Written by Nancy Stewart, art by Samantha Bell
Published by Guardian Angel Publishing, 2011
Themes: Gulf Oil spill, pelican, ecology, environmental stewardship
Opening/Synopsis: Bella saw the first curious brownish streaks wash ashore. “Oh, no, Britt!” she exclaimed to her best friend. “It’s here.” And it was. Oil. With each wave blobs of smeary oil stained their beautiful beach and settled into once white sand.
The book teaches children about the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill in the Gulf of Mexico on April 20, 2010 and explains how it affected the environment and wildlife.
Best friends, Bella and Britt, are disturbed by the oil they discover on their favorite beach and rush to tell the ranger, who assures them trained teams will start with the clean-up. They know it is a job for adults until one day they discover that their friend, the old pelican, takes a dive in the blackened seas and remerges covered in oil. They ask a nearby adult for help, who brings the pelican’s plight to the attention of the workers in the area who are cleaning up the oil spill. After the bird is rescued and taken to the bird sanctuary, Bella and Britt help to gently clean the oil off of it.
Why I like this book: Stewart manages to tell a kids’ story of environmental rescue, while at the same time making readers aware that this job is really one for professionals and adults. This is a tension I have struggled with in my own writing. She balances this by giving suggestions to her young readers at the end of the book that they can incorporate into their daily lives to help them become involved in looking after the environment: turning off lights when they are not being used, not running the water when brushing teeth, unplugging appliances when they are not in use….
The illustrations by Bell are colourful, lovely, and appealing to the reader. I love that the best friends, Bella and Britt, are depicted as racially different. It’s seems obvious that our picture books should reflect the diversity of our society, but this isn’t always the case.
There are currently two other books in this series: Bella Saves the Beach and Sea Turtle Summer.
Resources: The resources listed here include content and classroom activities for educators who wish to address oil spills and the effects of oil spills with students.
At the back of the book, Stewart also includes child-friendly website links for readers to visit to learn more about oil spills. And She has done a great blog post on the story behind the book!