Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Painted in bright, carefree colors of brilliant ocean blue, lemon yellow and emerald green, this little volume sounds a sober warning about increasing demands on earth's dwindling resources. Bang (Goose) frames the complex contemporary issues of overfishing, deforestation, water pollution and the depletion of fossil fuels within the simpler context of the old village commons. For example, when villagers grazed their sheep on a shared plot, inequity and overcrowding resulted. People with more sheep used more land; and, because it was free, everyone grazed as many sheep as possible. Two responses emerged: some people left to find open land; others remained, setting a limit of one sheep per person and promising "to keep the commons lush and green, and do a better job of sharing it." The colorful patterns of Bang's bustling paintings in full-bleed double-page spreads reveal fish farms, gardens, windmills and solar panels amid the proliferation of industry and machinery. But more subtle is a disturbing arms build-up: as green nature disappears and demands upon the environment compound, guardspointing guns at one anothermultiply. Bang's understated text and subtle illustrations raise important issues about community and the environment, and will leave childrenand adultswith much to think about. Ages 6-12. (Oct.)
Children's Literature - Tamara Hundley
The importance of environmental preservation is addressed by comparing the water, earth and air we share to sheep and the common ground they graze on. A village built on common ground, owned by everyone in the village, was available for all villagers to bring their sheep to graze. Some villagers owned more sheep than others, but there was no limit on how many sheep an individual could graze. This created problems. To resolve these issues, the people of the town join forces and come up with a plan to share the common ground in a more efficient manor, by limiting the amount of sheep allowed to graze and making every effort to keep the commons in good condition. The story then discusses the problems we face today with over fishing, clear cutting of timberlands, and abusive use of oil, gas, coal and water by everyone. These resources are all common to everyone just as the grass was common to the sheep. This book should make readers stop and think about the importance of working to save the environment and that working together, just as the villagers did with the Commons in the best approach. This book would work well in early elementary science classes. The illustrations are bright, colorful, and present a clear picture of the story being told.
School Library Journal
Gr 3-7Bang's small picture book is both simple and ambitious as it presents first a parable and then a string of analogies to raise awareness and provoke thought about the consequences of overusing natural resources. The opening story tells how the green common of a long-ago village quickly becomes overcrowded when too many sheep are sent to graze. Some people decide to stay and work out a plan, but others leave for greener pastures. Bang's paintings employ strong patterns and shades of color, clustering small, crudely sketched figures in naive perspective as the author explains how people today resemble the villagers in using up what they have. "Now our commons are our parks, reserves, and natural resources, and the waters and air of the whole world." She depicts fishermen catching as many fish as possible; lumber companies cutting trees; other companies and individuals using oil and gas and coal; and notes that we all "pump as much of our common water as we can." In each instance there is a short-term benefit and a long-term problem. It's a somber lesson: "One by one, we are destroying the natural resources that sustain our lives." Some scenes suffer from crammed design elements, but others readily command attention. The concluding pronouncement that "now we don't have anyplace else to go" should effectively spark discussion, individual research, and classroom projects.Margaret Bush, Simmons College, Boston
Conservation and responsibility for our shared natural resources is the heart of an allegory that inspires respect for the environment, described tidily in simple terms.
Once upon a time, villagers could bring sheep to a commons, "common ground" to everyone in the village. The eventual outcometoo many sheep and not enough grassprovides the historical example that is invoked repeatedly to explain problems and issues arising from present-day overuse of life-sustaining resources and global short-sightedness. Bang (Goose, 1996, etc.) outlines the depletion of the seas, forests, fossil fuels, and water in a series of pithy but easily comprehensible vignettes. Each tenet of basic ecology presented spins on the same axisthe concept of one earth, with limitations as to its renewability; then Bang drives home the "share the planet" precept in a dramatic denouement. Happy greens (grass) and sprightly blues (water, sky) give way to gray rooftops and smokestacks throughout, but it is the lone planet swirling against a canvas of black that is sure to stop readers in their tracks. It's a timely, provocative message, housed in a small, weighty book.