Picture Book Perfect Friday – One Pelican at a Time

One Pelican at a Time – A Story of the Gulf Oil Spill

Written by Nancy Stewart, art by Samantha Bell

Published by Guardian Angel Publishing, 2011

Ages: 5-11

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!

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15 Responses to Picture Book Perfect Friday – One Pelican at a Time

  1. When I first saw the cover, it has a bit of a nostalgic look then I realized it was a modern era tale. I hope my library has this one. Thank you for highlighting this book.

  2. What an outstanding example of narrative nonfiction. I will have to check it out.

  3. With unfortunately one oil spill after another, kids will for a long time relate to this.

  4. I remember as a young girl, going through my neighborhood asking people to donate towels to send to Alaska after the Exxon Valdez spill. I think I’ll have to get this book and use it as a jumping-off point for telling my kids that story…

  5. I actually OWN this book! It has a great message.

  6. Oh, I like this one a lot! Had not heard of it. It is so important for children to understand enviornmental issues, and the things they can and can not do to help. Sounds like the author did a wonderful balance. Really great selection for our PPB.

  7. Heather says:

    That was a dreadful incident, I’m glad there is a book about it for kids. You are right about diversity in children’s books, it’s strange that children’s literature can be so removed from reality. Thanks, Joanna.

  8. How awful was this event! I really think my daughter would like this book. We have talked about the oil spill in the gulf a few times and I don’t know if I was explaining things the best. Sometimes a book is better at addressing situations like this. Thanks for the suggestion. This is the first book that I have heard about that talks about the event for children.

  9. I had no idea there was a book that would tell about oil spills in a kid friendly way. You’re right…this would be excellent for making kids aware of what they can do to in their daily lives to help protect our environment.

  10. Erik This Kid Reivews Books says:

    This is an important subject to learn about! I reviewed a book called “Patti Pelican and the Gulf Oil Spill” which is meant for real young kids. This book looks like it is for young and older kids. I like learning about how they held the birds after a disaster. I’m going to check it out!
    Erik

    • Thanks, Erik. I appreciate the comments about Pattie Pelican and the Gulf Oil Spill. I am still going into schools presenting this true story about how wonderful people came to the Gulf coast to help save our wildlife. You did a great review for me.

  11. This is a very interesting book and review. As you will know we have our own bad one… called the “Rena Oil Spill”… see here….http://renaoilspill.co.nz/ and how the wild life are affected. I went down and saw the ship a dot on the horizon now. This book is a great way to introduce kids to saving the environment and what they can and can’t do. After our spill I thought of a story which I still intend to do for a 12x12x12 draft.

  12. Joanna, this is the first children’s book I have heard of about the 2010 gulf oil spill. Having grown up on the Texas gulf coast, this environmental disaster literally hit very close to home. Thank you so much for this recommendation.

    • Kelly, check out my book Patti Pelican and the Gulf Oil Spill. It is the second in the Salty Seas Series about a shrimp boat from Grand Isle, LA who was involved in the oil spill along with his feathered friends. You’ll like it too.

  13. Sounds like an interesting read, Joanna. While I haven’t read a lot of picture books that talk about the environment, I did enjoy reading about Carl Hiaasen’s Hoot and Flush. Watercolor illustrations never get old. 🙂

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