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Earth Day, April 22nd is right around the corner, and we at Lee & Low are some pretty big fans of this blue planet we live on. So, whether you choose to plant a tree or pledge to better uphold the 3 R’s -reduce, reuse, recycle- we are celebrating and promoting awareness the best way we know how- with books!
Here are 5 environmentally friendly collections to bring nature indoors & encourage “thinking green”:
Save the Planet: Environmental Action Earth Day Collection: Be inspired to be an advocate for planet Earth through the true stories of threatened ecosystems, environmental recovery efforts and restorations plans, and heroic actions. Like the individuals and communities explored in these stories, children everywhere will realize the difference they can make in protecting our planet and preserving its natural resources.
Earth Day Poetry Collection: Through rhythm and verse, float down the cool river, reach as high as the tallest tree, and search for all of the vibrant colors of the rainbow in the natural world. This collection of poetry books are inspired by the joy and wonder of being outdoors and brings the sight and sounds of nature and all of its wildlife to life.
Seasonal Poems Earth Day Collection: Travel through winter, spring, summer, & fall through a series of bilingual seasonal poems by renowned poet and educator, Francisco Alarcón. Learn about family, community, and caring for each other and the natural environment we live in.
Adventures Around the World Collection: Explore Africa while traversing Botswana’s lush grasslands and Uganda’s Impenetrable Forest, celebrate the deep-seeded respect for wildlife in India, Mongolia and on an island off the coast of Iceland, and journey to Australia to explore animals found nowhere else on Earth.
Vanishing Cultures Collection: The 7-book series introduces readers to the Yanomama of the Amazon Basin, Aborigines of Australia, Sami of the European Arctic, Inuit of the North American Arctic, Tibetans and Sherpas from the Himalaya, Mongolians of Asia, and Tuareg of the Sahara.
Lesson Plans & Ideas:
What fun is Earth Day if you don’t get your hands a little dirty? Bring some of the outdoors into your classroom-or vice versa- by engaging students in various hands-on and project-based Earth Day lessons and activities:
Veronicahas a degree from Mount Saint Mary College and joined LEE & LOW in the fall of 2014. She has a background in education and holds a New York State childhood education (1-6) and students with disabilities (1-6) certification. When she’s not wandering around New York City, you can find her hiking with her dog Milo in her hometown in the Hudson Valley, NY.
To celebrate Earth Day on 22 April, we have created a reading list of books, journals, and online resources that explore environmental protection, environmental ethics, and other environmental sciences. Earth Day was first celebrated in 1970 in the United States. Since then, it has grown to include more than 192 countries and the Earth Day Network coordinate global events that demonstrate support for environmental protection. If you think we have missed any books, journals, or online resources in our reading list, please do let us know in the comments below.
I have finally found an environmental book for older readers, and it is terrific.
Sixteen-year-old Laura, the journal keeping main character in The Carbon Diaries 2015 by Saci Lloyd, is a member of a punk band. She has an appalling older sister, and her parents are falling apart. Sounds pretty generic YA, doesn't it? What makes this book riveting is its setting and its main character.
Are Good Environmental Books All About Setting?
The 2015 Britain of The Carbon Diaries is one suffering from energy shortages and horrific climate problems, as is the rest of the world. Britain, however, is the first country to start carbon rationing. The book is Laura's account of her family and neighbors dealing with limited access to energy while suffering through an extreme winter, a drought, and torrential rain. Her older sister is appalling because she is bitter and angry about her gap year in America being cancelled. Her parents are falling apart because they're having trouble coping with the social change they're being hammered with. Dad, for instance, is the head of a travel and tourism school. With carbon restrictions, people can't travel. That pretty much puts an end to the tourist industry in Britain, and he loses his job.
The book isn't a cautionary tale, in my humble opinion. It's much more of a thriller. What's going to happen next and how will the characters survive it? Though Laura comments on the selfishness of others a couple of times and wants very much for the rest of the world to get on board with carbon rationing, this is not a "Let's save the planet!" story. There is no instructive message.
I'm sure many reviewers probably write about The Carbon Diaries' environmental themes. I always have trouble determining what an environmental theme would be. I've seen some writers calls The Carbon Diaries' theme "climate change." That seems more like a subject to me. I would say the theme of The Carbon Diaries involves a teenager struggling to find her place as an older person in her family and her place in society, one that is dramatically changing. Those are traditional YA themes, not environmental ones. It's the environmental setting that makes those traditional YA themes interesting and makes this book environmental.
Isn't climate fiction, fiction dealing with climate change, all about setting?
A Good Character Always Does Wonders For A Book
Laura is like an edgier, smarter Georgia Nicholson. The format of the book is even similar to the Georgia Nicholson books. It's a journal, of course, and there are several pages at the end translating British terms for American readers, which you find in Georgia's books. This is not a complaint. I like Georgia. I like Laura.
A Good Book Doesn't Have To Teach You Anything
Though The Carbon Diaries doesn't insist that readers do anything, the characters' struggle was so intense that it has an impact. I hadn't read much before I started obsessing about whether or not I'd turned the heat down at night. I freaked out a bit over that power outage in Washington earlier this week. And, yikes! They're rationing water in California!!
Very few people like to be preached at or taught. If a piece of fiction is well done, it creates a response in readers without doing either of those things.
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Katrina Germein is a well-loved children’s best selling author and early childhood teacher. She has received Highly Commended and Notable Book Commendation awards in the Prime Minister’s Literary Awards and from the Children’s Book Council of Australia. Three of her books have also featured on the popular children’s programme, Play School. Some of her titles […]
In What is Cli-fi? And Why I Write It in The Guardian author Sarah Golding describes climate fiction as "fiction that foregrounds climate change." Her interest in writing it appears to go beyond using it as a setting, world, or spring board for a plot. She's trying to do something specific with her cli-fi books for young readers. She hopes that her characters' concern for the environment will spread to her readers.
One of the interesting things about these books is that the newest title, The Carbon Diaries 2015, by Saci Lloyd, was published in 2008. This is a "deep" list that doesn't just rely on scanning recent publishers' catalogs.
No, I am not going to claim that The Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats is an environmental book. Though, I suppose I could. When I'm looking for environmental books, I look for experience. The Snowy Day is all about a child's experience of winter, of a snowy day. Peter is immersed in a winter environment.
What I'm going to do, instead, is argue that environmental children's books need a The Snowy Day.
Back in 1962, The Snowy Daybroke the color barrier in mainstream children's publishing. Little Peter is African-Amercan. But nowhere in this book is there anything that says, "Oh, this is an important story I'm telling here. Here is a lesson for us all--we're all alike when it snows!" Deborah Pope of the Ezra Jack Keats Foundation said in a NPR interview that Peter's ethnic background "...wasn't important. It wasn't the point." She said that Keats "wasn't necessarily trying to make a statement about race when he created Peter." He was a white illustrator who had never used a child of color in his work and decided he would. The Snowy Day is the story of a kid having a good time in the snow. He just happens to be black.
So many children's environmental books are heavy with lesson. The mini-lectures undermine whatever story is there and destroy the experience of being immersed in some natural element. I'd love to see an environmental equivalent of The Snowy Day, in which child characters simply go about their business recycling or composting or living in a solar house or living as a part of some ecosystem or another without hammering readers about the significance of what they're doing.
Maybe for the time being I'll settle for The Snowy Day as an environmental book and read and watch little Peter surround himself with winter.
Kingdom: life in the Dead Zone
By Rebecca L. Johnson
Twenty-First Century Books. 2015
To review this book, I
borrowed a copy from my local public library.
On April 26, 1986, Reactor Number 4 at the Chernobyl Nuclear
Power Plant exploded sending extremely high levels of ionizing radiation into
the atmosphere that would cover the area.
Winston is a polar bear near a town named Churchill in Manitoba, Canada. He wears glasses and is always holding a lit cigar, much like another Winston named Churchill. Bear Winston is in a position of polar bear leadership, much like British Prime Minster Winston was in a position of human leadership. The polar bears are facing the melting of ice in Hudson Bay due to human pollution, much like the Brits were facing invasion by the Na...No, that's kind of a stretch. But when Bear Winston rallies his bears, he does sound a lot like British PM Winston rallying his people. '"We will for fight ice," boomed Winston. "We shall defend our island, whatever the cost may be. We shall fight on the beaches. We shall fight on the landing grounds. We shall fight in the fields and in the streets. We shall fight in the hills. We shall never surrender."'
That's what makes this book clever and witty, the whole whole bear-doing-Churchill thing. Because a polar bear isn't Winston Churchill, and the incongruity is funny.
But then you get to the lesson stuff. '"Ice is melting because it's getting too warm around here and people are doing it with their cars and smoke stacks. And cutting down trees."' I'm not saying that's not true, but instruction is awkward, to say the very least, in fiction. Winston of Churchill even includes a page from a book Winston of Churchill wrote on global warming to make sure to get the educational stuff across. Though I'm going to take a wild guess that I'm not the only person who skipped it.
But here's the clever and witty thing about that book written by Winston of Churchill--Winston Churchill wrote books, too!
The illustrations in this book are marvelous and very engaging, and I think kids will be attracted to the bears and some of the humor. Some will be left recalling that human actions are wrecking ice for those neat bears. It will probably be adults with some knowledge of a World War II historical figure who will enjoy this book the most.
“Life is a train of moods like a string of beads, and, as we pass through them, they prove to be many-colored lenses which paint the world their own hue, and each shows only what lies in its focus.” Ralph Waldo Emerson, Experience, 1844.
The concept of looking at nature through multiple lenses to see different things is not new and has been long recognized. As always, the devil is in the details. Recent developments in analytical tools and the embracement of an integrative metapopulation concept and the newly emergent field of functional biogeography, are allowing exciting new insights to be made by population ecologists that have direct bearing on our understanding of the effects of environmental change on biodiversity patterns.
The metapopulation concept posits that isolated populations of organisms are connected through dynamics of dispersal and extinction. Across a landscape, areas of suitable habitat occur, which at one point in time may or may not host a viable population of a particular species. I study this concept with terrestrial plants, and have asked what environmental conditions determine suitable habitat for metapopulations.
Much of the foundational work in this topic was conducted on butterfly populations in meadows across otherwise forested habitat. Regardless of study organism, embracement of this concept has been enough to make population ecologists realize that studying single populations may give only a limited view on generalities of ecology and evolution. Indeed, taking this concept on board, has led population ecologists to want to predict in which areas of suitable habitat across the landscape a new population may establish.
“There’s no getting away from field work!”
There are obvious conservation and management implications that result from being able to predict the geographical distribution of a species, whether an invasive exotic spreading across the globe, or an endangered organism. Unfortunately, just knowing where a species or a group of species may occur across the landscape is not enough. Individuals in some populations may have low fitness and their populations may be barely hanging on. For some species such as potential island colonizers, it has been proposed that limited ability to colonize vacant habitat patches may be due to the occurrence of closely related species occupying a similar niche.
Important ‘missing pieces’ from a full understanding of the metapopulation puzzle have been through inclusion of population growth rate estimates and incorporation of species evolutionary relationships (i.e., their phylogenic ancestry). Population ecologists have been toiling away making fitness estimates of their species of interest in the field. Systematists, on the other hand, have been grinding it out in the lab to generate the molecular data necessary to construct phylogenetic trees to help classify their species.
Community ecologists studying multispecies assemblages, as a third-dimensional angle to this question, have been working with geographers to develop species distribution models. It is only recently that the analytical tools have emerged that allow these groups of scientists to collaborate and address questions of common interest about metapopulations.For example, Cory Merow and colleagues have recently shown how Bayesian models can be used to propagate uncertainty estimates in the application of integral projection models (IPMs) to forecast growth rates as part of predictive demographic distribution models (transition matrix models could also be used). In other words, species geographic distribution predictions can be improved by accounting for population-level fitness estimates.
In another study, Oluwatobi Oke and colleagues have shown how phylogenetic relationships among 66 co-occurring species in populations across a metapopulation structured landscape of Canadian barrens can improve understanding of species distribution patterns. The basis for Oke et al.’s phylogenetic patterns among their species was the large angiosperm supertree based upon nucleotide sequence data of three genes from over 500 species.
The basis for all of the work described above are precise and accurate estimates of individual fitness and population growth rates. There’s no getting away from field work! Methods for carrying out the field work component of these studies, to allow the use of modern statistical methods including Bayesian analysis, IPMs, and transition matrix models, have to be planned and carried out with care. We have come a long way in the last decade in enabling population studies to scale up to address fundamental questions at higher levels of the ecological hierarchy.
The field of population demography is moving fast. For example, the recent launch of the COMPADRE Plant Matrix Database, with accurate demographic information for over 500 plant species in their natural settings worldwide, will make addressing these scale-related types of comparative evolutionary and ecological questions even more tractable in the future.
Tiny Creatures: the world of microbes
Written by Nicola Davies; Illustrated by Emily Sutton
Candlewick Press. 2014
To write this review, I borrowed a copy of the book from my local public library.
Nicola Davies has penned some terrific science books. I really like Surprising Sharks! and Gaia Warriors. Davies excels at explaining the natural
world and our
Winter Bees & Other Poems of the Cold
Poems written by Newbery Honor Award Winner, Joyce Sidman;
Illustrations by Rick Allen
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 2014
All ages; birth to infinity.
To write this review, I borrowed a copy from my
local public library.
I am writing this review on the morning after a nasty
snowstorm that caused massive
power outages here in the
OwlKids Books promotes awareness of
our world to encourage young readers to become more astute observers of
how their choices can affect the natural world. OwlKids Books appeal to readers who enjoy bold graphics with quick facts using minimal text.
Why We Live Where We Live
Written by Kira Vermond; Illustrated by Julie McLaughlin
Vermond takes readers on a
Buried Sunlight: how
fossil fuels have changed our world
Written by Molly Bang & Penny Chisholm; Illustrated by
Blue Sky Press. 2014
To review this book, I borrowed it from my local public
Author-illustrator Molly Bang has now written four books about the sun’s life-sustaining role in our world. She began with My Light that explained
World Water Monitoring Day is an annual celebration reaching out to the global community to build awareness and increase involvement in the protection of water resources around the world. The hope is that individuals will feel motivated and empowered to investigate basic water monitoring in their local area. Championed by the Water Environment Federation, a broader challenge has arisen out of the awareness day, celebrated on September 18th each year. Simple water testing kits are available, and individuals are encouraged to go out and test the quality of local waterways.
Water monitoring can refer to anything from the suitability for drinking from a particular water source, to taking more responsibility for our own consumption of water as an energy source, to the technology needed for alternative energies. Discover more about water issues from around the world using the map below.
Image credit: Ocean beach at low tide against the sun, by Brocken Inaglory. CC-BY-3.0 via Wikimedia Commons.
Biomechanics is the study of how animals move. It’s a very broad field, including concepts such as how muscles are used, and even how the timing of respiration is associated with moving. Biomechanics can date its beginnings back to the 1600s, when Giovanni Alfonso Borelli first began investigating animal movements. More detailed analyses by pioneers such as Etienne Jules Marey and Eadweard Muybridge, in around the late 1800s started examining the individual frames of videos of moving animals. These initial attempts led to a field known as kinematics – the study of animal movement, but this is only one side of the coin. Kinetics, the study of motion and its causes, and kinematics together provide a very strong tool for fully understanding the strategies animals use to move as well as why they move the way they do.
One factor that really changes the way an animal moves is its body size. Small animals tend to have a much more z-shaped leg posture (when looking at them from a lateral view), and so are considered to be more crouched as their joints are more flexed. Larger animals on the other hand have straighter legs, and if you look at the extreme (e.g. elephant), they have very columnar legs. Just this one change in morphology has a significant effect on the way an animal can move.
We know that the environment animals live in is not uniform, but is cluttered with many different obstacles that must be overcome to successfully move and survive. One type of terrain that animals will frequently encounter is slopes: inclines and declines. Each of the two different types of slopes impose different mechanical challenges on the locomotor system. Inclines require much greater work from the muscles to move uphill against gravity! On declines, an animal is moving with gravity and so the limbs need to brake to prevent a headlong rush down the slope. Theoretically, there are many ways an animal can achieve successful locomotion on slopes, but, to date, there has been no consensus across species or animals of differing body sizes as to whether they do use similar strategies on slopes.
From published literature we generated an overview of how animals, ranging in size from ants to horses, move across slopes. We also investigated and analysed how strategies of moving uphill and downhill change with body size, using a traditional method for scaling analyses. What really took us by surprise was the lack of information on how animals move down slopes. There was nearly double the number of studies on inclines as opposed to declines. This is remarkable given that, if an animal climbs up something inevitably it has to find a way to come back down, either on its own or by having their owner call the fire department out to help!
Most animals tend to move slower up inclines and keep limbs in contact with the ground longer; this allows more time for the muscles to generate work to fight against gravity. Although larger animals have to do more absolute work than smaller animals to move up inclines, the relative stride length did not change across body size or on inclines. Even though there is much less data in the literature on how animals move downhill, we did notice that smaller animals (<~10kg) seem to use different strategies compared to large animals. Small animals use much shorter strides going downhill than on level terrain whereas large animals use longer strides. This difference may be due to stability issues that become more problematic (more likely to result in injury) as an animal’s size increases.
Our study highlights the lack of information we have about how size affects non-level locomotion and emphasises what future work should focus on. We really do not have any idea of how animals deal with stability issues going downhill, nor whether both small and large animals are capable of moving downhill without injuring themselves. It is clear that body size is important in determining the strategies an animal will use as it moves on inclines and declines. Gaining a better understanding of this relationship will be crucial for demonstrating how these mechanical challenges have affected the evolution of the locomotor system and the diversification of animals into various ecological niches.
Image credit: Mountain goat, near Masada, by mogos gazhai. CC-BY-2.5 via Wikimedia Commons.
In an era of great global change, it’s more important than ever to take a moment today to think about how the Earth sustains us and how we can help to sustain it in return.
We asked author Jan Reynolds, whose work we have been showcasing throughout April here on the blog and whose travels have taken her from a hot air balloon over Mount Everest to the Sahara Desert, to share a few of her favorite photos and some thoughts on celebrating Earth Day:
I chose photos for Earth Day that aren’t big landscapes on purpose. We think of Earth Day as the Earth, pristine, something separate, while in reality…
…the Earth is one big party with all kids of life on it, not just plant life and oceans.
We are all a part of it, including man.
So therefore, the baboon pics. Hoping we can see ourselves in the baboons, and vice versa.
Further Reading and Resources:
Don’t miss our Pinterest board of recommended books about Earth, the Environment, and Human Impact:
Park Scientists: gila monsters, geysers, and grizzly bears
in American’s own backyard
Scientists in the Field series
Written by Mary Kay Carson; Photographs by Tom Uhlman
Houghton Mifflin. 2014
The publisher sent me a copy of this book to review
Grades 5 to 12
Take a road trip across American with husband and wife team,
Carson and Uhlman to learn more about our
I'm also still loving the interview I heard a few weeks ago about Thoreau recording all kinds of information about Concord's flora and fauna. This weekend I'm hoping to get a very young family member started on a Thoreau-like experience, maintaining a nature journal filled with dried leaves and flowers and maybe pictures of that creepy flock of turkeys in his backyard. (Recognizing that turkeys are disturbing is a sort of appreciation.) While I know a wild turkey when I see one, I'm only familiar with a few trees.
Plant a Pocket of Prairie
Written by Phyllis Root; Illustrated by Betsy Bowen
University of Minnesota Press. 2014
Preschool and up
I borrowed a copy of this book from my local public library.
When Laura Ingalls and her family
were traveling from the Big Woods in Wisconsin to their Little House on the
Prairie, over 40 percent of the United States was covered in native
It's been years since I've read a Horrible Harry book, so I can't address the issue of just how great his interest in environmentalism is. But I like the idea of appreciation of nature/environmentalism being a thread within a story, as Kline describes.
I've written here about liking an immersion-type thing with environmental books, books that don't wear a sign saying "It's eco-time" but just make readers part of a natural world or lifestyle. Maybe what I'm thinking of is some kind of wholistic experience.
Over the course of a story about the two friends having to find a way to get close to the birds they want to draw, Mouse and Mole pass off a small amount of avian info. But what really makes this book at all environmental is that Mouse and Mole want to do this bird stuff. They want to draw them and write about them. They want to have a life that involves birds.
Listen, when I had little kids, I would have read them this book, got out their artists' journals (yeah, we all had artists' journals), and gone out with them to find us some birds. It would have worked as an environmental book for me.
The U.S. Embassy (Kingston, Jamaica) is hosting its first competitive youth poetry slam, “Understanding the World around You: The Environment and Climate Change” on August 12, 2014 from 10am-12pm. Winners of the “Best Performance” and “Best Written Piece” will receive iPads and tablets! If you are interested in competing send an original poem about the environment or climate change to email@example.com by Aug. 8th. Must be ages 10-19 to enter.
Everyone is welcome to come and watch as members of the audience! There will be an open mic intermission for anyone who wants to perform a poem outside the competition. To attend one must also RSVP at the email address above or call 702-6172.