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Thursday, March 8, 2012

Rachel Carson and Her Book That Changed the World, written by Laurie Lawlor and illustrated by Laura Beingessner. Holiday House, Thomas Allen & Son. 2012. $19.99 ages 8 and up

"She did work performed by few women: counting deep-sea fish in foggy, dangerous currents south of Nova Scotia; observing reef animals in a special suit with an eighty-four-pound diving helmet off the coast of Florida; tracking alligators atop a rumbling 'glades buggy' in the swampy Florida Everglades."

Were it not for people like Rachel Carson who see what is wrong in our world and then do something about it, we would be in a more precarious position than we are today. This quiet, peaceful story about her life seems in keeping with her character and all that she did to make the world a better place through her love of nature and her dismay at the state of nature in the mid 1950s.

Were it not for people like Laurie Lawlor we would not be able to share such stories with our students, and our own children, to show them the strides made in human history because one person cared! This book is a most welcome addition to my growing list of picture book biographies that can be used in classrooms to bring history to life and to inform our young people about the many who have made a difference in our world.

Laurie Lawlor's story is an exploration of Rachel Carson and her development as both scientist and writer. She was always reading and exploring and her love of nature took her to college where she did a master's degree in biology, despite almost insurmountable difficulties. When her father died, she became the sole wage earner for an extended family and even adopted her niece's son at age fifty. Not only did she work at a full-time job and support that family, she continued to do important research and to write about it. She found remarkable connections:

"Once you are aware of the wonder and beauty of earth," she scibbled in her journal, "you will want to learn about it."

And learn about it she did, and then she taught all of us to appreciate the many wonders to be found in nature. In her books, she also cautioned us to take better care of the earth:

"As early as 1945, Rachel had read about studies of declining bird populations across the country. Each year researchers reproted fewer nesting and migrating birds. The more she investigated, the more alarmed she became."

That alarm lead her to write Silent Spring, a wake-up call to the world that changes needed to be made. In an epilogue the author shares this thought:
"Silent Spring not only saved many bird species; it also opened the minds of millions to what was considered to be a new concept at the time: what we do to the air, water, and soil directly affects us, future generations, and animals and plants that share the earth with us. Rachel Carson demonstrated how one committed person can make a difference."  BRAVO!

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