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E is for Environment: Stories to Help Children Care for Their World by I. J. Corlett

Corlett, Ian James. E is for Environment: Stories to Help Children Care for Their World- At Home, At School, and At Play. New York: Atria Books, 2011. Print.

This collection of 26 short stories was inspired by the author’s friends Matt and Stephanie, who ran around the perimeter of North America bringing environmental messages to schools. Their adventure sets the stage for the book when main characters Elliot and Lucy attend one of their sessions. Corlett brings their message of environmental awareness and conservation to elementary school-aged children in an accessible way.

Each chapter is preceded by a full-page image by Canadian illustrator R.A. Holt. Each two-page story focuses on an everyday activity such as playtime or preparing school lunches. A question is posed to get kids thinking about changes Elliott and Lucy can make to help keep the planet a little healthier. Unfortunately, many of the explanations of why change is necessary are either lacking or non-existent. For instance, why is it important to reduce carbon dioxide emissions? This concept might be a difficult one for young children to comprehend without an explanation. Once the answer is given, other questions are presented for discussion and to encourage action. Each chapter ends with a couple of factual statements and a quotation. Families are meant to read the book together and then discuss. A child reading alone would not benefit as much from the prompting questions, as there would be no opportunity for discussion.

The messages are short and simple and the language used is generally natural and informal. Though many of the environment-specific words are defined, others like ‘global warming’ would benefit from explanation. There are a few witty word choices with chapter titles that parents will appreciate (one is a reference to a Joni Mitchell song!) The quotations are eclectic from a variety of individuals, but some seem too mature for inclusion in a children’s book. Many are also unrelated to the environment.

Though both the author and the illustrator are Canadian, all measurements referred to are American (miles, gallons, degrees Fahrenheit). Conversions should have been included in brackets. In the story about doggy dirt, the author recommends composting dog waste to put in the garden. Another story encourages vegetable gardening. It was not made clear that pet wastes should not be used on plants intended for human consumption because of the risk of spreading disease. Despite this safety concern, the book presents a wide variety of small changes that all families can make to reduce, reuse, recycle, and help keep the planet green.

Recommended: 3 out of 4 stars
Review: Trish Chatterley

Trish is a Public Services Librarian for the John W. Scott Health Sciences Library at the University of Alberta. In her free time she enjoys dancing, gardening, and reading books of all types.