Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Earth Day, every day

This Friday April 22 is Earth Day - a day, like every day, when people take time to appreciate and take care of our planet. With the smell of spring rain in the air, tulip and daffodil bulbs sprouting everywhere, and plentiful spring picture books about, how can one not think green?

Margi Preus with illustrator Rebecca Gibbon take a look at some of the more gorgeous and notable green growing things around us: trees! Celebritrees: Historic and Famous Trees describes trees known for their Guinness-Book-of-Records-setting size or age or the legends surrounding them, including Methuselah in California, the oldest known living organism, and the hollow Chapel Oak of France.

For curious preschoolers or elementary nature classes, I rely on A Seed Is Sleepy written by Dianna Hutts Aston and illustrated by Sylvia Long. This can be read as a story book with such lyrical lines as "a seed is adventurous, it must strike out on its own," but it also contains digestible bits of further information with paintings and diagrams to be examined more closely by an older reader. Aston and Long have also collaborated on An Egg Is Quiet.

Energy Island by Alan Drummond is the true story of Samsø, a small Danish island, whose neighbors worked together to gain "energy independence" - to rely only renewable energy sources from their own island. The picture book style narrative is supplemented with sidebars explaining global warming, renewable and non-renewable energy, and the many ways individuals, and countries as a whole, can work to conserve energy.

Dorling Kindersly, a leader among kids' nonfiction, publishes several gardening books for a range of ages. The latest, How Does My Garden Grow, is full of rich photographs and clear step-by-step instructions for gardeners 7 and up. This book goes beyond the hows and whys of growing, to ideas for personalizing a garden, as with topiary, and ideas for what to do with what is grown, including recipes as delicious sounding as herby cheese muffins (yum!).

In fiction, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt has reissued a paperback edition of Chris Van Allsburg's Just a Dream, a cautionary environmental tale. A few nights before his birthday, Walter goes to bed wishing he lived in the future with his own plane to fly and a robot to take out the trash. Instead, his dreams take him to a future full of smokestacks, tree stumps, trash piles, and most horrifying, a hotel on top of Mount Everest. Fortunately, Walter awakes from his dream, and like us all, has the opportunity to prevent this future.

Even non-city dwellers probably can sympathize with Peter from Colin Thompson's The Paradise Garden, overwhelmed as he is by the noise and rush of his neighborhood. He escapes to an expansive, wondrous garden in the city, where he sleeps under the stars and eats from the trees and greenhouses around him. When he finds peace enough to return to his family and the noisy city, he knows he may always have a paradise garden of his own, in his yard and in his mind. The rich paintings have many details to pore over, especially in panels reminiscent of Jan Brett.

Taro Gomi, author of My Friends, Everyone Poops! and several drawing books, is known for his bold, colorful style and fresh approach to storytelling. The plot of his board book, Spring Is Here, follows the earth's transformations through the cycle of seasons, zooming in a white lamb whose fleece slowly turns brown and green like the earth, and then revolves back to winter's white.

In addition to all things green, we also have plenty of Passover, Easter, spring, and hopping bunny books for all your seasonal needs.

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