Monday, April 27, 2015

Non-Fiction Monday: When Rivers Burned: the Earth Day Story by Linda Crotta Brennan

When Rivers Burned: the Earth Day story by Linda Crotta Brennan. Illustrated by Lisa Greenleaf. Once, In America series. 80 p. Apprentice Shop Books, LLC, January, 2012. 9780984254996. (Purchased)

I discovered this while perusing the list of Outstanding Science Trade Books that the National Science Teachers Association issues yearly. I've been trying to beef up the collection in the area of the environment to support the science curriculum. 

The lovely cover and catchy title should be enough of a lure but this is no lightweight covering of the topic. Students should be prepared to read an in-depth reporting of the movement, which was the brain-child of Senator Gaylord Nelson. First, Brennan sets the stage by providing a bit of historical context - unregulated pesticide use, rampant dumping of waste into rivers by large companies, billowing smokestacks poisoning the air. Next, readers learn about Gaylord Nelson, WWII veteran who as the Governor of Wisconsin began a state-funded program of buying open space and preserving it as wilderness. In 1962, he ran for the U. S. Senate and won. He soon found that his colleagues in the Senate knew little about environmental issues. He set to work convincing President Kennedy that he should make a conservation tour. Unfortunately, other political events got in the way. Nelson persevered and, after convincing college student, Denis Hayes to spearhead the national campaign, the very first Earth Day was celebrated on April 22, 1970.

Other early environmental activists are highlighted, including Rachel Carson and Paul Ehrlich, making this an ambitious undertaking for an 80-page book and perhaps lending to some abrupt shifts (I actually thought I skipped a page at one point.) The photos were all well-captioned save one.  

The photographs, both black and white and full-color are at turns fascinating and appalling. There are also maps and photographs of newspaper headlines as well. Plenty of text-boxes add to the interest. The book also contains illustrations, which, while competently done were not really necessary given the plethora of photos. Several timelines, a glossary, index and photo sources conclude the volume. Curiously, there were no suggestions for further reading. 

Still, this history is an important addition to any classroom or school library.       

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