Friday, March 1, 2024

In this corner ... Climate Change

Animal Climate Heroes
by Alison Pearce Stevens; illus. by Jason Ford 
104 pages; ages 8-12
‎Godwin Books, 2024

Just as every story needs a hero, every hero needs a supervillain. In this book that supervillain is Climate Change. “It’s not a living, breathing supervillain,” writes Alison Pearce Stevens, “but it acts like one just the same.” Every year the effects of climate change worsen: record-breaking disasters; wilder wildfires; more severe storms bringing floods – or no rain at all.

It’s time to call in the superheroes! And just who might these heroes be? You could be one. Your voice and actions are your superpowers. But you – and your human friends – are not alone. There are already superheroes out in the wild working to help keep our climate in check. They are the great whales, sea otters, forest elephants, and echidnas, each a hero in their own way. 

They aren’t the only climate heroes in nature. Indeed, there’s a whole bunch of unsung climate-fighters, from algae to trees. But these four are the ones Alison focuses on because of the impact they have on maintaining carbon balance on our planet. Each animal superhero gets its own chapter that details how it captures carbon through its life cycle. There’s also a section in each chapter that shows how we humans can help these animal heroes.

At the end there’s a section on how you can be a climate hero, with practical actions kids – and other humans – can take. They range from the simple (turning off lights and electronics not in use) to those that take more planning, such as planting gardens and trees. The book is illustrated throughout with cartoon drawings, which help keep the Superhero Vibe going.

I wanted to know more about how Alison came up with her idea, so I asked her a question:

photos: Images for a Lifetime
Me: How did you come to the idea of casting climate change as the supervillain instead of, say, fossil fuel corporations? And by doing that, how did it structure the story you wanted to tell?

Alison: Interesting question. No one has asked that before! I honestly never considered casting the fossil fuel empire as the villain, so your question really made me stop to consider why not. It comes down to the spark behind the idea for the book—I heard someone say their favorite fact was that sea otters help fight climate change. Right off the bat, that set up the clash as it’s described in Animal Climate Heroes—animals taking on climate change, itself. As for structure, I initially set it up like a boxing match, with the opponents in opposite corners of the ring, but it morphed into a superhero book during the writing process.

I really don’t know that I could have recast the supervillain as anything else, because animals can’t fight the fossil fuel empire. There simply isn’t a direct interaction there, at least not in a way that animals can have any kind of impact. They can and do, however, help to remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, which helps us fight climate change. These animals (and others) really are superheroes, and we need to protect them—and other natural spaces—if we want to keep our planet from warming too much.

Thanks, Alison. Alison is a science writer and award-winning children’s author who is also a member of STEAMTeam2024. You can find out more about her at her website.

Thanks for dropping by today. On Monday we'll be hanging out at Marvelous Middle Grade Monday with other  bloggers. It's over at Greg Pattridge's blog, Always in the Middle, so hop over to see what other people are reading. Review copies provided by the publishers.

Wednesday, February 28, 2024

Explore Outdoors ~ Tree-gazing

 With leaves gone, it's easier to see lichens and other fungi growing on trees. Here's one I found just a couple weeks ago, along our road. I've walked by this tree nearly every day, but on that day I stopped and spent time looking at it. Really getting to know it - lichen patches and all. 

What will you notice when you go tree-gazing?

Friday, February 23, 2024

An Antarctic Adventure

My favorite time of year to read about polar adventures is in the winter, when snow and sleet swirl around my house and my road resembles a sloped ice rink. That’s when I whip up a steaming mug of hot cocoa and sit by the window, reading about adventures in far off (and much colder) places.

This book doesn’t come out till March 5th, but I wanted to squeeze a review before spring thaw – just in case you want to go outside on a totally NOT-Antarctic-but-still-cold-and-snowy expedition

My Antarctica: True Adventures in the Land of Mummified Seals, Space Robots, and So Much More 
by G. Neri; illustrations by Corban Wilkin 
96 pages; ages 7-10
‎Candlewick, 2024

Themes: Antarctica, animals, adventure

When I was a kid, I dreamed of being an explorer. I hoped to trek to the Poles or dive into the Mariana Trench or rocket to the Moon one day.

Instead, Greg Neri grew up and started writing books for kids. Lots of books – and that unexpectedly landed him in Antarctica. He was (finally) an explorer!

This book is a fun, wonderfully illustrated scrapbook-like memoir of Neri’s expedition to Antarctica as one of three artists/writers to be awarded a National Science Foundation fellowship. Neri confesses that he wasn’t the best science student in school, but he wanted this opportunity to join the expedition and spend time around lots of scientists, all of whom “seemed to be looking for answers to life’s big questions.” He wanted to bring back stories and photos he could share with kids, adventures that might inspire them to explore science.

Neri, who lives in Florida, had a lot to learn, starting with how to dress. Fortunately, he got outfitted with the right gear – SO many layers! He introduces the scientific community living at McMurdo research station and what they’re working on: geology, plants and animals, outer space. His job: to follow different science teams into the field and learn about their research – and then try to explain it to kids.

Here's what I love about this book:
  • The front end papers show a map of Neri’s flight to Antarctica and a map of the ice shelf and landscape;
  • The mix of photos and Corban Wilkin’s annotated comics and illustrations .They not only show what the scientists are working on, but life at the South Pole;
  • The lists he makes (as you probably know by now, I am a list-maker!). His lists include things you won’t find in Antarctica, things you will find, vehicles found around the research station, critters living on the continent, the things people wear, and toilets. Yep, you heard right – toilets; and
  • Back matter, which includes an authors note, facts about Antarctica, books, websites, and other stuff curious folks will want to know.
Beyond the Book:

Fold an origami penguin. You need origami paper or gift wrap with one side that’s white. Here’s a video showing how to make one.

Go on your own expedition to Antarctica. You can start here

Print out 2-3 photos of what you might see if you visited Antarctica. Then add your own cartoon art and a bit of a story. 

You can check out the Antarctic Artists and Writers Collective here. They host events and exhibitions to celebrate Antarctica and have recordings archived on their website. They have a Facebook page, too.

Today we’re joining Perfect Picture Book Friday. It’s a wonderful gathering where bloggers share great picture books at Susanna Leonard Hill's website. On Monday we'll be hanging out at Marvelous Middle Grade Monday with other  bloggers. It's over at Greg Pattridge's blog, Always in the Middle, so hop over to see what other people are reading. Review copy provided by the publisher.