Minor’s elegant watercolor paintings offset the finger-wagging environmental message of this collaboration between Shore and Alexander, which reprises the “House-That-Jack-Built” rhythms of This Is the Dream and This Is the Game. Unspoiled natural vistas—animals idling on the savannah, fish leaping from a pristine river, birds soaring in a clear sky—lead into images of indigenous peoples and American pioneers harvesting food and tending to livestock, in harmony with the land. The tone darkens substantially as industrialization brings advances in transportation, factories, and other development that pollutes the air, land, and water. Minor (Galápagos George) provides images of overflowing landfills, orange wastewater pouring into the sea, and loggers ravaging a rainforest: “This is the Earth, polluted by greed,/ as we take what we want, which is more than we need.” The mood lightens in the final pages as the focus turns to solutions, and Minor shows contemporary children and adults recycling, biking, and tending to gardens and trees. Minor’s precise renderings of wildlife and flora are characteristically lovely, but the juxtaposition of major environmental problems and simplistic, child-friendly solutions is jarring. Ages 4–8. (Feb.)
This Is the Earth explores hundreds of years of changing landscapes and the positive and negative impacts humans have had on the environment. Even the smallest actions can help save the world, and this lyrical, rhyming read-aloud text shows how smart and simple everyday habits can protect the planet.
K-Gr 3—This noteworthy picture book—a mix of verse, paintings, history, and environmental science—demonstrates the impact humans have had upon Earth. The book opens by describing land that is "fertile" and "alive" with rivers "streaming with fish." Soon, Earth begins to show the effects of industrialization. Roads and buildings cover the view of land and sky, garbage piles up in landfills, and pipes drain wastewater and muck into seas. Yet with a surprising page turn, readers learn of a brighter possibility—one in which acts of respect and caring for our planet help us live in harmony with nature. Simple actions such as recycling, using less water, and turning off lights when they aren't needed are presented as choices children can make to help improve the situation. The text is written entirely in verse, making the book a solid option for a read-aloud or for children to present as readers' theater. Minor's detailed watercolor spreads strongly support the writing by emphasizing Earth's natural beauty, the effects of industrialization on the environment, and the bright outcomes of treating the natural world with respect. The endpapers, which depict an illustrated version of "Earthrise" (a photograph of Earth taken from space by Apollo 8 astronaut William Anders), reinforce the book's positive message. An authors' note and an illustrator's note highlight the simple steps kids can take to go green. VERDICT A fine selection for reading and sharing, with curriculum connections to science, social studies, and language arts.—Myra Zarnowski, City University of New York
A beautiful natural world, spoiled by modern industrialization, can be restored through "green" activities. In this misguided picture book, initially cheerful rhyming stanzas with "The House That Jack Built" cadence introduce the glories of our natural world, and then they go on to show its degradation and to suggest simple methods for people to help. Minor begins his series of gorgeous watercolor images with the iconic portrait of Earth from space. This is followed by a series of three "peaceable kingdom" spreads showing animals sharing the savannah, salmon leaping from a river, birds soaring, and Native Americans living in harmony with their world. These give way to agriculture, the introduction of transportation infrastructure, and a busy city-street scene with cars and workers. Then comes the upsetting part, developmentally out of sync with young readers and listeners, who are more likely to be overwhelmed by the images than galvanized by them: a landfill, a sewage pipe emptying into the ocean, a smoky steel-mill floor, a rain forest being despoiled, and melting Arctic glaciers. "Fumes and exhaust choke the air that we breathe, / endangering nature, creating despair." No amount of recycling, riding bicycles, releasing turtles, turning off lights, and using reusable bags is going to cure these large problems. It is dishonest to suggest they will. The inaccurate premise of this book appears in the authors' note: " 'Going green' can be easy." Not really. Fantasy in history and prescription, missing its intended audience and everybody else. (Picture book. 4-8)
Shore, Alexander, and Minor have created an ode to the earth.