On January 6, 2023, in an attempt to provide readers with 2022 publications related to our beautiful planet and its protection prior to the ALA Youth Media Awards, I compiled a post of seventeen books, including early readers through middle grade titles. During the course of 2022 I talked about other climate crisis and earth-friendly books, but these were books I categorize as too-good-too-miss tomes.
I am setting up this post in the same manner as the previous post. Author, illustrator, and publisher links, when available, are provided. Social media accounts will be included. Passages from the books are shown. Short summaries, observations, are supplied. If there are other valuable resources about these books, links will be attached. These six titles are listed in order of release date.
There are warning labels on plastic bags for a reason, usually involving children. To me, it seems as though our planet is in the same situation. We are suffocating under an overabundance of plastic. Titles like One Earth by Eileen Spinelli with art by Rogerio Coelho, Ocean! Waves for All by Stacy McAnulty with art by David Litchfield and Washed Ashore: Making Art From Ocean Plastic written and illustrated by Kelly Crull draw our attention to this dilemma and offer solutions.
The Last Plastic Straw: A Plastic Problem And Finding Ways To Fix It
(Books For Better Earth, Holiday House
, February 21, 2023) written by Dee Romito
with illustrations by Ziyue Chen
not only gives us answers but provides us with information about the evolution of this serious issue. At the end of the book is an author's note, a list of sources, and more information to be found online, in books and by watching documentaries. There is an index, too. At Penguin Random House
, you can view the endpapers. At Maria Marshall
's website, you can read about Dee Romito and her work on this book.
Over five thousand years ago, the ancient Sumerians had a problem.
They needed a way to avoid the icky substances in their beverages. The barley-based drink they brewed was thick, and the undrinkable solids sunk to the bottom.
We feel like time travelers as a fascinating history of the straw is presented. It began with reeds, hollow grasses. Over time, different substances were used to fashion a hollow tube. In South America, they even devised a filter on the end of their "bombilla" when drinking tea.
Believe it or not, by the 1800s, rye was being used. Who wants pieces of rye in their drinks? Marvin Stone is credited with inventing the first paper straw. Another gentleman, Joseph Friedman, invented the bendable straw. As you might imagine, paper was not very durable. Now plastic enters.
To address this problem, a boy named Milo Cress, when he was nine years old, began a campaign titled "Be Straw Free". Twelve years later, it is still active. Other options are offered for readers with straws fashioned from more earth-friendly materials. The last three sentences deliver a challenge to each reader. The choice is ours.
The text for this title penned by Dee Romito reads like a one-on-one conversation. She informs us with facts and offers doable actions. Rather than feeling overwhelmed, readers will feel as though they can make a difference for the greater good.
The full-color lively artwork by Ziyue Chen was rendered with Procreate on iPad. The two-page, full-page and partial-page pictures enhance the narrative leading us through history. Actual items are featured with tape on the corners like in a scrapbook. Her dramatic two-page image of the damage plastic does to our oceans and ocean life grasps your attention, as does the final two-page visual of hands from around the world from all walks of life stacked together to make a change for the benefit of our world.
This beautifully illustrated collection of poems is certain to inspire readers of all ages. At the close of the book is extensive back matter beginning with two pages dedicated to what an individual can do and what a group can do. There is a glossary, an explanation of greenhouse gases, and definitions of eleven different poetry forms. The fifteen poets are listed with short biographies. They are David Bowles, Jeanette Bradley, Vanessa Brantley-Newton, JaNay Brown-Wood, Keila V. Dawson, Dalia Elhassan, Rajani LaRocca, Renee M. LaTulippe, Lindsay H. Metcalf, Aka Niviana, Sally J. Pla, Teresa Robesson, Traci Sorell, Heidi E. Y. Stemple and Carlon Zackhras. Stephen Porder is listed as the Science Consultant. At the publisher's website, you can download an activity kit. Here is a link to the youth-in-action pages at the United Nations
. At Penguin Random House
, you can view the opening and closing endpapers as well as interior images.
ON CLIMATE CHANGE
A found poem from the "Paris Agreement" by Lindsay H. Metcalf
the need for
a just transition,
the rights of
Mother Earth. . . .
This first of sixteen poems launches the span of activities taken by ten individuals, a two-student team, and five groups, including the call-to-action poem, a golden shovel poem
, at the conclusion. Through the efforts of these young people, in particular places on our planet, real change for the good has happened. Zanagee Artis gathered like-minded students to organize the first youth-led climate march
in our nation's capital. They formed Zero Hour
By learning of Xiuhtezcatl Martinez, readers will realize they can use their talents, like music, to raise awareness. A group of youth from the Marshall Islands have presented at the United Nations about the rising sea levels. You are never too young to advocate for change. Artemisa Barbosa Ribeiro was only seven years old when she started planting trees in Brazil. The same can be said about fifteen-year-old Leah Namugerwa who planted two hundred trees. Have you heard of her Birthday Trees project?
Youth from the Philippines, Canada, Sudan, the states of Georgia, Ohio, and Colorado in the United States, Ukraine, and Indonesia have held their government accountable, become the chief water commissioner of the Anishinabek Nation, written newspaper articles about climate change, formed their own company of upcycled clothing, inspired a government to place compost bins at schools, designed and made bio buses, earned the title of America's Top Youth Scientist for an invention, and won a grant to install solar panels on their school buildings. After reading about these accomplishments, you'll be ready to be the next individual to make a difference for our planet's preservation.
Editors and poets, Lindsay H. Metcalf, Keila V. Dawson, and Jeanette Bradley, have gathered some of the foremost names in children's literature to write the poems about these outstanding young people. After each poem, shown on the left, a paragraph on the right gives further details about the youth, youth team, or group. At the bottom of the right page, one or more sentences supply ideas to individual readers. For example, after the description about Leah Namugerwa we read:
Celebrate your birthday by planting
a tree. Gather your friends and have
a tree-planting party!
The illustrations by Jeanette Bradley for this title were painted digitally in Procreate for iPad on a digital paper design by Paper Farms. On the black opening and closing endpapers, a loose map of the world is drawn in white. Here we can see all the contributions made by the young people labeled with their names and their country. A double-page picture accompanies each poem, varying in perspective, but usually bringing us close to the individuals as they worked.
This morning when Mulan and I were walking, I was reminded once more of how surprising and majestic our world truly is. As we were passing an association clubhouse, a sight stopped me in my tracks. More than a dozen birds were perched along the roof and its edges and perched on chimney tops. They looked like weathervanes or metal sculptures. Many of them had their wings fanned out to their sides as if drying them which is strange as we are under a red flag warning. They also looked like they were welcoming the sun's rising as they faced east.
It called to mind a book paying homage to our planet. My Friend Earth
written by Patricia MacLachlan with illustrations by Francesca Sanna is a letter of love to this place we all call home. It can be paired with this gorgeous portrait and newly released title, Thís Is The Planet Where I Live
(Beach Lane Books
, an imprint of Simon & Schuster Children's Publishing Division
, March 21, 2023) written by K. L. Going with artwork by Debra Frasier. K. L. Going
and Debra Frasier
have collaborated to create a poetic, picturesque tribute to Earth. At the publisher's website, you can view some of these marvelous interior spreads. There is also a link to a performance activity there. Here is another link to an activity titled Bird Sky Poem
. At Debra Frasier's website, you can view a video where she explains her illustrative process for this book. Please take a few moments to watch this.
where I live.
Here are the people
who share the planet
where I live.
With each page turn, our view of this planet is enlarged. We see a variety of homes supplying shelter for the people and the fields near those abodes. Animals domesticated and wild are shown.
Insects are presented as are the birds who consume them. Trees are exalted for their purpose in giving homes to the birds. We go to new heights in looking toward the clouds.
The water cycle is uplifted as we dive into the oceans and the occupants that reside there. In a final stanza, the interconnectedness of life is offered to readers. We circle back to the beginning.
Author K. L. Going has written a cumulative narrative, inviting reader participation. A delightful cadence is fashioned as a phrase is added each time and ends with the planet where I live except for the last three words. There I becomes we. Reading this aloud is a joy.
As soon as you look and then study the depiction of Earth on the deep royal blue canvas on the dust jacket and book case, you know the images within this title by Debra Frasier are breathtakingly rendered. They were made in photo-collaged elements and Canson papers. The intricate details ask you to pause page after page, starting with the partial sunflower on the opening and closing endpapers portraying the sun and the tiny yellow blossoms radiating between the sun's rays.
When I read Scott Magoon's first book in his The Extincts
series, Quest For The Unicorn Horn
I found myself increasingly attached to the characters, Scratch, a Saber-Toothed Tiger, Lug, a Woolly Mammoth, Martie, a Passenger Pigeon, and Quito, a Collins' Poison Frog, all extinct. During the course of their first adventure a new member was added to the team, Ursa, a Cave Bear. Their team, ROAR, Rescue Ops Acquisition Rangers
, is dedicated to helping preserve our planet, one exciting escapade at a time.
The Extincts: Flight Of The Mammoth
, March 21, 2023), a graphic novel written and illustrated by Scott Magoon
turns up the heat for the friends as they face their newest challenge. At the publisher's website and at Scott Magoon's website, you can view interior images from this title. Scott Magoon has loads of resources and activities at his website about this series. At the close of the book is extensive, engaging, and informative back matter. It includes pages of The Extinctiary,
two pages on how we can help The Extincts
to preserve our planet, About Wildfires
, About Smoke Jumpers
, and discussions about The Elephant's Trunk Nebula
, The Griffith Observatory
, and The La Brea Tar Pits
. There is a page on how to make your own telescope. Further Reading
is grouped for young readers, older readers and websites along with a bibliography. If you are like me, you will enjoy the acknowledgements and information about Scott Magoon.
Where are you?!
There he is!
It's no use.
I'm too weak.
In the present day, The Extincts have decided to open a zoo with themselves as exhibits in order to raise money for their continued efforts. Lug is not happy about this enterprise and explodes in anger at a malicious teen. He believes they should be out helping to quell all the wildfires. That night when the others are sleeping, Lug leaves.
Several days later, readers find Lug working with a team of smokejumpers. Wildfires are springing up faster than they can contain them. Someone is setting these fires, hoping to burn as much as possible. In case you thought, the others in ROAR would let Lug go, think again. They are searching for him and have tracked him to the area where he is working with the smokejumpers.
Lug and the smokejumpers find themselves in one intense situation after another. When the arsonist, a Mastodon, is discovered, they find themselves fighting for their lives. To the credit of the ROAR team, they find Lug and the smokejumpers, but just when you think the tension is easing . . . it surges again. Nonstop action takes readers to a conclusion you won't see coming.
This title, like its predecessor, is full of witty dialogue, punny humor, and bits of information cleverly woven into the narrative. Scott Magoon's highly detailed artwork moves us quickly from one panel to another panel. Even in moments of stillness, there is an aliveness to his characters. This reader is ready for book three.
The past twelve months have shown us how unpredictable our weather can be. Extremes are becoming more of the norm. This week rainfall records were broken in Fort Lauderdale, Florida
with extensive flooding. It would be nice to think that we humans have made greater strides since that first Earth Day
on April 22, 1970, and in some respects, we have, but we cannot deny climate change and overwhelming pollution are facts of our lives now.
Nonfiction picture books are a constant, enlightening source of information for readers of all ages. The Day the River Caught Fire: How the Cuyahoga River Exploded and Ignited the Earth Day Movement
(A Paula Wiseman Book, Simon & Schuster Books For Young Readers,
March 28, 2023) written by Barry Wittenstein
with artwork by Jessie Hartland
is an excellent example, highlighting historical truths and bringing us to the present. It asks readers, based on facts, to continue what was started. As the saying goes---There is no planet B.
At the conclusion of the book is a one-page Author's Note
, a two-page Environmental Timeline
, and two pages of videos to watch, organizations to join or read about, a link to the Earth Day website, and books for further reading
. There is also a bibliography. At the publisher's website, you can view interior illustrations.
On a sticky and sunny Sunday in the summer of 1969, the Cuyahoga River in Cleveland did something rivers should never do.
Why might you ask would a river catch on fire? Sparks from a passing train fell in the river which was highly polluted. It was another fire in a long line of fires since 1886, numbering thirteen.
This river used to be clean. It was used as a source of travel and recreation. Fish caught in the river could be eaten. Native Americans enjoyed what this river offered.
The Industrial Revolution changed everything. There were more people wanting more of everything. All the waste from producing all this "more" went into the river. After a while, the river was declared dead, unable to support life. It was disgusting, but no one did anything about it until that fire. Cleveland's current mayor, Carl Stokes said enough is enough.
News of the fire spread. So did the challenge to make changes for the better. Congress got in on the action passing the Clean Air Act and the Clean Water Act. The celebration of the first Earth Day was massive. By 1990 it had spread around the world and is still growing today.
Each time you read the words penned by Barry Wittenstein in this title, you feel as though a trusted friend has told you a story, making you feel as though you were present when each event was happening. His word choices, adjectives, verbs, and repetition, captivate us throughout the pages. Specific details like this quotation---
If you fall in, go straight to the hospital.
Better to be safe than sorry.
told to factory workers, emphasize each issue.
Rendered in gouache by Jessie Hartland, the visuals in this book are brimming with tiny elements asking us to stop and read the words and then look at the illustrations again. Elements from the interior images are grouped on the opening and closing endpapers. The buildings and vehicles are representative of the historical context in which they are placed. Facial expressions on humans (and some pets) reflect the current environmental state. You will also see little tidbits of humor.
Time and time again, our Earth has shown us in big and little ways the true definition of resilience. Devastating occurrences have completely altered the environment and those that lived in that environment, but the planet seems to always have a plan. It comes back, never the same, but sometimes better.
Several books which ask us to appreciate this resilience and beauty with joy are Dear Little One
by Nina Laden with artwork by Melissa Castrillon and Zonia's Rain Forest
written and illustrated by Juana Martinez-Neal. You will want to add Little Land
(Little, Brown And Company
, April 11, 2023) written and illustrated by Diana Sudyka
to form a trio of wonders. This gem reminds us of what has been, what is, and what can be. At the close of the book there is an author's note, some words, concepts, and questions that inspired this book, some animals and plants in this book in order of appearance, different epochs represented in this book in chronological order and more resources
. At Diana Sudyka's website, there are two stunning double-page pictures from the interior of the book for you to enjoy. At School Library Journal, A Fuse #8 Production,
Betsy Bird chats with Diana Sudyka about this book.
there was a little bit of land.
This little bit of land was not enormous or teeny, tiny, but just the right size for all those who made it their home. It had existed for a very long time going back to the beginning, through the age of the dinosaurs and the Ice Age. It always survived.
Life began anew.
Regardless of the changes, the land remained steadfast in its abilities to care for all that resided there. It provided essentials for all the flora and fauna. But sometimes, those changes were shocking. A fire could alter the landscape tragically. Slowly . . . life thrived again.
When people became more involved, the land shifted in appearance. More people meant the building of more structures. Soon the land was covered, and the people dug into the land to get what they believed they needed. Most people did not notice. Some children did notice.
The beauty of the land was becoming less and less visible. Then land was suffering. Could anything be done for the land? Remember those children? They decided to look at the land and listen to the land. Their looking and listening spread to others. This is how we help the land, our land, the planet
to begin anew.
Is it working? The final sentence in this title is your answer.
This melodic text written by Diana Sudyka draws readers into the narrative, involving them in the history of the little land and its inhabitants, animals and plants. She gently, but with purpose, guides us on this journey so we can understand how the land changed and how it adapted as best as it could. When she shows how the smallest of us can make a positive difference, she is also showing all of us to be more mindful of where we reside.
When you look closely at the artwork on the open dust jacket and the open book case, different from the jacket, dazzled by the colors, lines, shapes, and intricate elements, you feel as though you can hear the heartbeat of little land. Throughout the book, each image, even the most destructive, is teeming with life. Sometimes, it is hidden and muffled by change, but it is always there . . . waiting. These visuals rendered in gouache watercolor on watercolor paper with digital enhancements will take your breath away. All of the images, regardless of how the pages are divided or displayed span two pages.
Book Chat with the Illustrator featuring Diana Sudyka from LB School on Vimeo.