For Earth Day: Protecting animals

With Earth Day just around the corner (April 22), look to these engaging and accessible nonfiction picture books to demonstrate the importance of appreciating animal species. See also our 50th anniversary celebration of Earth Day, from last year, and look for more from us on the day itself.

Crossings: Extraordinary Structures for Extraordinary Animals
by Katy S. Duffield; illus. by Mike Orodán
Primary    Beach Lane/Simon    48 pp.    g
10/20    978-1-5344-6579-4    $18.99
e-book ed.  978-1-5344-6580-0    $10.99

Cougar Crossing: How Hollywood’s Celebrity Cougar Helped Build a Bridge for City Wildlife
by Meeg Pincus; illus. by Alexander Vidal
Primary    Beach Lane/Simon    40 pp.    g
2/21    978-1-5344-6185-7    $17.99
e-book ed.  978-1-5344-6186-4    $10.99

With human development leading to urban sprawl, suburban expansion, and the building of multi-lane highways, wild animals have increasingly limited access to their natural habitats. In Cougar Crossing, the impact of urbanization is represented by a lone mountain lion, named P-22, who resides in Los Angeles. P-22, the “Hollywood cougar,” was born in Santa Monica, in an area where all territory was occupied by other cougars; he has no choice but to find space in the city of Los Angeles, and constantly bumps up against human homes, zoos, highways, and diseases. P-22’s situation is leveraged to advocate for the building of a cougar bridge, an accessible connector for trapped wild animals to access open spaces. Examples of successful animal bridges, as well as other innovative structures, can be found in Crossings, where Duffield showcases not only wildlife overpasses but also the many creative structures used to get animals safely “over, under, across, [and] through” human-made barriers. Squirrel gliders in Australia and titi monkeys in Costa Rica use rope bridges to cross above highways; spotted salamanders in Massachusetts and blue penguins in New Zealand tunnel under them. Both books employ bold illustrations of the featured animals in unnatural urban environments, using the animal crossings, and safely living in less populated environs. Duffield’s book concludes with a spread of “Wildlife Crossings Around the World” and a brief bibliography; back matter in the Pincus includes a timeline of mountain lions in Los Angeles, cougar facts, information about wildlife crossings, identifications of “Wildlife of Southern California,” and a bibliography. DANIELLE J. FORD

The Lion Queens of India
by Jan Reynolds
Primary, Intermediate    Lee & Low    32 pp.    g
9/20    978-1-64379-051-0    $18.95

Gir Wildlife Sanctuary’s first female forest ranger and original “Lion Queen,” Rashila Vadher, narrates this compelling introduction to her life’s work. The sanctuary is home to more than five hundred Asiatic lions — the only wild population left in the world — and a key part of the Lion Queens’ mission is raising awareness about the plight of this endangered species, which faced near-extinction in the early 1900s. Reynolds’s effectively organized presentation appropriately centers conservation as well. The rangers’ duties include patrolling sections of the forest to track lions (and poachers) and providing medical care when necessary. They also work with neighboring villages to educate inhabitants about lions’ importance in the forest ecosystem and the necessity of maintaining the “natural balance of the forest.” Weighing human and animal needs is a constant for the Lion Queens: “How can humans and animals both thrive, living near each other and competing for the same resources?” Vadher’s passion for her work, respect for the lions, and commitment to education come through in the conversational text and many well-chosen photos (some taken by the author); a welcoming page design helps engage readers in the narrative — which has a lot to offer a wide range of interests. In an author’s note, Reynolds talks more about Vadher’s experiences and about her own visit to the sanctuary. A bibliography is appended. KITTY FLYNN

Dear Treefrog
by Joyce Sidman; illus. by Diana Sudyka
Primary    Houghton    40 pp.    g
5/21    978-0-358-06476-3    $17.99
e-book ed.  978-0-358-06671-2    $12.99

In what is in essence a nonfiction early-chapter-book in verse, a young girl moves to a new home. She’s lonely, but when she explores the garden, she observes a small treefrog. With no friends, she adopts the treefrog as a surrogate companion and searches for it every day. An expository note placed in the lower right-hand corner of every double-page spread expands each sighting by providing scientific facts about the treefrog’s habitat and life cycle. Sidman’s narrative, composed of a series of short poems, relates the girl’s story of discovering and contemplating the frog, and of eventually finding a human friend who is also happy to observe nature. Sudyka’s watercolors showcase the settings and give life to the metaphors — the changing seasons; the rich jewel tones of the frog’s surroundings; the treefrog clinging to a leaf, or “snug saddle”; and the quiet pleasures of sharing nature. The language in these poems is simple but not ­simplistic: “I hope you are / somewhere / safe / ­Treefrog // holding on tight / with those grippy toes / riding your / snug saddle of leaves.” Each entry crafts a single episode; together the poems construct a clear narrative arc. Appended with a four-part discussion, nicely organized with pertinent headings, about treefrogs and their survival. Altogether lovely. BETTY CARTER

Marjory Saves the Everglades: The Story of Marjory Stoneman Douglas
by Sandra Neil Wallace; illus. by Rebecca Gibbon
Primary    Wiseman/Simon    56 pp.    g
9/20    978-1-5344-3154-6    $18.99
e-book ed.  978-1-5344-3155-3    $10.99

Marjory Stoneman Douglas, journalist and fierce champion of Florida’s natural environment, spent her long life (1890–1998) advocating for the protection of the Everglades. Wallace’s account begins with Douglas’s brief childhood visit to sunny Florida with her father and her early life of books and nature in New England with her mother and aunt. In her own adulthood, divorced, Douglas arrives in Miami and takes a journalist position at the Miami Herald, the paper her father had started. Wallace’s narrative incorporates relevant quotes from Douglas: “I wanted my own life in my own way.” After service in the navy in WWI, Douglas returns to Florida and begins, with Ernest Coe, a campaign to designate the Everglades as a national park. Successes and obstacles ensue — “The Everglades is a test. If we pass it, we get to keep the planet” — set against Gibbon’s illustrations of lush Florida landscapes filled with multitudes of birds, marsh grasses, people, and marine life, and contrasting images of ever-encroaching development. Douglas is unbowed, writing The Everglades: River of Grass and organizing the Friends of the Everglades. Though the biographical detail is selective, the back matter is useful for filling in blanks. Endnotes provides a timeline and background on Douglas, her conservation efforts, a field guide to Florida wildlife, and additional resources. DANIELLE J. FORD

From the April 2021 issue of Notes from the Horn Book.

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