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Each Living Thing

; illustrated by Ashley Wolff Harcourt. 2000. $16, £13.95

Wild and Free

Watts: 1998. £4.99

Going, Going, Gone

Oxford University Press: 2000. £5.99


Henry Holt: 2000. $16.95

I Want To Be An Environmentalist

Harcourt: 2000. $18 (hbk), $ (pbk)

Planet Zoo: One Hundred Animals We Can't Afford to Lose

; illustrations by Alan Marks Orion: 2000. £20

In October, the first world championships for young environmental researchers brought 143 participants from 73 countries to the finals at EXPO 2000 in Hanover. WYRE — Worldwide Young Researchers for the Environment — was a joint initiative of Stiftung Jugend forscht, the organization that runs Germany's annual youth science contest, and the Deutsche Bank. It had a considerable variety of subject matter, evidenced by titles such as “Baby salamanders in danger”, “Where plants still eat meat”, “Day-trippers and flying mammals”, “Plastics from kitchen waste”, and “Making quarries green again”. However, all participants had two things in common; their dedication to improving their local environment and the belief that all individuals, including children, could make a difference.

The majority of participants indicated that their interest in environmental problems stemmed from a parent or teacher, who not only served as a resource person but also directed them to the appropriate reading material. Here are six books in the environmental field which I believe meet the need to stimulate these fertile young minds. This opinion is shared by my 12-year-old assistant Lara Cusson, whose rankings out of 10 are included at the end of each section.

Each Living Thing is an excellent book for pre-school children, underlining the importance of actually respecting all living creatures. This is very cleverly done using examples such as insects, snakes and jellyfish, species normally eliciting an 'ugh!' reaction. The illustrations are excellent and lend themselves to 'what else do you see?' questions. (9/10)

Wild and Free, also aimed at younger children, discusses species in danger of extinction, each of which is rather successfully associated with a child from the country of origin. For example, Chen the Chinese boy does not want a world without pandas and would like to see them living wild and free. The illustrations are very good, and at the end there is a world map showing the location of the countries discussed. (9/10)

Going, Going, Gone addresses the idea of species extinction, aimed at children of 8–12 years. This book contains a lot of good information on subjects such as the appearance of life on Earth, the idea that species have gone extinct in the past, and our ability to gain information about them from the fossil record and from species considered as living fossils. The 'did you know?' and 'true or false?' sections throughout are a definite plus and the illustrations are of high quality (8/10).

Garbage (age 12+) gives an excellent account of the accumulation of garbage and its subsequent treatment using landfills or incinerators. It then gives examples of environmentally sound alternatives for waste recycling, including practical information on composting. The accompanying photographs are really excellent (7/10).

I Want To Be An Environmentalist is one in a series of books that discuss different career paths, aimed at a teenage audience. A diversity of related issues are addressed, such as types of environmentalist, what are the eco-issues, the history of environmentalism and famous environmentalists. This book has a strong US bias, but it contains much useful information, so I would recommend it. (9/10)

Planet Zoo: One Hundred Animals We Can't Afford to Lose (age 12+) offers a brilliant choice of species, from cuddly chimpanzees to the 'who really cares' no-eyed big-eyed wolf spider that's as bizarre as its name. Furthermore, the species occur in a diversity of habitats: marine and terrestrial, tropical to arctic. Each case makes the point that, when considering biodiversity, all species and all habitats matter. At the end are ten conservation success stories, to emphasize that we should not lose faith in our efforts to save endangered species. A nice touch is the choice of Homo sapiens as the hundredth species, with a reminder that we are just one species on this planet, interdependent on many others, and that our own survival is dependent on us changing our ways. (10/10)

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