The Leaf Detective – Perfect Picture Book Friday

Title: The Leaf Detective, How Margaret Lowman Uncovered Secrets in the Rainforest

Author: Heather Lang

Illustrator: Jana Christy

Publisher: Calkins Creek, 2021

Ages: 4-8

40 pages. 

Genre: 

Themes: forest, tree canopies, science, leaves, rainforests, female scientists, breaking the glass ceiling, nature, science, STEM

Opening:
Meg loved how leaves
burst into the world
and unfurled
She admired their different shapes,
colors, and textures.

Synopsis:


In this picture book, we learn about the life of Margaret Lowman, an Australian who grew up in the 1950s being fascinated by the trees around her. As a college student, she had trouble not only finding people who wanted to study the rainforest the way she wanted to study it, but also had problems being the only woman in a field dominated by men who didn’t necessarily support her endeavors. She wanted to actually get up into the rainforest canopy in order to study the leaves as well as the wildlife, but that was not the approved method in the 1970s. She cobbled together ropes and a pulley systems of sorts to get up to investigate. It was certainly risky, but also very productive. In addition to pioneering ways to study the rain forest, she raised awareness of the endangered area. She worked with people living in this climate to brain storm and promote products that could be sold, highlighting these so that governments would understand that destroying the rain forest was destroying not only a valuable ecosystem but also the economic survival of the residents.

Why I like this book:

Meg used her voice to inspire people, to save their rainforests, to save themselves, because to Meg, a tree is not just a tree…It is essential for life on earth”

I love this story about how Margaret Lowman led the way to explore the rainforests and fight for conservation efforts. I learned a lot about how scientific research in rainforests was done. I didn’t realize that even as recently as the 70s we didn’t know about rainforest systems. This would be a great book to read to launch a rainforest unit or just to spark curiosity in kids. I would love to take one of the rainforest canopy walkway tours. So much interesting content! And the illustrations were lush! I appreciated all the quotes from Meg herself (nice to have a subject who is still alive). This is a great STEM tale of a woman overcoming the sexism that run rampant through the science community. But not only that Meg Lowman went beyond just studying trees, she worked to save them and empower the people who lived with them. Another great addition to our science library shelves.

Resources/Activities:

The book ends with a note from the author about working with Ms. Lowman (as well as a charming photograph of the subject), a two page spread detailing the rainforest, and a good bibliography. 

Here’s the Leaf Detective discussion guide from the author’s website.

And more information can be found here: https://www.heatherlangbooks.com/the-leaf-detective

Each week a group of bloggers reviews picture books we feel would make great educational reads. To help teachers, caregivers and parents, we have included resources and/or activities with each of our reviews. A complete list of the thousands of books we have reviewed can be found sorted alphabetically and by topics, here on Susanna Leonard Hill’s website.

Posted in Biography, Book recommendation, children's books, Children's literature, conservation, narrative nonfiction, Perfect Picture Book Friday, Picture Books | Tagged , , , | 2 Comments

The Wisdom of Trees – Perfect Picture Book Friday

Title: The Wisdom of Trees, How Trees Work Together to form a Natural Kingdom

Author & Illustrator: Lita Judge

Publisher: Roaring Book Press, 2021

Ages: 6-11 (and middle school)

48 pages. 

Genre: narrative nonfiction/poetry

Themes: trees, forests, ecology, communication, poetry, community, ecosystem, history

Opening:
A Secret Kingdom

I am a single beech,
but I am not alone.

Synopsis:

The story of a tree is a story of community, communication, and cooperation. Although trees may seem like silent, independent organisms, they form a network buzzing with life: they talk, share food, raise their young, and offer protection. Trees thrive on diversity, learn from their ancestors, and give back to their communities. Trees not only sustain life on our planet—they can also teach us important lessons about patience, survival, and teamwork. 

We clean the air and seed the clouds, we drench the thirsty land with rain. We are like wizards.

Why I like this book:

I am on a bit of a tree kick at the moment. Redwood forest bathing has kept me sane during the pandemic. And some of my best friends gave me a gorgeous book for my birthday last week, The Forests of California by Obi Kauffman. So I was so happy to follow up Gianna’s book last week with another extraordinary tree book by a friend, published this week. Lita talks of the inspiration for this book being many years ago when she was hiking in England and sat under a thousand-year old oak tree overlooking a Medieval castle. I understand how inspiring that moment was, and I confess I have slipped tree-facts into several of my novel WIPs because I am equally inspired by their communication.

Through a series of fourteen poems, lush illustrations and extensive but very accessible factual sidebars, The Wisdom of Trees offers a fascinating exploration of the hidden communities trees create to strengthen themselves and others. Each poem penned by Lita Judge is a warm welcome from trees to their world.  These poems focus on different aspects of trees.  In a column on the right, Lita offers a description of the tree featured in the image on the left, using it to transition to a more complete explanation of the current topic.  Within this conversational commentary are specific details and sometimes named scientists and their discoveries. 

I thought I knew quite a bit about the fungi of trees, such as a tree in need sending distress signals to its neighbors, but I learned so much more here. Deep underground trees and fungi work in tandem assisting each other in essential life-sustaining exchanges of food.  Fungi pass along messages from one tree to another.  Chemicals are launched into the air when trees feel they under attack from unwanted insects or munching animals.  Sometimes those chemicals attract other insects who will eliminate the threat.  It’s almost like something out of fiction to discover giant, tall trees in a rain forest maintain their own climate while cleansing the air and dampening the dangers of global warming. 

The illustrations were created in watercolor and pencil and the tree portraits are intricate in detail, e.g. wasps moving like aircraft to land on caterpillars destroying leaves on an elm tree, or a wolf moving silently through a dormant stand of silver birch in winter. There are also smaller illustrations within the sidebars on the right. The illustrations enhance the text perfectly. This is an outstanding nonfiction picture book that should be added to all library collections.

We Are the Ghosts
My limbs and needles are gone, and the warm body of a newborn deer comes to rest within the ghost of my great trunk that once touched the sky. But underneath the soft litter of fallen needles and dark soil, I still live, surrounded by my kingdom with their willingness to give. 


Resources/Activities:
There are ten, yes ten pages at the back given over to expanding on each poem/segment, as well as notes on fire suppression, and how we can help our forests.

Each week a group of bloggers reviews picture books we feel would make great educational reads. To help teachers, caregivers and parents, we have included resources and/or activities with each of our reviews. A complete list of the thousands of books we have reviewed can be found sorted alphabetically and by topics, here on Susanna Leonard Hill’s website.

Posted in Book recommendation, children's books, Children's literature, conservation, nonfiction, Perfect Picture Book Friday, Picture Books | Tagged , , , , , , , | 10 Comments

We Will Live in This Forest Again – PPBF

Title: We Will Live in This Forest Again

Author & Illustrator: Gianna Marino

Publisher: Neal Porter Books, 2020

Ages: 4-8

32 pages. 

Genre: narrative nonfiction

Themes: forest, wildfires, northern California, forest animals, regrowth, restoration, ecology

Opening:
We have always lived in this forest. Its trees and shrubs were filled with birdsong and the rustle of animals.

Synopsis:

When wildfires consume their forest home, the animals must flee–but as the flames subside, they return and look to new beginnings . . .

At first, they didn’t notice the spark flying above the dry treetops.
But then the smoke blew from the north, and the flames began to grow. . .


As a Northern California resident, Gianna Marino witnessed the 2017 Sonoma wildfire firsthand when it came within inches of destroying her property. Her personal experience is palpably reflected through her portrayal of dignified animal silhouettes and stark, ashen landscapes in the wake of the flames. The book closes with an essay describing her encounter with the wildfire. Accessible information on wildfires, including a list of recommendations for further reading, is also included.

Why I like this book:

I have interviewed Gianna and reviewed other books she has created. She has a distinctive, beautiful art style and as a new norther California resident who experienced my first forest fires/smoke last summer here, I so appreciate the hopeful ecological message of We Will Live in This Forest Again. This story of recovery and resilience will comfort young readers concerned about forest fires, reassuring them that in time new growth will sprout and, like the wildlife in the story, we can rebuild. If you have a soft spot for the fragile ecology of the forest and other ecosystems, you will connect immediately with this book, and gain appreciation for what it takes to protect the natural world. 

Gianna’s lush watercolor illustrations explore the bittersweet cycle of burning and rebirth in the forest, following a lone deer as it sees its only home scorched by flame–and later, returns to find new plants already sprouting, the promise of a day when the air will be filled with birdsong once again.

This is a story full of hope and love for our natural world, which we share with some many other animals.

Resources/Activities:

Great back matter on the 2017 California fires, with extra wildfire facts, and further reading recommendations.


MORE WILDFIRE INFO.

www.ducksters.com/science/earth-science/forest_fires.php

www.dosomething.org/facts/11-facts-about-wildfires

http://www.ducksters.com/science/earth-science/forest_fires.php

www.smokeybear.com/en/smokey-for-kids

www.earthtouchnews.com/natural-world/how-it-works/wildfire-and-wild-things

Each week a group of bloggers reviews picture books we feel would make great educational reads. To help teachers, caregivers and parents, we have included resources and/or activities with each of our reviews. A complete list of the thousands of books we have reviewed can be found sorted alphabetically and by topics, here on Susanna Leonard Hill’s website.

Posted in Book recommendation, children's books, Children's literature, conservation, Perfect Picture Book Friday, Picture Books | Tagged , , , , , , , | 8 Comments