Various, see each review.
Summary: In my ongoing Earth Day coverage, I wanted a post to focus on specific individuals who were passionate about different aspects of our natural world. Behold, an array humans that have made a difference throughout history (and one who definitely will be in the future).
Secrets of the Sea: The Story of Jeanne Power, Revolutionary Marine Scientist
First of all, Jeanne is a very cool lady. She was one of the first scientists to create an aquarium for study of live animals, and did so when she lived in Sicily! Jeanne also closely studied the paper nautilus, and was the first person to figure out that they created their own shell (unlike a hermit crab, who uses empty shells)!
But, as was typical for the time period, she wasn’t taken seriously as a naturalist and men attempted to take credit for her work. Once, all of her work sank when she tried to transport it by ship! Jeanne had to then spend several more years recreating what she had already researched, and did so diligently. Overall, this is a very cool biography and contains a huge list of sources with the back matter. There are some photos of the paper nautilus and Jeanne herself!
111 Trees: How One Village Celebrates the Birth of Every Girl
So I knew this book was amazing, but every time I read it I love it more and more. Seriously, how many picture books do you know that talk about eco-feminism?? 111 Trees tells the story of a man named Sundar, who lost his mother as a young child. After seeing how his job at a marble mine was destroying the environment and then losing his daughter to illness, Sundar thought long and hard about both environmentalism and gender inequality. Then, he came up with a plan.
He became an elected official and slowly began to convince his community that if they began to celebrate the births of girls in the village by planting trees, it would drastically improve everyone’s quality of life. Sundar also mandated education for girls, as well as insisting that they didn’t get married until they were 18. In the back of the book are some photos of the forest that Sundar and his community created, a photo of him, and additional information about eco-feminism and gender inequality. This is a phenomenal book and could be used in classrooms of any age!
Zonia’s Rain Forest
Zonia lives in the rainforest. She’s Asháninka, Peru’s largest Indigenous group. Everyday, she visits all of her animal neighbors joyfully. Zonia loves saying hello to all of the Amazonian critters, and can’t wait to introduce her baby brother to all of them.
However, one day on a walk home, Zonia runs into something unexpected. It’s not a snake or a leopard, or even anything alive. And that’s the worst part. Zonia has come across a swath of deforested land, and runs home to her human family. Her mother explains that the forest is still talking to her, but now in a different way than she is used to. Resolutely, Zonia vows to help her home.
I love the way that this book shows the pivotal moment for Zonia to become involved in climate justice. All activists have one; a moment when their eyes were opened and their worldview shifted. Although the author is Peruvian, she isn’t Asháninka, but has taken great care to learn and portray the group accurately. There is even a great YouTube video that you can watch here to learn more!
The Leaf Detective: How Margaret Lowman Uncovered Secrets in the Rainforest
Boy howdy do I relate to Meg Lowman, and I love how she’s directly quoted throughout this book. Meg was a shy child that described nature as a blanket she could wrap herself in, which is just so poignant.
Meg became one of the first scientists to study trees from up in the canopy, instead of just looking from the ground or collecting samples. She co-created the rope bridge with another scientist, and made visiting the rainforest and trees more accessible for folks. This in turn created more of a desire to save the forests around them, and help with deforestation. Meg immersed herself into the leaves, even learning that some live for as long as nineteen years! This book is absolutely jam-packed with biographical and scientific information, I pored over it for a long time. In the back are some photos of Meg, and the author talks about how she went to interview her and go climbing!
This book is necessary reading for any budding naturalist. The illustrations are beautiful and I love the strong feminist message. A fun fact I learned from the back matter is that Meg took her sons up in the canopy with her in harnesses when they were 3 & 4 years old, so they didn’t have to stay on the ground while she worked! What a rad mom!
Winged Wonders: Solving the Monarch Migration Mystery
Winged Wonders has a lovely winding flow to it, with lots of scientific data and different people across North America specifically named in helping solve the monarch migration mystery, which news broke of in 1976.
If you live across the monarch migration route, no doubt you’ve seen them fluttering around milkweed in the summertime. But did you know that we only recently learned where monarchs migrate to and from?
This book does a great job of both naming key individuals and empowering the reader that they can become citizen scientists and help track the butterflies. Author Meeg Pincus includes Canadian, Mexican, and American scientists; making very clear that people across the entire continent are needed to help solve and protect the monarch populations.