Every Wednesday, we review a selection of new and upcoming books addressing a specific aspect of environmentalism. This week we're recommending children’s picture books about nature.
Mardy Murie Did! (by Jequita Potts McDaniel, Illustrated by Jon Van Zyle, $16, Taylor Trade Publishing, 2011): This short storybook celebrates the life of Mardy Murie, known as “the mother of the American conservation movement.” Textured, inspiring paintings of wild Alaska and the West illustrate her life, and the author asks children if they’ve ever heard a wolf howl, or if they’ve ever asked a friend to be kind to nature. Not only is the art nostalgia-worthy, the message for little ones is powerful. Living with nature is joyful, and you can do something to protect it, just like Mardy Murie did.
Leo the Snow Leopard(by Craig, Isabella, and Juliana Hatkoff, $18, Scholastic, 2010): Written by New York Times bestselling author Craig Hatkoff and his two daughters, this book follows the life of a orphaned snow leopard named Leo. From where he was found by a Pakistani goat herder to his adulthood in the Bronx Zoo, bright, lucid prose and adorable photographs illuminate the story for young readers. For the older, fact-hungry crowd, an appendix clearly describes the ecology of snow leopards, captive breeding programs, and international laws regarding endangered species.
Water, Weed, and Wait (by Edith Hope Fine and Angela Demos Halpin, illustrated Colleen Madden, $16, Tricycle Press): Miss Marigold, her skeptical students, and a grumpy neighbor band together to grow a school garden in this funny and colorful book. The cheery faces of kids cleaning an abandoned lot, building raised beds, and weeding make gardening look fun, and the “water, weed, and wait” mantra is simple enough to inspire even the youngest children to stick a tomato plant in their backyard. At the end, kids can learn how to start their own school garden.
My Friends the Flowers (by William Lach, illustrated by Doug Kennedy, $17, Abrams Books, 2010): Help your little one learn about flowers with the help of a friendly bee, who just so happens to like extolling the graces of his favorite species. Once sufficiently excited by “Miss Mock Orange” and scary "Prickly Pear," kids can learn the nicknames, Latin names, and basic facts about all the flowers the bee visits. A nicely integrated how-to section expounds on planting a “flower friendly” garden.
Astro The Steller Sea Lion (by Jeanne Walker Harvey, Illustrated by Shennen Bersani, $9, Sylvan Dell 2010): This book’s lifelike paintings show us the beautiful California coast and Astro the Sea Lion’s adventures at the Marine Mammal Center. Orphaned at a very young age, he never learned the ways of a wild animal, and every time he is released, he just swims back underneath the Golden Gate Bridge to the Center. Kids will learn about how wild animals are rehabilitated and reintroduced, and what happens when it doesn't work so well.