Imagine – One World, One Voice, One Topic…One Book

Today I am participating in Blog Action Day ’09 and the topic is Climate Change. The concept of over 8000 bloggers from all over the world all writing about the same topic on the same day in order to spark a worldwide discussion is any educator’s dream. One would think we could change the world with this action, right? Read more about this incredible event at http://www.blogactionday.org/.

As I considered what I would write about for my blog on this important and somewhat overwhelming day (Al Gore…the Smithsonian…Engineers are blogging!), I thought about the mission of forwordsbooks. I have always been about building a foundation of values for children (and adults) using quality children’s literature as a base. Can you think of a better way to start any discussion on any topic than with a good book? Since Torah is one of the best books I know, I will start with a very short D’var Torah (a word of Torah).

Is it a coincidence Blog Action Day ’09 – Climate Change so closely coincides with beginning our new Torah cycle? As we read, Bere’shit, this upcoming Shabbat morning, we will hear (in Hebrew, of course), “God said to them, ‘Be fertile and increase, fill the earth and master it; and rule the fish of the sea, the birds of the sky, and all the living things that creep on earth.’” (Genesis 1:28)  Further on we will listen to, “God took the man and placed him in the Garden of Eden to till it and to tend it.” (Genesis 2:15) Both of these verses remind me of the passage in Midrash, “See to it that you do not soil or destroy My world; for if you do, there will be no one else to repair it.” (Midrash Ecclesiastes Rabbah §1) There is certainly nothing like a good call to action from the Torah and our Rabbis to get things moving, wouldn’t you say? The human race seems to have the being fertile and increasing, mastering and ruling down pat, the tilling and tending, I am not so sure about. If several thousand years ago, an incredibly intelligent Rabbi interpreted the message as THERE WILL BE NO ONE ELSE TO REPAIR IT, why haven’t we been listening?

Not only that, those incredibly intelligent Rabbis gave us the values of Shomrei Haadamah (protecting the Earth) and Bal Tashchit (do not destroy or be wasteful). If that wasn’t enough, they provided the holiday of Tu B’Shevat (the Fifteenth of Av, commonly known as the Birthday of the Trees or the Jewish Arbor Day). Can you hear God now?

The books I am reviewing and recommending to you today will be helpful in discussions of those values, the holiday and the subject of Climate Change. However, in true forwordsbooks fashion, they will not hit you over the head with information so much as provide you and the children in your care with a place to start on their journey of discovery about the fascinating and important topic of Climate Change.

Measuring Angels

By Lesley Ely. Illustrated by Polly Dunbar. © 2008 Frances Lincoln Limited.

Ages 4-8

“Every blade of grass below has a guardian official above.” Zohar (Book of Enlightenment) Rabbi Moses ben Shem Tov de Leon

Measuring AngelsIn this charming and brightly colored book, a smart teacher uses sunflower seeds and flowerpots to help rebuild a friendship. A little girl, who used to be best friends with Sophie, is very unhappy when she finds out that she and Sophie are partners in the sunflower-growing contest. Their flower does not grow at all until…they begin talking nicely to it every day, and together with their friend Gabriel, create a beautiful angel to watch over it. Demonstrates the power of working together for a common cause and that every living thing needs tender loving care.

Miss Fox’s Class Goes Green

By Eileen Spinelli. Illustrated by Anne Kennedy. © 2009 Albert Whitman & Company.

Ages 4-8

Mrs Fox Goes GreenWhen Miss Fox rides her bike to school to help reduce air pollution, she starts a chain reaction that involves the students in her class and ultimately the entire school. There are many simple ideas for young and old to help reduce-reuse-recycle in school and around the house. This book would help begin a discussion of ways to help the environment in and around the classroom and at home.

Vegetable Dreams/ Huerto Soñado

By Dawn Jeffers. Illustrated by Claude Schneider. © 2006 Raven Tree Press.

Ages 4-8

Vegetable DreamsErin has a beautiful dream of planting a vegetable garden in her backyard. When she tells her parents about it and asks to create her own garden, they tell her she is too young for that responsibility. When her next-door neighbor, Mr. Martinez, learns of her dilemma, he offers to give her part of his garden and teach her everything she needs to know – but she must do the work. When Erin and her parents agree, a wonderful partnership begins.  This is a book about sustainable living, the gifts of intergenerational friendships and supporting our kids’ dreams. This book is bilingual English/Spanish

The Man Who Flies With Birds

By Carole Garbuny Vogel and Yossi Leshem. © 2009 Kar-Ben Publishing.

Ages 10-15

A unique and fascinating book about Israel’s history and wildlife through the lens of bMan Who Fliesird migration, the authors cover everything having to do with bird flight over Israel. Such subjects as the impact of birds on airplanes, the science of bird migration, the effect of global warming on bird nesting grounds, how birds fly, where birds fly, tracking bird travels, keeping birds safe, using birds for peace and ecological tourism are covered. This is an excellent place to look for ideas to give children interested in working to save the planet. A list of many resources in the back of the book provides additional research and connections.

The Kids’ Catalog of Animals and the Earth

By Chaya M. Burstein. © 2006 Jewish Publication Society.

Ages 9-14

As with all the Kids’ Catalogs, this is a comprehensive overview of what Kids Catalog Animals EarthJudaism has to say about taking care of planet earth and everything on it, in it and around it. It contains many kid-friendly activities from creating a compost pile to writing letters to Congress. Primarily, it is a well-written and understandable look at what is happening to the earth, the issues society must deal with and what kids’ can do about those issues.

This, of course, has been a very brief overview of books about Climate Change that I am currently reviewing or have reviewed. As Tu B’Shevat approaches (January 30, 2010) I will look for additional books to review and add to my forwords Catalog of Jewish Books. In the meantime, keep checking here for more book reviews and commentary on what is happening in the world of Jewish children’s books.

Happy Reading!

Kathy B.

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