Friday, May 10, 2013

Care For Our World

These last few weeks have been full of exciting holidays in Frances' Kindergarten class.  There was Earth Day, then Arbor Day before May Day came along.  She and the rest of her class are now very focused on recycling, becoming environmentally savvy and saving the earth.  Sometimes the message is a little garbled : "Mama, did you know that driving around town kills trees?"  "If you don't recycle your paper, animals will die."  But I can't fault her for her earnest words and the lesson she is trying to teach us.  And so it was a perfect time to introduce Care for Our World.

Care for Our World was nominated in the Nonfiction Picture Book category for the Cybils.  In the front jacket flap, a Punch-Out Play Set is advertised that comes with most copies of the book.  We did not receive the play set as part of our review process (it's sadly but reasonably against the rules), but I selfishly want that Punch-Out Play Set - it comes with a habitat box and animals to punch out, and it looks like so much fun!  Perhaps more fun for me to set up and play with than Frances and Gloria, but maybe not!  Gloria particularly is very interested in that kind of play.

We have read this book over and over in our house because of its ties to Frances' current curriculum.  It is a rhyming exhortation to young children to take care of the many, many things in our world.  Robbins asks children to care for each other, flowers, grass, the animals, fish and bugs.  I like the emphasis Robbins places on teamwork - that children cannot do this alone or just with one friend.  They must all come together to save Earth.  I also like that Robbins doesn't just value the animals, plants, and nature of our planet, she also emphasizes the value of supporting and caring for each other.

The rhyming text flows very naturally.  Each page follows a similar pattern - mostly a list of things children can and should care about.  Each page's list is organized into categories.  There is a spread about Australian animals - emus, kangaroos and wallabies; another page features fish, crabs and sharks.  This makes it easy for young readers to see these groups in their natural habitats, interacting with children and each other.

One of the things I love most about this books is its illustrations.  As I have noted before, I wish the illustrative style was noted in the CIP information in the front of the book.  There is certainly textured paper used in the illustrations, though, and it subtly reinforces the environmental theme.  Each double-page spread includes two children who are learning to care for their world.  On a page with a list of pets, a boy is cradling a hamster, and a girl is feeding a turtle and fish in a pond.  The children are observing nature, gently and with intention.  Their faces are friendly and open.  All of the animals, too, are friendly, cuddling with the children and other animals.  

There is only one illustration that I questioned.  The text on the page reads in part "...for black bears with cubs in deep winter sleep."  While part of the illustration does show a cut-away of bears hibernating in a den, there is no snow to indicate winter at all.  In fact, on the left-hand side of the page, the boy paddles his feet in a small pond - something that would never happen in winter.

But the illustrations and book design are elegant without being too sophisticated for young readers.  In fact the whole book is perfectly aimed at bringing environmental awareness to young readers.  I could easily see it being used in Kindergarten classes at this time of the year.  We've used it to talk about caring for animals as well as the earth, since the past few weeks Frances has focused on the environment.  It helps young children, who are very self-centered, realize the sheer number of other things on the Earth which need their help.

One drawback to this book is that there is no back matter - something that would help this book extend further in a classroom.  While Robbins is bringing nature and our world to children's attention, it would have been useful to provide a list of resources or ways children could help care for their world.  There are many things that could have been added to the book, including additional information about the animals in the book or information about endangered species.  Back matter would move this from picture book more solidly into nonfiction.

This book is still impactful for young children, even without the additional resources.  They can realize their efforts and how they can help care for our world.  It can be a conversation-starter for families and classes alike.  It can help spur young children into action.

Care for Our World.  Written by Karen Robbins; illustrated by Alexandra Ball.  Compendium, 2011.

Note: I am on the Cybils Nonfiction Picture Book panel, but this blog post does not represent the committee's thoughts about the book.  It only represents my personal ideas and thoughts.

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