Thursday, April 22, 2010

Earth Day: We Planted a Tree

by Diane Muldrow
ill. Bob Staake

This book follows, in verse, the growing up of a tree, and the impact on the world around it. As it helps clean the air, provide food, prevent erosion, and improve the soil, it helps people plant other things to feed themselves. It feeds and shelters animals, too, and makes the world better all around.

The illustrations move around the world showing these positive influences in many different settings, too, from cities to rural areas, from Brooklyn to Japan to Africa. This celebration of trees and their importance makes for a great read aloud, in language that doubles back and repeats in places, with a lovely rhythm.

I must admit that the obviously computer-drawn illustrations are not my favourite style - but I also think that is in most cases a matter of taste, and they are jaunty and upbeat enough not to detract from the text, but rather just not add to it in the way I would have enjoyed. It's a terrific read aloud for a group or a child in kindergarten or lower grades, so I wouldn't let my own taste put me off from sharing it.

Earth Day: Recycle Every Day!

by Nancy Elizabeth Wallace

Nancy Wallace brings her adorable collage-art bunnies to another informative picture book, this time, about recycling. As she has in books about apples, shells, rocks, and more, Wallace skillfully works a lot of information into a story format in which the bunnies are learning, and we learn with them.

Here, Minna has a school project to do, and she has to make a poster about recycling. Before she can start, though, she needs some ideas. Through the week, she watches her family and notes the many ways they recycle, including donating used books and clothing, composting, recycling cans, and noticing packaging made from recycled paper. She also notices some actions that might technically fall into reducing waste or reusing, which are not carefully delineated, but the point is still made, and certainly adequate. In the end, her poster is chosen for the cover of a school calendar about recycling.

At the rear of the book are included a recycling game and activity to use in extending the book's teachings.

Earth Day: Round Like a Ball

by Lisa Campbell Ernst

This book is perhaps that perfect book for introducing preschoolers to the wonders of the world. It is set up as a guessing game, with each page offering a hint. Each page also features a guess, and a small, round, die-cut hole. The guesses are not right, so more clues and more guesses follow, and the holes get bigger, until the very end, when the earth is finally revealed as the answer.

The illustrations are boldly colourful, the guesses cute, and just the sort of things that small children could relate to. At the end, the hints are reiterated, along with the message that the earth is "fragile, and needs to be handled with care."

Not messagey or serious, not too much information for a smaller child, the guessing game format also allows children to add in their own guesses, making this the perfect book to use with a young child or a group of them.

Earth Day: Bag in the Wind

by Ted Kooser
ill. Barry Root

This book is a picture book in format, but far wordier and older than your average picture book consumer - what we call in libraries an "advanced picture book." It follows a plastic grocery bag as it escapes the landfill on a breeze and makes its way from one place to another, until it ends up in the hands o fa girl who had found it at the start. This circle is not noticed, because, the book notes, this plastic grocery bag was just like any other.

This isn't a story that would lend itself to younger children, as there is little real action to hold them, but it is an interesting journey for an older child with greater concentration, and it is beautifully told. The language is lovely, the illustrations warm and nostalgic in feel, and the matte pages thick and substantial. The overall effect is in fact quite wonderful (as one might well expect from a Candlewick publication), and the environmental messages in the actual story are not strongly emphasized so as to detract from the bag's ramblings.

A message about plastic bags at the end gives those who would like to know more a bit of extra information, and encourages children to reuse plastic bags or forgo them altogether in favour of cloth.