Monday, February 9, 2015

Nonfiction Monday: Buried Sunlight: How Fossil Fuels have Changed the Earth by Molly Bang and Penny Chisholm

I didn't realize this was a series! I read and loved Ocean Sunlight, but somehow missed a couple other titles along the way. Today, I'm looking at Buried Sunlight.

Beginning with dark blue endpages, speckled with starry points of light, this lovely book explains fossil fuels in a simple, accessible way. The sun, who acts as the narrator, explains how its energy is trapped in plants through photosynthesis and then hidden deep under the earth. That energy is accessed when we burn the fuels. A sense of the eons of time required to build up fossil fuels is shown in the friendly language and art, showing the slow build up of tiny, sparkling motes of energy, shown in little explosive stars of light against the black strata under the earth. The second half of the book explains how the rapid use of the fuels it took so long to build up damages the planet and atmosphere and causes changes, first small and later likely to be severe, to occur. Simple graphs show how the normal changes in the planet's atmosphere are disrupted and happening far more rapidly than ever before. The final pages blaze with the sun's light as it asks "Will you work together to use my ancient sunlight more slowly, to find other sources of energy, and invent ways to thin the blanket of CO2? The choice is yours."

Three pages of extensive notes expound on the concepts introduced, offering more information to parents and children who want to learn more. Some of the other reviews I looked at criticized the book for not offering "things kids can do" and normally I would like to see that as an option, to keep titles like this from being too scary and depressing for their readers, but in this case I don't think that's needed. First of all, I would agree with Paul Fleischman in his latest title for teens, Eyes Wide Open that making it sound like recycling will save the earth is too simplistic, even for kids (seriously, one book I read suggested kids write on both side of the paper to save the earth. Uh, really?). Secondly, this title has a matter-of-fact, scientific tone that informs without being frightening or overly dramatic. This would be a good book to start with to teach kids the scientific concepts behind why we recycle, walk or bike when possible, use public transportation (if the option is available), conserve water, keep the heat or a/c off when possible, or whatever other environmental measures are right for your family.

Verdict: This is the best explanation of fossil fuels for young listeners and readers that I've seen - it even made sense to me! The text is clear and interesting and the inspired illustrations richly complement the text. A definite must-have for your collection.

ISBN: 9780545577854; Published 2014 by Blue Sky Press; Borrowed from another library in my consortium; Added to the picture books/neighborhoods backlist for future ordering.

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