Thursday, May 26, 2016

Must Read Inspirational Conservation Stories

The following non-fictions are inspiring stories that teaching children about aspects of conservation related to tree planting, endangered animals, and recycling projects. In addition, each story has one or more inspirational people whose desire to make a small impact often went far beyond what they imagined or expected.  Share these stories with children to encourage them to make a positive difference in their communities and to be more conscientious of ways to keep the planet healthy.

Authors: Susan L. Roth & Cindy Trumbore
Illustrator: Susan L. Roth

Publisher Summery: For a long time, the people of Hargigo, a village in the tiny African country of Eritrea, were living without food for themselves and their animals.  The families were hungry, and their goats and sheep were hungry too.  Then along came a scientist, Dr. Gordon Sato, who helped change their lives for the better.  And it all started with some special trees.  Learn how Dr. Sato’s mangrove tree-planting project transformed an impoverished village into a self-sufficient community. 

Why I Chose It: This story has two layers. There is a cumulative poem that is repeated as new lines are added on each 2-page spread, similar to “This is the House that Jack Built” format. The first time through, especially with younger children, this poem could be the narrative that is read.  On the facing page is the non-fiction story about Dr. Sato’s tree-planting project. This story is noteworthy for several reason. First, Dr. Sato had to overcome difficult circumstances that could have paralyzed or jaded him, but he did not let them (See Afterward for photos and facts on the doctor and his project). Instead, he helps whole communities overcome their impoverished situation by providing them with education and tools to take care of themselves. In addition, I love how the women, a largely disenfranchised group in most third world countries, were the ones being taught how to care for the seedlings and trees. They, in turn, used the money they earned to help their families. Finally, by enacting his tree-planting project, he helped everyone—animals and humans, rich and poor—because trees make for healthier air and environment. The textured, collage illustrations have an organic feel perfect for this inspiring story.

Related Story: The Tree Lady (H. Joseph Hopkins)

Author: Donna Jo Napoli
Illustrator: Kadir Nelson

Publisher Summary:  Wangari grew up in the shadow of Mount Kenya listening to the stories about the people and land around her.  Though the trees towered over her, she had loved them for as long as she could remember. So strong, so beautiful, how the trees made her smile. Wangari planted trees one by one to refresh her spirit. When the women came to her for help with their families, she told them to do the same. Soon the countryside was filled with trees.  Kenya was strong once more. Wangari had changed her country tree by tree. 

Why I Chose It:  Mama Miti is one part conservation challenge and one part female empowerment. By planting trees, the women who took Wangari’s advice were able to do everything from feeding their families, to purifying water for drinking, to curing illnesses, to providing wood for shelter and fire, to strengthening their villages, to bringing back the beautiful landscape. Napoli convenes a strong sense of pride and community in the text while Nelson’s illustrations effectively depict the vivid colors and strong people of Kenya. Wangari’s life illustrates the power and influence an ordinary person can have. She was the first African woman to win the Nobel Peace Prize and helped inspire the Green Belt Movement.  Her work “is the embodiment of the Kenyan notion of harambee—the spirit of pulling together for the common good.”

Other stories about Wangari: Seeds of Change: Planting a Path to Peace (Jen Cullerton Johnson) & Planting the Trees of Kenya: The Story of Wangari Maathai (Claire A. Nivola)

Authors: Susan L. Roth & Cindy Trumbore
Illustrator: Susan L. Roth

Publisher Summery: For centuries beautiful, raucous Puerto Rican parrots and the settlers on the island of Puerto Rico hunted for food, survived hurricanes, raised their young, and protected their homes.  But then things began to change, and in time the trees in which the parrots lived were destroyed.  By 1967, only twenty-four Puerto Rican parrots were left in the wild.  Humans had nearly caused their extinction.  Could humans now save the parrots?  Discover the fascinating history of Puerto Rico and the intertwined story of the rare parrots that line in the island’s treetops. 

Why I Chose It: This real-life conservation story begins with some fascinating history of the island and the birds. Children learn about a place that is rarely covered in school curriculums and many different cultures. The authors work to intertwine the lives of the people with those of the birds, showing the interconnectedness and interdependence.  As the shift moves to the reasons for the declining population, readers learn about various factors that can impact specifies populations—natural and unnatural. The extensive efforts by a group of scientists are documented to reveal how quickly a population can become nearly extinct but how slowly it can be to bring it back to a healthy number. The pages are designed to capture the habitat of these amazing birds with textured designs and vivid colors.

Author: Miranda Paul
Illustrator: Elizabeth Zunon

Publisher Summery: Plastic bags are cheap and easy to use.  But what happens when a bag breaks or is not longer needed? In Nijau, Gambia, people simply dropped the bags and went on their way.  One plastic bag became two. Then ten. Then a hundred. The bags accumulated in ugly heaps alongside roads. Water pooled in them, bringing mosquitoes and disease. Some bags were burned, leaving behind a terrible smell. Some were buried, but they strangled gardens.  They killed livestock that tried to eat them. Something had to change.  Isatou Ceesay was that change.  She found a way to recycle the bags and transform her community.

Why I Chose It:  What an inspiring story!  Isatou’s solution cleaned up the environment, decrease the mosquito population (and with it disease), and saved livestock and gardens.  It was not without resistance. While Isatou and some other women worked on a solution, they were called names and laughed at.  Once they began selling their new recycled purses, the naysayers changed their tune.  The women were able to make extra money from this new venture that helped their families buy necessities like livestock.  Eventually, they began contributing their earnings toward an empowerment center where people receive free health care and education.  The center became the home of the region’s first public library.  Their innovation and perseverance has made a positive impact beyond conservation.    

Related Story:  Bag in the Wing (Ted Kooser)

Authors: Anna Alter
Illustrator: Anna Alter

Publisher Summery: In this “green” craft book, children can appreciate that recycling is a part of everyday life, and with a little creativity, exciting projects are only a few steps away. Turn a worn flip-flop into an art stamp, a ripped shower curtain into an apron, and an old T-shirt into a pillow. These activities are just a few of the many crafts to be explored. With easy-to-follow instructions, this interactive book will challenge kids to come up with clever recycling ideas of their own in no time!

Why I Chose It: Since the topic of the post is conservation, I thought this book would be a practical way to bring greater awareness.  Each craft has an animal character and short poem. Then, using every day items (most of which end up in a landfill), the characters illustrate with pictures and directions how to make each project. The book ends with a list of additional ways kids, adults, and families can support reuse and recycling.

For the Adventurous (and Imaginative) Reader

Author: Janet S. Wong
Illustrator: David Roberts

Publisher Summery: Anyone can dive for treasure in the ocean, but Steve dives for it in this neighborhood dumpster! As he delves into the trash each weekend, Steve encourages his young neighbors (aka the Diving Team) to see the potential in what other people throw away.  With a little imagination, trash can be transformed into treasure—and as the Diving Team discovers, it might even help a friend in need.

Why I Chose It: Wong does not idealize dumpster diving. As soon as Steve gets in, beetles and spiders splash out. Yuck! Then, the kids spray him (and the items he collects) with a hose when he gets out. Parents do not have to worry about their children begging to dumpster dive.  What I liked about this book is the emphasis on taking discarded items to create new, useful things.  Steve and the Diving Team often use their new creations or what they find to help others.  When the kids need to make a project, they ask for items people are not using (a good alternative while prompting similar results). The Dumpster Diver is an entertaining story that encourages imagination, resourcefulness, and exploration.  

1 comment:

  1. Love seeing all these non-fiction books for kids! Thanks for sharing on the Kid Lit Blog Hop.


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