Hopkinson, Deborah. Only One. Anne Schwartz Books, 2022. 978-0-399-55703-3. Unpaged. $17.99. Grades K-3.
A young narrator takes readers on a walk through the woods as she explains how, with a big bang, one tiny speck turned into a universe full of stars, planets, galaxies, and more. Situated in this universe is our Earth, which is surrounded by a layer called the atmosphere and contains continents, oceans, and millions of species. Ultimately, the narrator finishes the same way she began–with one. She declares that even though there are more than seven billion human beings, all of us unique, we all are still part of one human family responsible for preserving our one and only planet, Earth.
THOUGHTS: Through an informational monologue and soft, beautiful illustrations, the narrator manages to educate while simultaneously relaying an important message about protecting our planet. Also, at the end of the story, the author provides a list of resources for additional information about climate change and how we can help the Earth. This is an excellent resource for earth science, space science, and environmental science collections.
Miller, Kelly Leigh. Stella, Star Explorer. Simon & Schuster, 2022. Unpaged. $18.99. 978-1-534-49767-2. Grades PK-2.
Stella is fascinated with space and sick of Earth. She builds a rocket and takes her dog Luna on a voyage of discovery. They meet two aliens who need help finding the planet just right for them. Stella the expert steps right in, acting as a real estate agent of space. She shows the two aliens each planet (skipping Earth), noting a special feature of each (Neptune is more than five times colder than the North Pole; Jupiter has seventy-nine moons; Venus is the hottest planet in the solar system; although Mercury is closest to the sun). When the only planet left is Earth, Stella grudgingly introduces them. The aliens ask Stella to show them everything about Earth, and in doing so, she realizes that if every planet is special, why wouldn’t Earth be? Seeing her planet through the aliens’ eyes gives Stella a new appreciation for Earth, so that it becomes her favorite planet.
THOUGHTS: This is a clever way to learn about the planets and, like Stella, learn to appreciate Earth. This could be a great opener for learning about the planets and for caring for the Earth.
Koch, Falynn. The National Parks: Preserving America’s Wild Places. First Second, 2022. 978-1-250-26587-6. 120 p. $19.99. Grades 7-10.
A friendly Sasquatch is our guide through The National Parks, a recent entry in First Second’s History Comics series of graphic nonfiction for middle grade and teen readers. Today, our parks and national monuments successfully blend tourism with conservation of unique ecosystems (as well as history), but getting here was a circuitous path. When Congress established the National Park Service in 1916, it was in charge of thirteen national parks. Today the National Park System encompasses over 60 national parks and hundreds of additional federal park sites. In this conversational history of “America’s best idea” to preserve our wild places, author and illustrator Falynn Koch colorfully portrays the visionaries, politicians, Native Americans, wildlife, and occasional scoundrels who contributed to the evolution of our park system. She also addresses the forced removal of indigenous people from land that would eventually be parks: “If we don’t reexamine the past and face these grim truths, we can’t learn from them and make a better future” (92).
THOUGHTS: Rich with historical anecdotes and images of our varied parks, this one will have readers thinking, “The mountains are calling & I must go” (~ John Muir).
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.
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.
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
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
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.
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
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