Meadowlands: A Wetlands Survival Story

Overview

A New York Times Notable Children's Book for 2011 

One of Horn Book’s Best Nonfiction Books of 2011

The 20,000 acres of wetlands in New Jersey now known as the Meadowlands were once home to hundreds of species of plants and animals. But in the four hundred years since European explorers first arrived in the Meadowlands, people have dammed up, drained, built over, and polluted this formerly vibrant ecosystem—and all but destroyed it. Still,...

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Overview

A New York Times Notable Children's Book for 2011 

One of Horn Book’s Best Nonfiction Books of 2011

The 20,000 acres of wetlands in New Jersey now known as the Meadowlands were once home to hundreds of species of plants and animals. But in the four hundred years since European explorers first arrived in the Meadowlands, people have dammed up, drained, built over, and polluted this formerly vibrant ecosystem—and all but destroyed it. Still, signs of life remain—under bridges, on the edges of parking lots, and beside train tracks. Slowly but surely, with help from activist groups, government organizations, and ordinary people, the resilient creatures of the Meadowlands are making a comeback, and the wetlands are recovering.

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Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble

It is difficult to overestimate the level of devastation wreaked by humans on the 20,000 acres of New Jersey wetlands known as the Meadowlands. What surprises us, though, is the resilience of the region's wildlife, activists, government agents, and ordinary people. Thomas Yezerski's child-friendly Meadowlands unfolds the heartening story of the incremental reclamation of a nationally mourned wasteland.

Publishers Weekly
Judicious ink and watercolor illustrations pair with tender prose to tell the story of the Meadowlands estuary in New Jersey, which bounced back from being "one of the worst places in America." Yezerski paints a vivid history of the place where the Hackensack River meets Newark Bay, and where the Lenni Lenape lived for thousands of years. During the 1800s, the Meadowlands were logged and by the mid-20th century, it had become a sewage and garbage dump. With restrained elegance, Yezerski describes how the Meadowlands has slowly recovered, while nimble border art offers signs of the times, as oysters and Conestoga wagons give way to benzene, mercury, mobsters, and, later, the re-emergence of wildlife. The healthy comingling of urban and natural worlds in the final spreads makes this portrait especially poignant. Ages 5–8. (Mar.)
From the Publisher
The wetlands have retained their power to regenerate, a process that the book's beautiful watercolors bring to vivid life.” Los Angeles Times

“Yezerski not only can write a book on how to teach children about their environmental impact — he has.” –New York Times.com

“Thomas Yezerski's pleasingly presented history of this "flat, wet place in New Jersey" helps all of us see the workings of an estuary, spongy ground where a freshwater river meets the ocean tides.” –Chicago Tribune

“Thanks to picture books like Yezerski's, young readers can appreciate the complexity of an ecosystem in their own neighborhood.” –The Sacramento Bee

“Judicious ink and watercolor illustrations pair with tender prose …Yezerski paints a vivid history of the place where the Hackensack River meets Newark Bay, and where the Lenni Lenape lived for thousands of years…The healthy commingling of urban and natural worlds in the final spreads makes this portrait especially poignant.” –Starred, Publishers Weekly

"Although readers who know the Meadowlands personally will have a special interest in the topic, the idea of fostering and protecting plant and animal habitats in urban environments can resonate with a broad audience." –Starred, School Library Journal

“Yezerski adroitly captures the tensions and hope in the sometimes adversarial, sometimes beneficial relationship between humans and the environment in this marvelous ecological history of the Meadowlands of New Jersey, an estuary trapped in a dense industrial, commercial, and residential area.” –Starred, Horn Book

“Along with the portraits of active conservationists, including young people, who are working to protect the environment, the close-up views of the interconnectedness of each small creature will grab readers.” –Booklist

“A spectacular offering.” Kirkus Reviews

“The text handily covers the particulars, but keen, patient observers can “read” the ecological story through the illustrations alone.” –Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books

"This is a book they sit a long time with, examining the tiny drawings with care and interest.  I used this book with great success as a classroom read aloud and the teacher reported that the book got constant traffic for independent reading after that." —Bookends, Booklist blog

Children's Literature - Kirsten Shaw
Located in New Jersey, the Meadowlands is an estuary created by the Hackensack River. For centuries the 20,000 acres of marshland has provided a home to many different plants and animals as well as humans. Native Americans used the land to hunt, fish, and gather; but when Europeans settled the area in the 1800's it began an era of degradation and pollution. By 1960 the Meadowlands was a garbage dump overflowing with trash and toxic waste. Today, through the efforts of conservationists and the state government, the Meadowlands is slowly rebuilding and repairing itself, once again providing a home and food for many different plants and animals. Yezerski's passion for the Meadowlands comes through in his writing as he describes the shameful abuse and pollution of the area as well as its rejuvenation. Through Yezerski's striking watercolor sketches readers can see for themselves the unfortunate side effects of industrialization and the hopeful perseverance of Mother Nature. The story of the Meadowlands will inspire any budding conservationist and make children aware that our actions sometimes have unintended consequences. Reviewer: Kirsten Shaw
School Library Journal
Gr 2–5—Yezerski documents the fall and rise of the Meadowlands, an estuary in New Jersey where the Hackensack River reaches Newark Bay. When the Lenni Lenape lived there, more than 20,000 acres of marshes and bogs housed countless varieties of plants and animals. The wetlands' decline started when European settlers drained land and filled marshes. By the middle of the 20th century, the Meadowlands had sunk into a wasteland of polluted water, soil, and air. Since the state passed regulations in 1969 to stop industrial dumping and promote shopping, housing, and entertainment, the wetlands have made a slow recovery. Plants, insects, fish, and birds now coexist with humans. Yezerski notes the contributions of activists, businesses, governments, and volunteers in nourishing the change. Double-page illustrations are ringed by smaller related images along the outer edges of the pages. The view of mounds of burning trash and piles of junk at the Meadowlands' low point conveys a powerful message of environmental degradation. What is particularly striking about the views of the present is the juxtaposition of human activity with animal life. High-rise apartments, freight trains, and power lines can be seen from the newly restored areas where animals thrive. The goal is not displacement but coexistence. Although readers who know the Meadowlands personally will have a special interest in the topic, the idea of fostering and protecting plant and animal habitats in urban environments can resonate with a broad audience.—Kathy Piehl, Minnesota State University, Mankato
Kirkus Reviews
Once a vast wetlands west of New York City, home to Native Americans and extensive wildlife, New Jersey's Meadowlands was diked and drained by early European settlers and later developed and trashed. In the last 40 years, with dumping stopped and restoration begun, some wildlife has returned. Reminiscent of Lynne Cherry'sA River Ran Wild(1992) in its subject and design, this appealing story of environmental recovery is simpler in its text and even clearer in its illustrations. Beginning with the Lenni Lanape and ending with a 21st-century child on a field trip, Yezerski surveys human uses as well as the disappearance and reappearance of other forms of life. Detailed ink-and-watercolor illustrations stretch across double-page spreads. A straightforward narrative runs below, and the whole is framed with colored sketches of relevant objects and creatures, each meticulously drawn and helpfully labeled. One page shows industrial products and means of transport, another shows the varied contents of a trash mountain and a third the components of modern residential and commercial development. These are followed by pages showing marsh plants, worms and insects, some of the many varieties of fish that visit the waters, animals that live on the banks and birds that live there or stop by during migration. Though the area described is small, it is representative of wetlands in many parts of the country. The only flaw in this valuable addition to environmental-studies collections is the lack of compass rose on the oddly oriented title-page map. A spectacular offering nevertheless. (author's note, selected bibliography, websites)(Informational picture book. 6-10)
Pamela Paul
Just as some books that children find appealing make librarians want to yank their hair out, so other books guaranteed to please school librarians turn children's gazes toward the recess yard. Then there are the books that satisfy both, like Meadowlands…[which] is tremendously (but not intimidatingly) informative, fun to read and gorgeous to look at.
—The New York Times
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780374349134
  • Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux
  • Publication date: 3/1/2011
  • Edition description: First Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 40
  • Sales rank: 350,757
  • Age range: 5 - 8 Years
  • Product dimensions: 10.20 (w) x 9.10 (h) x 0.40 (d)

Meet the Author

Thomas F. Yezerski lived on the edge of the Meadowlands for twelve years. He walked, ran, drove, bussed, trained, and canoed its strange landscapes to make sense of it, and then wrote this story out of love for it. He is the author and/or illustrator of several children’s books, including Mrs. Muddle’s Holidays by Laura F. Nielsen, which Kirkus Reviews praised in a starred review, saying “Yezerski’s pen-and-ink watercolors are bright, warm and festive.” He lives in Hoboken, New Jersey.

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