Wednesday, February 10, 2021

THE LEAF DETECTIVE: A Picture Book Review

 Congratulations to Rosi Hollenbeck, my California blogger counterpart, who won Buzzing With Questions from last week's blog.

This week I'm excited to be a part of a blog tour for a marvelous new picture book, The Leaf Detective by Heather Lang.  

Lang's passion for the life and work of Margaret Lowman is clearly communicated through the beautiful language in her free verse poetry. Outstanding illustrations by Jana Christy enhance the book's impact on young readers in this terrific picture book biography. 

"We are part of our ecosystem, not outside it." Margaret 'Canopy Meg' Lowman. 


This is the first picture book biography I've read that opens with information about the character as an adult and then flashes back to her childhood. Here is the opening:

Meg loved how leaves

  burst into the world 

      and unfurled. 

She admired their different shapes, 

colors, and textures. 

After twenty years of thinking about them, 

   reading about them, 

      studying them, 

Meg wanted to understand them, 

to discover their stories. 

How did they survive? 

   How long did they live? 

      Why did they die?

The author then takes a step back into Meg's childhood in Elmira, New York. A shy child, Meg found "comfort and friendship and quiet excitement in plants."

"Meg wrapped herself in nature,
like a soft blanket."

As a young woman, she "fed her passion with science" in college--despite the fact that one professor didn't allow her to take his class because she was a woman. 

Meg "stuck like sap" to her passion and went to graduate school in Sydney, Australia to study the rainforests.

Using seat-belt straps,
Meg sewed a harness.
From a metal rod,
she welded a slingshot.

This was no easy feat. It took many tries but,

At last, splashed with flowers and sunlight--
   the canopy!
The treetop swayed
   back and forth.
Flies whizzed.
Lizards lingered.
A black weevil sucked leaf juices.
Sweat bees landed on her arm
for a lick of salt.
And the jungle's music danced all around her.

The rain forest had never been studied from within. Meg was thrilled to explore this new frontier--even people said women didn't climb trees! 

Leaf facts like these add more information to each page:

"By the 1970's, deforestation, the clearing of forests by humans, had become a serious problem in Australia and around the world. Scientists guess that more than half of our forests have already been destroyed."

She explored the stinging tree.
It defended itself--
its pincushion leaves tore at her skin,
and chemical hairs injected poisons with a fiery sting!

Meg tried to climb at night,
but dangling from a rope, studying leaves,
is difficult
and dangerous 
in a dark forest
    with deadly snakes
         and spiders
               and ravenous biting ants. 

She had to find a better way, but what?

Then one night,
at one of her research sites,
she and a friend had a brilliant idea--
a trail through the treetops
made with ladders instead of ropes.

Meg helped invent the world's first canopy walkway!

Meg's work had only begun. She traveled to Cameroon, Africa, where she joined a team of scientists who used a hot air balloon to place a raft in the treetops!

At the top of the canopy, Meg realized that she wanted to work on conserving rainforests. She returned to Cameroon and helped the villagers learn how to use the rainforest's gifts, like ferns and orchids, rather than cutting them down. In Western Samoa, she helped set up canopy tourism. In Ethiopia, she persuaded people to protect their trees by building stone walls. 

Meg used her voice
to inspire people
to save their rainforests
to save themselves
  because to Meg, a tree is not just a tree.

It is a shelter for animals and people,
a recycler and provider of watner,
a creator of food and oxygen,
an inventor of medicine,
a soldier against climate change.

It is essential for life on earth.


Heather Lang included an extensive author's note which includes her  experience meeting Meg and going on a climb with her in Peru!

Heather and Meg in 2017

There is a beautiful two-page spread of the rain forest that shows the plants, trees, animals, and insects at each level. The resource page includes a bibliography, videos, and source notes.


This book will make a superb addition to any K- 5th grade home or school library. It will inspire students to conserve natural resources and teach them how you can write about science in a lyrical manner! 

Click here to find the curriculum guide. 

No giveaway this week. I'm saving this one for my grandchildren.
Watch this video, and you'll want to order your own copy!


Lois said...

What a fascinating book. So cool that the author met Meg. I'm sending your review on to my kids so they can pick up the book for my grandchildren. Thanks, Carol.

Danielle H. said...

Books like this always make me say "wow" over and over. Thanks for introducing me to this wonderful book. I'm hoping my library has a copy.

Carol Baldwin said...

Thanks for recommending this book to your kids, Lois. And Danielle--if your library doesn't have it, ask them to order it!

Rosi said...

This looks like an exceptional book. Thanks for telling me about it. I will be checking it out. I will pass on the giveaway since I just won another terrific book from you!

Carol Baldwin said...

It IS Exceptional. I hope you get a copy to review too, Rosi.

Deb Bartsch said...

Looks extraordinary! I can't wait to get this book to share with my nature loving grands! Thanks for the review, and what a story of strength, perseverance and beautiful tree leaf joy!

Carol Baldwin said...

Thanks Deb. I say yes! to everything you just said!

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