Visit Susanna Leonard Hill’s Perfect Picture Books page for a complete list of perfect picture books and links to resources and activities.
Title: Rachel Carson: Preserving a Sense of Wonder
Written by Joseph Bruchac and illustrated by Thomas Locker
Fulcrum Publishing 2004
Suitable for ages 8+
Themes: ocean, biology, conservation
“ Once there was a child whose love of nature would one day lead her to write a book that changed our world…” Rachel Carson knew she wanted to be a writer, but she first studied biology at the Pennsylvania College for Women. She later moved to the coast of Maine where she wrote about the wonders of the sea. Carson is well known for writing The Sea Around Us and The Edge of the Sea, but the book that she wrote in 1962 called Silent Spring is her most famous and influential work. This book alerted the public to the dangers of the chemical spray DDT to fragile ecosystems. Thanks in large part to Rachel’s book, the widespread use of the pesticide was banned in the United States. “Because of Rachel and her powerful words for nature, the rivers of our land now flow cleaner, the songbirds still sing from the apple trees, and the fish still swim in Rachel’s beloved sea.”
Links to resources:
Why I like this book: I found this book quite by accident yesterday as I was helping a student locate a biography about George Washington Carver. (Carver-Carson!) I had never heard of Rachel Carson, and I was impressed by the beautiful painting on the cover. The story of Rachel’s life is written in a succinct and poetic manner. Locker’s landscape paintings of Rachel and the ocean are breathtakingly beautiful. I could smell the salty ocean air as I turned the pages.
In the story a “chemical spray” threatens to destroy the earth’s interconnected ecosystems. The term “DDT” is never mentioned. I was intrigued so I conducted a bit of research of my own. I learned the name of the chemical, its uses, and its detrimental affects to nature. I think this book could be used to introduce children to the concept of interconnection in nature and nature conservation. Children are curious and will most likely want to conduct their own research on this bit of history.
Finally, I am impressed that one writer (and a woman in 1962!) and one book had such an impact on the chemical industry. Other factors surely played a role in ending the use of DDT, but Carson’s book was no doubt a large player.