Monday, September 5, 2011

Nonfiction Monday: Meadowlands by Thomas Yezerski

Yezerski presents the history of the Meadowlands area of New Jersey from the time it was home to wildlife and the native Lenni Lenape, to its settlement, destruction, and pollution and finally to its resurrection as a place where a variety of wildlife lives side by side with people and their businesses, homes, and highways.

The story begins with a long-distance view of the Meadowlands from the Empire State Building. The illustrations and brief descriptions take us through the early days when the Lenni Lenape lived there to fur traders, settlers, loggers, and farmers. Then we jump ahead to the twentieth century when the area was completely industrialized and polluted by factories and mass transportation. There's a grim illustration of the Meadowlands as garbage dumps in the 1960s and we move on to the decision to turn the wasteland into a giant development. Chemical and garbage dumping was halted, but the land was built over. Only 7,000 acres remained of the 20,000 acre wetlands.

At this point, things get more cheerful! The author shows how, once pollution was halted, the land began to clean and restore itself. He shows the plants, birds, and other wildlife that returned to the wetlands and how people have helped and continue to help this natural resource coexist with humans through restoration, legislation, and education. The final spread shows the flight of a young osprey, the first time one had fledged in this area in fifty years. The book concludes with an author's note, bibliography, and suggested web sites.

Each illustration spread includes small inset pictures that show the many elements that coexist in the wetlands. Businesses, plants, animals, people, garbage, and more are shown in delicate drawings that will engross children who like details as well as a big picture.

Verdict: This is a fascinating story and would make a good read-aloud or independent reading for 1st grade and up. I liked the way Yezerski showed how humans and wildlife could coexist and how a combination of natural forces and human intervention restored the wetlands.

ISBN: 9780374349134; Published March 2011 by Farrar Straus Giroux; Borrowed from the library

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