Reviewed by Cindi Smith-Walters
This 'Freestyle' book is one of a series focusing on the environment. This book looks at how waste and pollution can overwhelm natural processes, the benefits and limitations of reducing waste, reusing what we can, and recycling what we cannot reuse. Lastly it examines action that is currently being taken locally to ease pollution levels, and issues that arise from proper disposal. A key element woven throughout is the idea of personal responsibility—where students are asked to address the problems. This book is well written and contains suggestions to the reader for carrying out personal research, finding out more, and asks ‘what would you do’ about particular problems and issues.
Each time the page is turned, readers find a "Word Bank" at the bottom of the right hand page. This word bank quickly defines and showcases words that are introduced on the two facing pages. This bright spot for the struggling reader is also somewhat of a conundrum. New vocabulary is introduced so quickly within the text that for the less than proficient the book is quite challenging. Raintree lists the book as a Level S which translates to approximately fifth grade, at which time a reader should be fairly fluent. For the inexpert student or the student who does not have English as their first language the book may prove to be so stressful to read they will put it down and walk away. In that case a classroom teacher could make better use of the book as a resource for one or more lessons or even a unit on humans and the environment; reading selections as appropriate to reinforce content and/or engage students rather than using it as a stand–alone. An alternative use would be as a ‘student choice’ reader for a classroom library, or extra reading for students who are interested in the topic.
Case studies like the Chernobyl and Bhopal disasters, rapid industrialization of China, and smog in Mexico City are included and examined within the text. These case studies do a good job of highlighting the fact that we all share the same world and how these issues, even those far away geographically, can affect us all. Along with the case studies students find ‘What would YOU do?’ boxes that pose questions and ask the reader to think more deeply about the situation and consider possible solutions. The last pages have been dedicated to possible solutions and answers to the growing problem of worldwide pollution and waste generation. At the very end is a section students will particularly enjoy that is devoted to "Facts and Figures" about oil spills, a list of "World’s top five most polluted places", "Friends of the Earth’s Top Tips for Reducing Waste" and the "World’s Smoggiest Cities."
Educators will appreciate the glossary of terms, additional books on the subject, suggested websites of interest, and an index. There are a few items within the text that would need to be clarified for young readers; the fact that coal is still used as a major power source in many countries is one such element. Page six of the book leads the less experienced person to believe that coal was only used in the 1800’s as a power source. The section on composting found on page 10 refers to insects, worms, and bacteria as organisms that constantly break down plant and animal remains but does not refer at all to fungi, which are a major contributor to the recycling of nutrients. Other than a few less than clear notes, the book is one that will be useful to educators addressing a growing and important problem here in the United States and elsewhere. Reducing pollution and waste is a worldwide problem of which we are all a part.
Review posted on 6/13/2012