meet to clean their Indonesian beach of plastic and garbage that washes ashore daily, and Inupiat teen Eben Hopson, who started his own film company and has traveled the world to show his films and educate about the changing climate in his own town. Crawley states, “I know how important the ocean is to our daily lives, how fragile it is, and how much we’re changing it. I want kids and teens to speak up for our oceans” (7).

THOUGHTS: This is an engaging look at why our oceans matter, and it encourages young people to take action. Free teaching resources are available via Titlewave.

551.56 Oceans          Melissa Scott, Shenango Area SD

Elem. – The Great Bear Rescue: Saving the Gobi Bears

Markle, Sandra. The Great Bear Rescue: Saving the Gobi Bears. Millbrook Press, 2020. 978-1-541-58125-8. 40 p. $25.59. Grades 3-6. 

Gobi bears are the only species of bear to live entirely in a desert–the Gobi Desert, which means harsh, dry landscape in summer and bitter cold in winter. They eat mainly plants that they dig up with their claws, but the lack of availability of food and water has caused their numbers to dwindle to an estimated 31 (only 8 are female). What can conservationists do? Mongolians consider the Gobi bear to be a national treasure, and the Mongolian government has set aside large tracts of the desert as protected space for the bear, being sure to include areas with natural springs. They also established the Gobi Bear Project, which has led to tracking and accurate numbering of the remaining bears. Still, climate and humans threaten the bears.  Increasingly common droughts, as well as illegal gold mining of the desert (including protected areas) hurts the species’ chances of survival. But researchers are encouraged that the government is protecting the species, the Mongolian people are supportive, the tracked bears appear healthy, and the number of bears has increased slightly (from 22 to 31). Markle presents information about the bear and conservation efforts in a readable manner, made more accessible by numerous photos of the bears, the desert, and the people who would help or harm the future of the bears.

THOUGHTS: This book is a top example of nonfiction for young people, complete with timeline, glossary, source notes, further research, index, and note from the author. Markle has published 12 titles in the series “Sandra Markle’s Science Discoveries,” most recently The Great Penguin Rescue (2018), The Great Rhino Rescue (2019), and Follow Those Zebras (2020). Each title is expertly researched and presented for upper elementary and middle school students.

333.95 Endangered Species          Melissa Scott, Shenango Area SD
Bear

Elem. – Winged Wonders: Solving the Monarch Migration Mystery

Pincus, Meeg. Winged Wonders: Solving the Monarch Migration Mystery. Sleeping Bear Press, 2020. 978-1-534-11040-3. $17.99. Grades 2-4.

Did you ever wonder who discovered the migration pattern of monarch butterflies?  Pincus explains it all in this beautifully illustrated picture book. She begins with a discussion of how these insects have inhabited North America for centuries, but no one knew where the butterflies went in winter. The answer was revealed in 1976 through the cooperation of scientists, science teachers, gardeners, and many other people. It began with a Canadian scientist who began tagging the butterflies’ wings in order to track them. He and his wife placed ads in newspapers throughout the continent, asking people to help with both tagging and searching for them. Finally in Mexico, an American adventurer and his wife located the insects’ winter destination with the help of the local people. The author asks readers of today to help save the monarch’s food source and habitat before it is too late. Imamura’s mostly full bleed drawings are colorful and full of details. The back matter includes a page called “How to Help the Monarch” and more information about the migration discovery.

THOUGHTS:  This is a wonderful nonfiction text that will delight the reader. It is a perfect choice for butterfly or ecology units and is a great read aloud at any time. A first purchase for elementary collections.

595.789 Butterflies          Denise Medwick, Retired, PSLA Member

Elem. – Saving the Countryside: The Story of Beatrix Potter and Peter Rabbit

Marshall, Linda Elovitz. Saving the Countryside: The Story of Beatrix Potter and Peter Rabbit. Unpaged. 978-1-499-80960-2. Little Bee Books, 2020. $17.99. Grades K-3.

This picture book biography of the beloved children’s author begins with her life as a girl growing up in London.  As a child in the city, Beatrix kept busy sketching animals, including her pet rabbit Benjamin Bouncer, but she and her brother yearned for the summer when they would go to her family’s country home and enjoy nature. Beatrix always wanted to do something important with her life and hoped to pursue a career, but this was difficult for women to do at that time. Not to be denied her dream, she self-published The Tale of Peter Rabbit and its popularity led to a contract with a publisher.  Peter Rabbit became a well-known character and her collection of stories grew.  Missing the country, she bought a farm and married.  Fearing that trains and housing plans would destroy the countryside, she began buying more farms and land to preserve it. The author donated over 4000 acres to the National Trust, ensuring that the area looks the same today as it did in her time.  Children will enjoy the charming illustrations done in soft watercolors by Urbinati.  In the back matter, the author explains how a visit to the Lake District was her inspiration for this book. One quibble is that the text would benefit from a photograph of Beatrix Potter and a timeline of her life.

THOUGHTS: This is an interesting biographical portrait, because Marshall writes about Potter’s conservation efforts, an aspect of her life that is often not discussed. This picture book works well as a read aloud and could be used in ecology units or for Women’s History month.  An excellent choice for all elementary collections.

Picture Book Biography          Denise Medwick, Retired, PSLA Member
921 POTTER or 823.912

Elem. – One Little Bag: An Amazing Journey

Cole, Henry. One Little Bag: An Amazing Journey. Scholastic Press, 2020. 978-1-338-35997-8. 48 p. $18.99. Grades K-3. 

This wordless book takes readers on one paper bag’s journey from the forest, through a lifetime of different uses, and ultimately back to the forest. Opening spreads depict woods full of trees, and readers watch as one tree is chopped down, loaded onto a truck, and delivered to a sawmill. The tree is turned into a paper bag, and it’s journey continues when a small boy and his father use the bag to carry a flashlight home from the store. The bag is used over and over again through the years to carry lunches, sheet music, tools, snacks, an engagement ring, flower petals, toy blocks, and seashells. The bag passes through generations until it is ultimately used to plant a tiny evergreen tree. Even though this story doesn’t include any words, there is plenty to discuss and infer. Illustrations were created with an ink pen, and the only spot color is the brown paper bag and the red hearts that accumulate on the bag throughout the story. Thoughtful readers will pore over the illustrations, noting details such as woodland creatures, newspaper headlines, and family portraits. An Author’s Note at the end of the book shares this story’s inspiration and offers perspective about the importance of reusing and recycling.

Thoughts: This is sure to become an Earth Day classic, prompting discussions about what other seemingly disposable items people may creatively use more than once.

Picture Book          Anne Bozievich, Southern York County SD

Elem – My Wild Life: Adventures of a Wildlife Photographer

Eszterhas, Suzi. My Wild Life: Adventures of a Wildlife Photographer. Owlkids Books, 2020. 978-1-771-47407-8. 31 p. $17.95. Grades 2-5.

Suzi Eszterhas always knew that she wanted to be a wildlife photographer. All of the hours she spent taking pictures of her cats in the backyard, observing squirrels and birds, and taking notes in her field book were great preparation for fulfilling that dream. Now, in a follow-up to her acclaimed 2017 release Moto and Me: My Year as a Wildcat’s Foster Mom, Eszterhas shares stories from over twenty years as a professional wildlife photographer. Two-page chapters on topics including “Prepping for Shoots,” “Living in the Field,” “Mothers and Babies,” and “Giving Back to Animals” feature plentiful full-color photographs. Meaningful captions add context and special behind-the-scenes information. In the final chapter, “Ask Suzi,” the author answers questions about the best part of her job, how to become a wildlife photographer, and her most memorable wildlife experiences. She also shouts out her organization, Girls Who Click, which helps girls fulfill their dreams of becoming wildlife photographers themselves. Moto and Me chronicled the year that Eszterhas spent fostering an orphaned serval and his growth from helpless kitten to independent cat. My Wild Life casts a wider net, featuring images of many different species and parts of the world.

THOUGHTS: With an eye toward conservation, Eszterhas presents a candid memoir of her wild life and career, acknowledging the challenges as well as the rewards. Young readers will love her story, and they will love her photographs even more!

770, Wildlife Photography          Amy V. Pickett, Ridley SD