Make Earth Day a hopeful one with rousing outdoor and indoor activities, complemented by a colorful mix of fiction and nonfiction. One of my favorite picture books for ages 6 to 8 is Karen Lynn Williams’s Circles of Hope, set in Haiti. Williams, the author of many acclaimed multicultural picture books (Four Feet, Two Sandals, 2007; and Beatrice’s Dream, 2011), situates her simple tale of a boy’s struggle to keep a tree alive within the larger context of his homeland’s economic struggles. Facile decides to plant a mango tree for baby sister Lucia, but it turns out to be a difficult task. Goats eat the first sapling he plants … rain washes away the second … and a fire destroys the third. Then the observant boy realizes he can use stones to protect the tree, and hope blossoms. The illustrator, Saport, adeptly uses pastels of orange and yellow to depict Haiti’s sunny, dry hillsides and creates charming fat circles for the green trees, the rounded hills, and the stones surrounding more and more trees on the island. Williams closes her gentle story with “One year at a time, little circles of hope began to grow on the mountainsides of Haiti, and inside each circle grew a tree.” She supplies a fine teacher’s guide, as well, for her sensitive, positive story. Pair this with the nonfiction book This Tree Counts! to instill in children a greater appreciation for the importance of trees.
Older children (ages 8 to 10) adore the exciting and true story John Muir and Stickeen: An Icy Adventure with a No-Good Dog. John Muir initially feels a dog has no business on a treacherous expedition in Alaska. He changes his mind, though, when he and Stickeen become lost on a glacier during a storm, and the dog behaves courageously. Farnsworth’s splendid, realistic oil paintings heighten the reader’s awareness of the perilous, frozen landscape. This adventure tale provides children with a fabulous introduction to the remarkable American conservationist and founder of the Sierra Club.
For another aspect of John Muir, try Emily Arnold McCully’s Squirrel and John Muir, featuring the possible relationship between the real-life rebellious Floy Hutchings, nicknamed Squirrel, and John Muir, who inspired her love of nature.
- Muir Woods National Monument (sheryllrea.wordpress.com)