Rebecca L. Johnson writes award-winning nonfiction for children and young adults about scientific discoveries and the scientists who make them. She hopes her books will inspire new generations of scientists by introducing readers to some of the remarkable species with whom we share the planet. Learn more at www.rebeccajohnsonbooks.com. Phyllis Saroff is a freelance illustrator located in Annapolis, Maryland. Her illustrations have been used in books and magazines for children, and her scientific illustrations appear on displays in wildlife management areas across the country. Phyllis also paints fine art and portraiture. She is represented by McBride Gallery in Annapolis, Maryland.
Deserts. The word conjures images of towering sand dunes, unrelenting heat, and extremely dry conditions with little plant or animal life. In reality, the only characteristic rocky, sandy, cold, and hot deserts share is lack of moisture. The first section of titles considered here encourages readers in elementary and middle grades to look at deserts more closely. They can spend the day in the Sonoran Desert with an artist who creates A Desert Scrapbook, and they can learn that 'gross' animal adaptations help ensure survival. Some books, such as Camels, concentrate on specific animals while others, like The Dry Desert: A Web of Life, consider interconnections within the biome.
Although not as dry as deserts, grasslands also lack abundant moisture. Whether waiting for a turn to drink from a water hole or for dark clouds to release rain on Kapiti Plain, grassland animals depend on water for survival. While reading books in the second half of this roundup, students can encounter lions, learn about African elephants, discover how various species live together in Tree of Life: The World of the African Baobab, and sharpen their language-arts skills with African Acrostics, featuring savanna animals. People are part of the equation, too. Although some groups have lived in harmony with the desert for hundreds of years, contemporary societies need to deal with population growth, urbanization, climate change, and other destructive factors. The price of human mismanagement of an ecosystem can be high, as the history of United States grasslands demonstrates. Destroying prairie grasses that kept fertile soil in place and slaughtering grazing buffalo had disastrous consequences as both Saving the Buffalo and The Dust Bowl Through the Lens reveal.
Besides providing resources for units in science, ecology, and social studies, these titles foster a new appreciation for the diversity and complexity of biomes that cover vast sections of land around the world.
JOHNSON, Rebecca L. A Walk in the Prairie. illus. by
Phyllis V. Saroff. (Biomes of North America Series). Carolrhoda.
2001. PLB $23.93. ISBN 978-1-57505-153-6; pap. $8.95. ISBN
--School Library Journal