The Leaf Detective – Perfect Picture Book Friday

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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. 


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

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


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.


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:

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.

This entry was posted in Biography, Book recommendation, children's books, Children's literature, conservation, narrative nonfiction, Perfect Picture Book Friday, Picture Books and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to The Leaf Detective – Perfect Picture Book Friday

  1. Jilanne F Hoffmann says:

    Yes! She’s amazing! While I was researching my DUST book, I read one of her research survey papers on the first 30 years of plant science in the canopy, scaffolds in the late ’60s, single rope technique in the ’70s, ladders and walkways in the ’80s, canopy booms, hot air balloons, construction cranes! So very cool! Going to have to check out this bio. She’s such an inspiration!

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