Our Children's Librarian columnist, Julie Booker, brings us a new view from the stacks every month.
Meeting objectives for every grade in the Life Systems strand of the Science and Technology curriculum, these books include such topics as healthy environments, assessing impacts of human activities on habitats and communities, demonstrating how plants are beneficial to society, interrelationships, human health, and protecting biodiversity.
On Our Nature Walk, Our First Talk About Our Impact on the Environment, by Jillian Roberts, illustrated by Jane Heinrichs, follows friends walking through the world (seen in photos) asking questions like, “How do more people and more needs affect the environment?”
Different types of pollution are explained in simple terms. Readers are introduced to the Iroquois Seventh Generation Principle which asks humans to consider actions affecting seven generations into the future.
Roberts tells kids their best weapon against climate change is imagination, inspiring them with the quote: “Don’t ask kids what they want to be when they grow up, but what problems they want to solve.” (Kindergarten to Grade 3)
The nonfiction text 111 Trees, by Rina Singh, illustrated by Marrianne Ferrer, reads like a story.
When Sundar’s young daughter dies, he uses his grief to make significant changes to his village. He challenges the belief that girls are less valuable than boys and invites villagers to plant 111 trees for each girl born. Sundar also asks families to invest money that would otherwise be spent on dowries as the girls were married off before age 18, and have them graduate from school instead.
Sundar’s village, which has become barren due to the local factory’s abuse of the land, becomes transformed into a fertile place that feeds its previously hungry inhabitants. The ending tells of the real Sundar and asks readers, “Are you an eco-feminist?” This book is part of the inspirational Citizen Kid Series. (Grades Kindergarten to Grade 6)
The Boreal Forest: A Year in the World’s Largest Land Biome, by L. E. Carmichael, illustrated by Josée Bisaillon, uses the story of changing seasons to address patterns and cycles in terms of weather, plants, animals and human impact. During winter, for example, various creatures thrive in the warm layers of twigs and earth packed down by snow.
Kids today hear so much about the negative effects of carbon. This book describes, in a clear way, how the Boreal Forest, found mainly in Canada, with more fresh water than anywhere else in the world, plays a key role in helping the planet. Diagrams of the water cycle and the carbon cycle are included, as well as a glossary. (Grades 3 to 6)
I Hear You, Forest, by Kallie George, shows a child walking through a forest, listening to all its sounds. As the main character teeters on a tree branch, we read: “Skitter Skitter/ I hear you, Beetle,/ balancing bravely./ Mama, watch what I can do!” This one’s an invitation to young readers to explore their natural surroundings. “Shhhh./ I see you, Stone,/ staying silent./ Are you listening, just like me?” George’s other book, I Hear the Ocean, provides a similar structure and message. (Kindergarten to Grade 1)
Stand Like a Cedar, by Nicola I Campbell, illustrated by Carrielyn Victor, is also an invitation to observe the natural world.
The reader follows various Indigenous characters paddling, fishing, hunting, berry-picking, dancing, throughout the seasons. The text says: “Who do you hear? Who did you see?” as we meet various creatures—snake, fox, bear. The ending brings us full circle to the title “When we need to remember our promises,/we stand like cedar trees/hands raised to the sky.” (Kindergarten to Grade 3)
The picture book, What Grew in Larry’s Garden, by Laura Alary, illustrated by Kass Reich, is based on a true story.
Grace visits her elderly neighbour who has a tiny garden of vegetables. Together, they solve problems, such as bugs and squirrels attacking the plants. Larry shares his project with Grace—he is growing tomato seeds for his students to give to someone in need, accompanied by a note. There’s a letter of appreciation to the local bus driver, an apology to a neighbour for stealing pears from their tree.
When a neighbour’s fence blocks out the sun and puts the seed project in jeopardy, Grace, having learned there’s always a solution, solves the problem with her newfound sense of community. (Kindergarten to Grade 3)
A Forest in the City, by Andrea Curtis, illustrated by Pierre Pratt, is everything you need to know about how trees work in an urban setting. It begins after the First World War, with industrialization, when city trees were cut down. It tells of deadly diseases, such as Dutch Elm, with tree deaths resulting in harmful effects to air quality and mental health. The intentional planting of trees brought about many considerations; tree roots, dubbed “the Wood Wide Web” by scientists, faced specific challenges in cities. Urban foresters’ creative solutions are shown, working around pipes, cables, and sewage systems. A Forest in the City is eye-opening and essential for kids to understand the value of trees. (Grades 4 to 6)
On her first day as teacher-librarian, Julie Booker was asked by a five-year-old if that was her real name. She's felt at home in libraries since her inaugural job as a Page in the Toronto Public Library. She is the author of Up Up Up, a book of short stories published by House of Anansi Press.
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