Quote of the Month

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

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Up And Down...It Circles Around

Water levels in the Great Lakes have been on the rise in the last several years after severe lows ended.  A combination of circumstances leads to a prediction of fifteen trillion gallons of water being added to the Great Lakes by the summer of 2017.  Although water levels earlier this summer were close to breaking records (and did) and the levels remain high they are not expected to surpass records set more than thirty years ago for highest recorded monthly mean in the month of August.

What has prompted this research in Great Lakes water levels?  As a lifelong resident of Michigan I have seen the rise and fall of the water levels from one extreme to the other and quite frankly we have had so little rain the past six weeks the leaves on trees are turning yellow and dropping but a new title in the Let's-Read-And-Find-Out Science 2 series heightened my curiosity.  Droughts (Harper, an imprint of HarperCollinsPublishers, August 1, 2017) written by Melissa Stewart with illustrations by Andre Ceolin showcases and defines droughts.  They can and do happen anywhere on our planet.

When will it rain?  That was the question on everyone's mind.  It had been weeks and weeks since the last real storm.

When this occurs with so little rain (or lack of snowfall the previous winter) and the ground hardens it is a drought.  Droughts can last for weeks or even years.  The lack of water is hard on all life as the levels in lakes, rivers and streams drops.  While it makes sense for droughts to take place in dry climates, they can happen in wet climates like rain forests too.  When precipitation is less an area is in danger of drought.

Our water is constantly cycling from liquid to vapor and back to liquid again.  The oceans hold most of our planet's water.  If you want to know how precious the fresh water available is, try the jug and cup activity noted in the narrative.  It's shocking how little we really have.

A drought is not an overnight experience.  It is a slow but steady process.  The results are deadly.  With so little moisture the chance of wildfires and dust storms increases.  The food chain which includes humans suffers.

 The key to survival during a drought is to plan ahead.  In sites more prone to drought, people plant accordingly.  Scientists monitor from space, check our oceans, and rainfall levels.  Governments have plans in place in case of this kind of event, asking and requiring conservation of water.  The more we work together, the longer we will live together during the fluctuations in our water supply.

Although presented for younger readers when Melissa Stewart writes everyone learns.  She begins by teaching us about what defines a drought and where they can transpire.  And it's not just about rainfall but snowfall too!  Moving into the water cycle she then reinforces the importance of protecting the freshwater available.  This further stresses the value in knowing about, preparing for and surviving a drought.  With care Melissa explains about the consequences of a drought...for all animals and plants.

In addition to the main narrative Did You Know? sections provide more fascinating information.  Also two activities expand our thinking about the world's water supply and how we collect data.  This entire volume contains exactly what we need to understand expressed in conversational text.   Here is a sample passage.

Wind picks up the dry, loose soil and blows it 
through the air.  Sometimes a giant dust storm
forms, causing the sky to go dark.  Dirt and
pebbles pelt people's bodies.  The dust can bury
roads and clog car engines.

The image on the front of the dust jacket and book case instantly brings to mind the hot, dry days of summer but it also serves to remind people a drought can take place anywhere, even an area normally considered a wetland.  By including the human, her canine companion, the rabbit and squirrel it exemplifies that droughts affect everyone.  To the left, on the back, other titles in the series for levels one and two are showcased.

The opening and closing endpapers of crisp white, change to pages with a single, small illustration of rocks in water on a white background and then to two pages of parched, cracked land with dry leaves blowing across it.  Two pages are dedicated to a picture of three people looking over a dry desert landscape under a glaring sun for the title.  Artist Andre Ceolin used Adobe Photoshop to create these digital illustrations.  His use of light and shadow is excellent.

A flow is supplied between the double-page spreads, pages crossing the gutter to generate columns and single pages by including the same individuals and the dog in multiple pictures.  The children and adults shown come from many ethnic backgrounds.  The scientists shown are both men and women.

One of my favorite of many illustrations shows three children and their dog enjoying a day at the lake.  A dock extends into the water with a girl sitting on it.  A boy is doing a cannonball from the dock.  Another boy is already swimming in the lake.  The dog is happily floating in an inner tube.  This picture shows an area with the necessary amount of water as opposed to the opposite picture showing the same scene during a drought.

For those school and classroom libraries with titles in this series already you will want to add Droughts written by Melissa Stewart with illustrations by Andre Ceolin.  For those bookshelves, professional and personal, without any titles in this series, I can think of no better book to start your collection than this one.  It is important and timely.  At the close of the narrative Melissa Stewart has several additional activities to try, a glossary, a special website and five hints on how to save water.

To discover more about Melissa Stewart and Andre Ceolin and their other work, please visit their websites by following the links attached to their names.  Melissa Stewart has a blog in which she talks about this book here and here.  To view interior pages in this title please visit the publisher's website.  Here is a video about a dust storm which moved into Phoenix, Arizona.

To see the other titles selected by bloggers participating in the 2017 Nonfiction Picture Book Challenge hosted by educator Alyson Beecher, visit Kid Lit Frenzy.


  1. I'm looking forward to reading this one. I ordered it and sent it to school so I haven't gotten my hands on it yet. Soon!

  2. I need to read more nfpb series. Thanks for sharing.

  3. "everyone learns": why I love reading nonfiction picture books for my own sake!

  4. I appreciate Melissa Stewart and the great nonfiction she creates. I'll look for this series for sure.

  5. I love Stewart's work! Thank you for sharing this new-to-me text.