Monday, April 11, 2011

Mix N' Match Monday: Oil Spills

It's been nearly a year since the Gulf Coast Oil Disaster.  Unfortunately, for the people, plants, and animals that live along that coast, the disaster is far from over.  At best it will take years, even decades, for the ecosystem to even begin to recover.  Despite the best efforts of thousands of people, the ecosystems involved will never truly be the same.  It is hard to help students understand a disaster of this magnitude.  But here are a couple of books that do a decent job of helping students understand what happened.

Roscoe and the Pelican Rescue
by Lynn Rowe Reed
Holiday House, 2011
Grades K-5
Reviewed from personal copy

Tony is thrilled to be visiting his cousin Addison for the summer.  He especially wants to visit the beach.  But his cousin and her family live in Louisiana and the Gulf Coast Oil Spill has forced the closure of the beach.  Tony and Addison are horrified when, Roscoe, Addison's dog, finds an oil-covered pelican on the beach.  With the help of Addison's parents and a local rescue operation, the pelican's are cleaned and released into an uncontaminated ecosystem.

This book gives the reader a glimpse into the devastation caused by the oil spill.  The writing does a good job of sounding like a child facing something he/she doesn't really understand.  The illustrations also have a very childlike feel to them, which I think, is the point.  The book seems like it could have been written and illustrated by a child, giving a child's point-of-view.  This book could provide a discussion starter or a good introduction to the more detailed book that I review below.

Oil Spill! Disaster in the Gulf of Mexico
by Elaine Landau
Millbrook Press, 2011
Grades 3 and up
Reviewed from copy provided by publisher through NetGalley

Landau presents a pretty balanced overview of the disaster.  She starts by giving an overview of what caused the disaster.  She follows that up by explaining how BP and others worked to stop the leak and clean up the mess.  The devastating effects of the spill are presented, the photos in this section are especially powerful. The last chapters discuss what has been done by the thousands of volunteers to help the plants, animals, and people hurt in the disaster.  At the end, the author lists several things that children can do to help and a brief history of other major oil spills.

The strengths of this book include the clear writing, the diagrams, and most of the photographs.  The cover is especially powerful I think.  I also appreciated the map which aids the reader in understanding just how big the disaster was/is.  The brief history of past oil spills that helps put this disaster in perspective and allows the reader compare this oil spill to others of a similar size.  This could also lead to research into recovery strategies. The glossary, source notes, index, and further reading lists are appreciated.  The resources listed are mostly age appropriate.

The book does have a few weaknesses. First, there is the suggestion that President Obama is the one who came up with the idea of exploring alternative energy sources.  Alternative energy sources have been explored for decades and will continue to be long into the future. One of the main problems with alternative energy is the costs involved for the benefit received, but this is mentioned only indirectly.  Another problem is that the photographs that were clearly taken under water are confusing, it's hard to tell what is what.  More detailed labeling would have helped.

All in all the book presents a clearly organized and easy to follow description of the disaster and some of the consequences that all of us will have to live with, most especially the plants, animals, and people who live along the Gulf Coast.

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