Simple is the best way to describe this little book.
Simplicity of design, text, and color earmark a tight little alphabet book that celebrates the earth and all its creatures.
There are no overt messages here about being ecologically aware, or about celebrating the Earth Day holiday. Each two-page spread introduces animals, plants, and insects with fresh, crisp illustrations. Alliteration creates a rhythm for words often grouped in surprising ways, like "bumblebees, bananas, blueberries and beagles." (I have to say I have never considered blueberries and beagles in the same sentence before).
Given the readability rating for a sampling of the text (9.9 on Flesch-Kincaid grade scale) this is a book for reading aloud to a child rather than one which a young child would read alone. Reading aloud offers opportunities to teach early literacy skills on each page. The reader might ask the child, "What other words do you know that start with B?" or, "What color is the elephant?" Large letters at the top of each page can be traced with little fingers to learn the letters' shapes, and the sounds of the letters could be practiced .
A slight disappointment is that some words are not illustrated; there are no raspberries on the page with the "R" words, and no nasturtium on the "N" page, for example, even though these words are included in the text. A young child would probably have no idea what a nasturtium looks like, so a learning opportunity is lost on pages that include words that are not illustrated.
With a title like Earth Day, I would have expected a page or two at the end of the book explaining the Earth Day holiday and its significance, or some suggestions for enjoying nature with a young child. Such information would have enhanced the book's value to caregivers, parents and educators.
Earth Day is a gentle, easy read celebrating the diversity of life. The book's enjoyment can be enhanced with early literacy techniques and activities to develop a child's understanding of language, and with nature activities to extend the awareness of our earth and its living creatures.
Written by Gary Kowalski
Illustrator: Rocco Baviera
Published by Unitarian Universalist Association, May 2009
Age Range: 4 to 8
For ideas on exploring nature with a young child check out these websites:
Family Fun Magazine article on outdoor activities
Canadian Child Care Federation's article on Exploring Nature with Children
Exploring Nature.org offers pages of information and activities for children
Project Wild offers a printable brochure of ideas
The Sierra Club's website includes a section that addresses "what can I teach my child about the environment?"