Monday, January 30, 2017

Happy Book Birthday! Non-fiction Monday: Sea Otter Heroes: the predators that saved an ecosystem by Patricia Newman

Sea Otter Heroes: the predators that saved an ecosystem by Patricia Newman. 56 p. Millbrook Press/ Lerner Publishing Group, January 28, 2017. 9781512426311. (Review from finished copy courtesy of publisher.)

I will put this right out there - Sea Otter Heroes is a first purchase! The adorable sea otter who appears to be looking directly at the camera will lure your patrons/ students and the author's storytelling skills will keep them interested. Newman delivers another cogent, superb and influential book. The work of scientists is not a rusty, dusty litany of facts, figures and tedious lab experiments. Thanks to writers like Newman, Sy Montgomery, Pamela S. Turner, and more, young people can get up close and personal with real scientists and learn about a variety of careers in science. 

Sea Otter Heroes tells the story of a science mystery and the scientist who worked to solve it. Elkhorn Slough (pronounced slew), is an inlet that sits between Monterey and Santa Cruz in California. Farms surround the estuary and dump tons of pesticides and fertilizer into the waters. This practice has nearly decimated the growth of sea grass, an important plant in the marine ecosystem. The run-off is known as nutrient pollution and allows algae to thrive. This overpopulation of algae prevents photosynthesis and causes the death of sea grass. This, in turn decimates the population of sea animals that rely on sea grass for food and shelter. It also impacts humans in the form of coastal erosion. For some reason, the sea grass population in Elkhorn Slough has recovered and marine biologist Brent Hughes set about studying why this happened. Just how do otters fit into this remarkable recovery? Read Sea Otter Heroes to find out.

Thanks to the publisher/ art department for the beautiful design of this volume. There's plenty of "white" space. It's actually pleasing shades of blues with watery borders. There is at least one full-color photograph, map, or diagram on each page. Pages are also broken up by inserts like "Otterisms: Built to Hunt," which convey easily digestible facts about the otter or "Seagrass Science: What is a Trophic Cascade?"

A double-page spread entitled, "Rethink Your Relationship with Wildlife" offers suggestions for young readers that are easy to start the minute they close the book. Pages containing source notes and a glossary are followed with a two-page selected bibliography. A page with books and websites that young readers might explore and an index round out this important book.

I have mentioned that this is a first-purchase book already. Now, more than ever, we need to nurture young readers' fascination with animals and nature. There is so much at stake. We need to educate and inspire our students to be curious critical thinkers and champions of the environment and more. 

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