Earth Day celebrations bring awareness to the incredible importance of taking good care of our planet. These new picture books bring nature, love and appreciation to the forefront; they are smart reading for every day.
"The Brilliant Deep: Rebuilding the World's Coral Reefs," by Kate Messner; illustrated by Matthew Forsythe; Chronicle Books; 48 pages; $17.99.
Coral reefs are in trouble. They're bleaching and disappearing quickly in many oceans. This brilliant book tells the true story of Ken Nedimyer, a coral-restoration pioneer who proves that all it takes is one person to make a difference. The ocean advocate and volunteers grow coral out of live rocks and, with hammer and safe glue, attach the new coral to dying areas to flourish. His Coral Restoration Foundation, out of Key Largo, Florida, is proving that when a handful of humans put their minds to nature restoration, miracles can happen.
Matthew Forsythe's lovely vintage-looking scenes are cool and intriguing, and Kate Messner's depiction of one man's high-reaching idea of saving coral reefs is motivating and positive. Kids learn how they can help at the end of the book. Visit the foundation website and other resources listed at the back of the book to learn more.
"The Thing That I Love About Trees" by Chris Butterworth; illustrated by Charlotte Voake; Candlewick Press; 28 pages; $15.99.
Part story, part reference guide is Chris Butterworth's ode to trees told from the point of view of a little girl who ventures outside with her cat to tell readers about the trees she loves. She begins in springtime, saying, "There are buds, like beads getting bigger on the branches ...," and explains how a plum tree's flower buds open into blossoms to buzz with bees. Smaller text explains a little more about why and how pollination happens, while Charlotte Voake's flowy, whimsical illustrations evoke outdoorsy fun.
The girl, her friends and her cat venture to summertime. The "trees are shady and so full of leaves that when the wind blows, they swish like the sea." Fall brings seeds and nuts for the squirrels, while in winter, a bare tree's bark feels hard and rough. All the while, sidebar text offers more tree facts.
The end page spread features tree-related games and activities, resulting in a two-fold picture book sure to promote tree love.
"Champion: The Comeback Tale of the American Chestnut Tree" by Sally M. Walker; Henry Holt and Co.; 136 pages; $17.99.
Speaking of trees, this ode to the chestnut tree, aimed at middle-grade readers, explains how plentiful and helpful this tree once was until an unstoppable blight wiped out many of them. Finally, the American chestnut is making a comeback in a hopeful tale of loss and restoration that lets readers know nothing has to be gone forever. A triumph of persistence and human ingenuity, the return of the chestnut tree is nothing short of miraculous and inspiring.
Sally M. Walker's fascinating true tale of the natural world is peppered with clear photographs, images and incredible writing. Trees are our best friends here on Earth. If "Champion" helps any young readers realize this, nature wins.
"Thank You, Earth" by April Pulley Sayre; Greenwillow; 40 pages; $17.99.
April Pulley Sayre writes this love letter to planet Earth. With up-close photographs of a seal, seaweed and beach rocks, it begins "Dear earth, thank you for water and those that float,/ for slippery seaweed/ and stone." She goes on to thank mountains and air, and "leaves and stems and buds, for plant parts we can eat." Sayre thanks sunsets with a desert photo.
A moving, gorgeous photo essay tribute to what matters most, "Thank You, Earth" is much-needed.
"Drawn From Nature" by Helen Ahpornsiri; Big Picture Press/Candlewick; 60 pages; $22.
This beautiful nonfiction book aimed at 6- to 9-year-olds showcases art made entirely from hand-pressed plants, leaves, petals and seeds, which author Helen Ahpornsiri concocts into birds, frogs, plants and hedgehogs. Each section of her gorgeous book uncovers a season's changes. Spring conquers pond life and butterflies and nest building and hares, while summer showcases crickets chirping and swooping swallows and what's happening in reeds. Autumn points out forest fungi and dandelion puffs, deer rutting, nuts and berries, while winter highlights bare branches, winter berries and the Robin redbreast.
A truly beautiful, literally nature-filled introduction to some of Earth's most amazing creations, "Drawn From Nature" is coffee table- and front-of-desk worthy.
To find out more about Lee Littlewood, and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at www.creators.com.