Quote of the Month

When love and skill work together, expect a miracle. John Ruskin

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Let It Shine

At least half of our days in northern Michigan are without sun.  We have quite a bit of cloud cover even if there is no form of precipitation.  You can't help but crave the feel of those warm rays after a chain of dull gray skies.  No wonder plants bend toward those welcome shafts of light.

On September 30, 2014 the fourth title in an outstanding series, My Light (Blue Sky Press, 2004), Living Sunlight: How Plants Bring the Earth to Life (Blue Sky Press, 2009), Ocean Sunlight: How Tiny Plants Feed the Seas (Blue Sky Press, 2012) was released.  Buried Sunlight: How Fossil Fuels Have Changed The Earth (The Blue Sky Press) written by Molly Bang and Penny Chisholm with illustrations by Molly Bang is a remarkable, informative piece of nonfiction.  Readers of any age will benefit from this title, enjoying every single minute spent within its pages.

Even from 93 million miles away,
I warm your land, your seas, your air,
and chase the darkness from your days.

So begins our journey of understanding narrated by the sun itself.  Not only do we, and every other living thing, need energy to exist but we consume it to maintain basics and to bolster our expanding technology.  This energy comes from coal, oil and gas, fossil fuels.

Very simply explained fossil fuels are plants, old, very old, plants buried beneath the surface of the Earth chock-full of sunlight.  When we burn these, the stored energy is unleashed.  In case you are wondering how all this sunlight is kept by those plants, look no farther than one of your first lessons in plant life, photosynthesis.  It's the give-and-take dance performed by carbon dioxide and oxygen creating chains of carbon---sugar.

Did you know this creation of carbon chains and oxygen is almost, yes almost, in balance?  Over millions and millions of years the little bit more of each is Earth's blessing.  But...over the course of life developing on Earth, those millions and millions of years, the imbalance begins to shift when humans start to use the fossil fuels.  All this consumption is releasing more carbon dioxide into the air than can be recycled through our flora and water.

This carbon dioxide, as explained by Bang and Chisholm, is one of many gases creating a cover around the planet.  When sunlight passes through this covering it works its magic, zipping back into space. The problem which is growing at an alarming rate is carbon dioxide is not allowing the heat to go back trapping it underneath the covering.  More carbon dioxide caused by more burned fossil fuels is causing the over-heating of Earth.  Further commentary about the cycle of temperature changes in the life of our planet ends with an undeniable fact and questions asked by the sun.  We need to think.  We need to make choices.

This discussion of fossil fuels written by Molly Bang and Penny Chisholm (who has been a professor at MIT teaching Ecology for thirty-eight years) is exemplary in every respect.  After several sentences of conversational factual observations, they follow with a question.  At the turn of the page, an answer is given.  The answer is clearly explained concluding with another question.  Each time a question appears and each time an answer is given we learn more about the balance of life, the exchange of oxygen and carbon dioxide on Earth.  They take us back to the very beginning before life existed on land up to the present.  Told from the point of view of the sun provides for a broader and more in-depth overview.  Here is another passage.

What makes them "FOSSILS"?
Like dinosaurs, they 
are ancient life that was
buried deep underground.
But fossil fuels are ancient
PLANTS.  They captured
light I shined on Earth
millions of years ago.
All this time, those fossil
plants have kept my
sunlight-energy locked
inside themselves.

The artwork Molly Bang provides for this title is absolutely astonishing beginning with the matching dust jacket and book case.  The front features Earth wrapped in gasses moving in and out from the surface with life forms spread across the continents.  The back showcases an illustration highlighting the formation of fossil fuels with praise for the other three titles in the series.  Opening and closing endpapers are star-filled space.  The two pages dedicated to the title page are a breathtaking view of a sea coast city alight at night.  Beneath the surface spots of energy, fossil fuels, sparkle like tiny suns.

Seventeen pages of pictures spanning both pages, several with smaller images framed as squares and rectangles inset, visualize in intricate details the magnificence of the sun, the array of development on our planet, how fossil fuels are extracted, photosynthesis, the cycle of life, the formation of life on land from the sea, the effects of warming, the gaseous "blanket" and alternate forms of energy. Shades of blue, green, and yellow are prominent but Bang adds other earth tone colors to fill in her palette.  Everything is done with a wide perspective, in miniature, as if we are the sun looking down on Earth.

One of my favorite spreads is for the cycle of life.  Spread across both pages we see huge pale white arrows filled with carbon dioxide and oxygen moving over plants and animals on the land and the sea.  It's a stunning image of the balance needed to sustain life.

Buried Sunlight: How Fossil Fuels Have Changed The Earth written by Molly Bang and Penny Chisholm with illustrations by Molly Bang is a must read.  The only way we can become sincere stewards of our Earth is through greater understanding.  This title fills our need to know building a bridge from the science community to younger readers.  But rest assured everyone can benefit from reading this book. Extensive author notes over six pages give additional information.

To learn more about both Molly Bang and Penny Chisholm please visit their websites linked to their names.  There is a special site dedicated to all the titles in this series linked in the introduction.  School Library Journal supplies this post, Earth Day Q&A: SLJ Talks to MIT Professor Penny Chisholm About Her Upcoming Picture Book with Children's Author Molly Bang, for further insights about the book.  TeachingBooks.net has a few links for more details about Molly Bang and Penny Chisholm.

This book, this recommendation, is one of the reasons I am thrilled each week to participate in educator, Alyson Beecher's 2014 Nonfiction Picture Book Challenge.  I continue to be amazed at the quality of work and information given to readers in each title.  Please visit the other blog posts linked to Kid Lit Frenzy this week.

1 comment:

  1. I look forward to finding this title Margie! I think I would learn a lot! These two make stunning nonfiction titles together.