By Trish Marx
Illustrations by Cindy Karp
What made you want to write a book on the Everglades?
We all need stories in our lives, and when I write a book, I want to tell a good story. There is no better story than the Everglades. The book begins with a quote from Jackie Stone, the fifth grade teacher at Avocado Elementary School — “In the whole world, there is only one Everglades.” The Everglades is teeming with life —alligators, panthers, thousands of amazing birds, wonderfully exotic fish, snakes, and insects, tiny snails, sharks, manatees, trees, flowers, and ferns. The list could go on forever. Unfortunately, the Everglades will not go on forever, unless kids today know about it and want to protect it. The readers of this book, as they grow older, will be the stewards of the Everglades, and they need to know its story. Then they can be part of the solution for protecting the only Everglades the world will ever have.
Tell us about Avocado Elementary School, its students and their involvement with the Everglades.
Avocado Elementary School is in Homestead, Florida, a town perched on the eastern edge of the Everglades. In fact, the land it is on used to be part of the Everglades, before it was drained for development. What better place to find the children who will help us tell the story? What is even more special about Avocado Elementary School is that one fifth-grade teacher there, Jackie Stone, loves the Everglades with a passion. For the past twenty or so years, she has taught a unit on it every year, which culminates with a field trip into the Everglades. I found out about this because Avocado School has a Web site devoted to their work with the Everglades. Check out their Web Site and see for yourself!
What role did reading and books play in your childhood?
As most writers, I read constantly as a child. Books and trips to the library, long afternoons reading in a patch of sunlight, reading curled in bed, late at night. . . .all these are powerful memories of the worlds these books opened up to me. So when it came to choosing a profession, books and writing were a natural. And because I have a background in journalism, I was most interested in learning and writing about our world today. I wanted to share stories with children who might not otherwise know about these places and events happening outside their immediate physical environment. That is why I write about children living in other countries, or children who have gone through tough times and survived, or important places that belong to all citizens, even the children, such as the Everglades. When I write, I think of what Richard Peck, who writes wonderful novels for young adults, said:“We write by the light of every book we have ever read.” So all of my past reading goes into each book I write.
Have you had a chance to share the book with children? What was their reaction?
I have gone into classrooms with Everglades Forever. We talk about the cover photograph — how the bird with the big wingspan, the Double Crested Cormorant, looks like it is protecting its home — the Everglades. And this is what the book is about — protection of a very vital place in America. The students get it immediately — the Everglades belongs to them, too, and they can help protect it! The discussions stem from their comments and questions. Kids today know so much about pollution — they amaze me with their insights and enthusiasm for the environment, and for wanting to be part of the process for fixing it. They also like the part about the Miccosukee Reservation. Sometimes they make their own Circle of Life pictures — they choose the colors that represent what is important in their lives. They write short poems or descriptions of what each color means, and how it all fits into the circle that makes up their life and environment. We talk about the words at the back of the book: brackish, ecosystem, food web, endangered. They understand that this book is about them, too.
What do you hope readers will take away from this book?
I hope this story about the Everglades will give children the power to be part of the solution for helping to save the Everglades. We also want children to know they can find wonderful wild places everywhere — even in the ponds and streams close to them, and see the mystery that lies in them. As a child growing up in Minnesota, I loved looking at the tiny, tiny life that abounds in any drop of wild water. They can find this, too. It’s a start to saving our world.
About This Title
Interest Level:Grades 3 - 7
Reading Level:Grades 4 - 4
Animal/Biodiversity/Plant Adaptations, Nature/Science, Nonfiction, Classroom Activities, Responsibility, Overcoming Obstacles, Multiethnic interest, Mentors, Friendship, Environment/Nature, Education, Childhood Experiences and Memories, Animals, Exploring Ecosystems, Gratitude, Human Impact On Environment/Environmental Sustainability , Informational Text, Leadership, Optimism/Enthusiasm, Persistence/Grit, Respect/Citizenship, Water
English Informational Text Middle School, Fluent Dual Language , Fluent English, Informational Nonfiction Grades 3-6, Appendix B Diverse Collection Middle School, Diverse Background English Collection Grades 3-6, Nonfiction Grades 3-6, Environmental Collection, High-Low Books for Preteens (Grades 4-6), Water Collection, Nonfiction Collection Middle School, Climate Justice, Appendix B Diverse Collection High School, Diverse Backgrounds Collection English 6PK, English Guided Reading Level V, High-Low Books for Teens: Middle and High School
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