Elem. – She Heard the Birds: The Story of Florence Merriam Bailey Pioneering Nature Activist

D’Aquino, Andrea. She Heard the Birds: The Story of Florence Merriam Bailey Pioneering Nature Activist. Princeton, Architectural Press, 2021. Unpaged. 978-1-648-96050-5. $18.95. Grades 1-3.

This picture book biography is the story of a woman who made a difference. Florence Merriam Bailey grew up in the late 19th century with her family who loved nature. Her mother was an astronomer and her father took the family on a summer long camping trip where she loved to observe the forest animals. Florence’s favorite creatures were birds and she studied their behavior and songs. She strongly disliked the latest fashion in hats, which were adorned with feathers and even the actual carcasses of birds. Bailey and her classmates at Smith College initiated a successful boycott of these hats. Florence became an avid ornithologist and promoted watching birds in a natural setting with binoculars in contrast to scientists who studied them in laboratories. She was the author of a field guide and other books on birds and their methods of communication. The author’s full bleed illustrations are done using hand-painted collage, oil pastel and pencil. Readers will enjoy examining the many colorful birds that are depicted.

THOUGHTS: This book is a great choice for elementary collections. It could be used during Women’s History Month, Earth Day or in science units. Children will learn about the wonder and beauty of our feathered friends and may be inspired to do some birdwatching on their own.

921 Biography          Denise Medwick, Retired, PSLA Member
598.2 Birds     

Elem. – My Friend Earth

MacLachlan, Patricia. My Friend Earth. Chronicle Books, 2020. Unpaged. 978-0-811-87910-1. $17.99. Grades K-3.

This engaging picture book is a tribute to Earth, which is portrayed as a young girl of color. Using lyrical text, MacLachlan takes the reader on a journey through the seasons as well as a trip around the world. The story begins with Friend Earth waking up from a winter slumber and hearing the sounds of insects, birds, and a farmer busy at work. Next she is in Africa helping a zebra find its mother and a chimpanzee find a place to sleep. Friend Earth is also caretaker of all sea creatures and polar bears and reindeer on the tundra. Fall gives way to winter where once again Earth rests. The illustrations by Sanna, which are done in pencil, ink, and digital painting, are really the star of the show. Children will enjoy searching for the die-cuts that can be found on every double page spread. On the first page, Earth is sleeping and after turning the small flap, she is now awake on the opposite page. The edges of some pages are trimmed in a scalloped design, which mimic a stream of fall leaves in the wind and the rolling slopes of the distant mountains. With heavy use, there is some concern that some of the die-cuts might tear. The author’s hope is that children will appreciate the wonders of our planet and work to “be a good friend in return.”

THOUGHTS: This is a beautiful book that is a perfect read aloud for Earth Day. A strong purchase for all elementary collections.

Picture Book          Denise Medwick, Retired, PSLA Member

Tags:  Earth, Nature, Seasons, Picture Books, Earth Day, Toy and Movable Books

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