Woo Hoo! It’s time to Celebrate Our 2017 GREEN AUTHORs

Thanks to illustrator Jim Paillot for our wonderful GREEN AUTHOR icon!

At every Authors for Earth Day school visit, a generous A4ED participant willingly gives up their speaking fee to empower young readers. These generous gifts have long reach: Not only do they allow students to research environmental organizations and vote to determine which orgs deserve donations; not only do they provide fiscal support to essential non-profit causes; they also inspire classroom discussions, school reports, library book check-outs, and meaningful conversations at the family dinner table.

Some of our prestigious participants have provided these extraordinary benefits to several schools through the years (indeed, there have been over 125 A4ED school visits to date).

GREEN AUTHORS are authors and/or illustrators who have donated to environmental education through at least five annual Author for Earth Day school visits. This year we announce three new GREEN AUTHORs: Debbie Dadey, Barbara Gowan, and Brooke Bessesen. All of these women have been members of our coalition since 2010. And all have shared their talents to help pioneer the A4ED program.

Debbie Dadey (www.debbiedadey.com) is the best-selling author of 166 traditionally published children’s books, including the  series Mermaid Tales (which promotes ocean protection), Keyholders, and The Adventures of the Bailey School Kids. It’s no surprise that many of Debbie’s titles are enjoyed by reluctant readers, as she was an elementary teacher and librarian before becoming a children’s author. She still visits schools to inspire students to read and write—traveling as far as Cairo, Egypt to do it! In addition to participating in Authors for Earth Day, Debbie has written two  A4ED blogs. And as our Social Media Director, she champions our mission with upbeat environmental news and Facebook posts relating to our special events.

Barbara Gowan (www.barbaragowan.com) is a true environmental leader. After earning her biology degree from the University of Notre Dame, she shared her passion for the outdoors as a park naturalist. Now she is the award-winning author of six nonfiction books for young readers, including G is for Grand Canyon and Desert Digits. In 2013, D is for Desert was named an Outstanding Science Trade Book by the NSTA. Barb also works directly with educators and students. She is on the roster of Teaching Artists with the Arizona Commission on the Arts, a former board member of the Arizona Reading Association and vice-president of the Greater Paradise Valley Reading Council. As a recent contributor to our A4ED Blog, she wrote a wonderful essay about the value of nature books in the classroom.

Brooke Bessesen (www.brookebessesen.com) is the director of Authors for Earth Day. This April marks a decade since her first Earth Day school visit—the one that motivated her to found the A4ED coalition. She has written about the grass-roots beginning of Authors for Earth Day on our blog. Having worked with wildlife as a veterinary technician, field biologist and animal rescuer, Brooke strives to share the wonders of science with readers of all ages. She is the author of seven books, including Look Who Lives in the Ocean! and Zachary Z. Packrat Backpacks the Grand Canyon, and has been honored with a Celebrate Literacy Award, Glyph Award, Judy Goddard Award, and Grand Canyon Reader Award nomination.

Join us in congratulating these GREEN AUTHORS for their exemplary contributions to conservation and education. May they inspire others to support our Authors for Earth Day mission. Through the resting chill of winter lies the promise of a prosperous spring—as we head into our 2018 season, we look forward to increasing our community outreach and charitable donations, and to honoring even more of our members as they become next-year’s GREEN AUTHORs.

Please visit Authors for Earth Day at www.authorsforearthday.org.

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HELP SAVE THE PLANET…ONE GEOCACHE AT A TIME! by Wendy Mass, bestselling children’s author of A Mango-Shaped Space and The Candymakers

When I find something I love, I tend to go all in and then I want to share it with everyone through my books. So it is with the hobby of Geocaching. In The Candymakers and the Great Chocolate Chase, 12-year-old Miles introduces his friends to the sport of geocaching, and his knowledge of it winds up helping them solve an important mystery.

What IS Geocaching? Essentially you use the GPS built into your phone, along with a free geocaching app, to search for containers with trinkets, toys, and a logbook tucked inside. Or as cachers are fond of saying, geocachers use billions of dollars of high-tech satellite equipment to find Tupperware hidden in the woods! If you love hidden treasures, being out in nature, the spirit of community, and the joy of perseverance and discovery, then geocaching might well be for you.

It’s tremendously gratifying to watch the compass in the app count down the feet as you close in on your find, which can be in the woods, a park, in the middle of a bustling city, or any public space you can think of (with some restrictions of course). There’s even a cache hidden on the International Space Station! The containers come in all sizes—from big enough to fit a basketball, to so small and camouflaged that it looks like a metal bolt or a rock.

Geocaching is good for the planet, too! It wakes people up to the beauty of nature that they pass by every day and might not notice—a beautiful view, an oddly-shaped tree, ruins of an old building, a hidden garden, a waterfall. Searching for treasure in the great outdoors helps you see your environment with new eyes, and when you appreciate it, you want to take care of it.

To further your education of certain areas, instead of boxes to find, you can seek out an “EarthCache.” This is a geological destination where in order to claim the find, you will learn information about the spot where the compass has led you. This is a GREAT way for parents and teachers to introduce kids to geology and preservation.

Groundspeak, the main organization behind the activity, started an environmental initiative called “CITO” or Cache in, Trash out. Simply bring a bag with you to pick up any trash you see on your way. Sometimes my kids get more excited doing this, than by finding the cache! There are CITO community events held all over the world, making the geocaching game-board that we call Planet Earth cleaner and safer.

Of course there’s more to say that can fit here (including the fun of hiding your own caches!), but head over to Geocaching.com. Watch the short instructional videos, make a free account, and download the app. Then, WHEREVER in the world you find yourself, you’ll be able to pull up a list of nearby caches and you’re off and running (but not through poison ivy—leaves of three, let them be!)

Wendy Mass is the New York Times bestselling author of eighteen novels for young people, including A Mango-Shaped Space and the Space Taxi series. Her titles have been translated into 20 languages and nominated for 76 state book awards. Visit her website at www.wendymass.com.

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THE SMALL THINGS by award-winning children’s author Miranda Paul

As a picture book writer, I have days where I only write one sentence or change a few words. At the end of the day, what I’ve completed seems so…small. But day after day turns into year after year of those small steps. Those small words soon become polished drafts of manuscripts that go on to become published books. And look! Now I have a whole career built out of small steps!

Because several of my books are educational, linked to environmentalism, or tied to science and social studies issues, I often get introduced as an activist, environmentalist, or a community leader. Sometimes, I feel it’s too generous of a title for me. But if I step back, I see that little things I have done to carve out a greener life. I can see that the impact, or reach, has been far greater than I ever imagined.

Many of the students I have visited across the United States and the world, especially those who have read One Plastic Bag—a book about environmentalist Isatou Ceesay—realize that one person can make a difference. Students and activists start small and consistently and persistently work toward a goal. Over time, and together with others, small acts of environmentalism, kindness, or bravery add up to better realities for people and planet.

So what stops us from trying something new, even something small? When it comes to environmental issues, we can be overwhelmed by all that we aren’t doing. Our guilt or fear can cause us not to try; we feel like we’ll never be doing enough.

But instead of dwelling on what we’re not doing in our classrooms or homes, let’s look at every little task of the day and find opportunities to do! That’s right—every small thing we do from taking a shower to getting dressed to making a Facebook post becomes an opportunity to do good. Here are some examples:

1. Pour small amounts of cereal or milk into your bowlyou can always refill if you’re hungry!
2. Choose organic clothing materials instead of synthetics or buy from second hand stores
3. Watch a YouTube video to learn how to fix something rather than buy a new one
4. Make a special waste bin for hazardous items such as batteries or expired medicines, and learn the best method for disposing of them within your community
5. Skip the strawwhen you go out to eat, order “water, no straw” for example
6. Bring utensils with you or keep some in your vehicle or purse
7. Ask for a box at the grocery store or bring reusable bags instead of taking new ones at stores
8. Pack your school lunch in containers rather than throw-away bags or wrapping
9. Wash and reuse any plastic ware or baggies that come home with you or your children
10. Unplug your TV, video games, toaster, or other appliances when not in use
11. Put your cell phone on Airplane Mode to save battery life
12. Eat more vegetarian meals
13. Dress in layers so you can use less A/C or heat, or aren’t limited to staying indoors
14. Check out books from the library that are environmental – libraries make purchasing decisions based on what gets checked out, and they withdraw books that don’t get read
15. When you see a company making a good environmental choice, Tweet and share it
16. Support environmentalists and scientists by sharing their research, findings, and news on Facebook and other social media

Just during my Authors for Earth Day events in the past two years, I’ve spent time with more than 1,000 students and teachers. Imagine the impact if each did just one of these things every single day? Wow. And what other small things would you add to this list? Let’s get started turning small into BIG!

Miranda Paul is award-winning author of several picture books, including of One Plastic Bag and Water is Water, both named Junior Library Guild selections. Her titles have received starred reviews from School Library Journal and Publisher’s Weekly in addition to being named to several recommended and “best of” reading lists. Learn more at www.mirandapaul.com.

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Raising Monarchs by award-winning nonfiction children’s author Steve Swinburne

I’m raising monarch butterflies. I bought an $18 mesh butterfly habitat terrarium from Amazon this summer. As of September 1st, I am hosting 10 chrysalises and 12 feeding larvae. Why am I growing monarch butterflies?

Because this insect may be headed for the Endangered Species List. Monarch butterflies (Danaus plexippus) are the only North American butterfly to make an awe-inspiring migration. They fly from their overwintering grounds in Mexico and California to as far north as Canada, some travelling nearly 3,000 miles. This large, fast-flying orange and black butterfly used to be a common sight along roadsides, fields and gardens of America. But over the last 20 years, numbers of monarchs have decreased by 80%. Pesticide use is one culprit. And roadside mowing of milkweed and other wildflowers is another. Milkweed is the critical plant in a monarch’s life cycle. Adult butterflies lay eggs on the plant and monarch caterpillars eat only milkweed leaves. Less milkweed, less monarchs.

By mid to late August in New England, the fourth generation of monarch butterflies emerges from their chysalises. These butterflies are in what as known as “reproductive diapause.” These are full grown adults but they’re not ready to reproduce. What they are ready to do is migrate. This is the migratory generation of monarchs. Their job is to fly south to the high elevation oyamel fir forests of Mexico, a trip that will take about 2 to 2 1/2 months. There they overwinter, and by mid-February will mate and begin a new generation of monarch butterflies. These popular butterflies play a key role in the ecosystem by helping to pollinate flowers and by providing a food source for creatures, such as birds, spiders, lizards, and small mammals.

terrarium, caterpillar, chrysalis, butterfly

So I’ve cleared a little patch of ground in my backyard and planted milkweed (Asclepias syriaca). I’ve been watching and learning about monarch butterflies for many years. I even wrote a book about them for young kids called A Butterfly Grows. And I might write another one someday about raising them.

No matter where you live you can help. Find out what milkweed and nectar plants are native to your area. In the fall, go out and collect mature milkweed seedpods. If you grow them, they will come. I’m enjoying my role as a citizen monarch butterfly scientist! I’m monitoring milkweed stands and monarchs in my little town in southern Vermont. I’m turning my neighbors and friends on to these awesome insects. The monarch butterfly is in trouble, but if we all do our part, we can help the population of this most American of butterflies!

Stephen Swinburne is an author, photographer and musician. He has written many books for children about nature, including A Butterfly Grows. To research his nonfiction topics, Steve travels the world. Learn more about his interesting life and books at www.steveswinburne.com.

Read Steve’s other A4ED blog, about endangered sea turtles, here.

 

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Two-time National Book Award Finalist Eliot Schrefer explores the rainforest for his upcoming middle-grade series

My eyes lit up when I saw it—after a long hot day spent trekking in the Amazon, ant bites up and down my arms and sweat pooling in my clothes, I’d reached the lodge. It was constructed in the ancient style, on stilts to protect it from flooding, with the sides completely open to the outside to maximize whatever rare breezes come up in the rainforest. It makes the lodge as cool as possible without electricity for air conditioners or fans, but leaves it fully exposed to whatever wildlife decides to come visit. I was hoping to see a panther, but maybe not on the way to the bathroom.

No panthers invaded the lodge while I was there, but I did get to know a pair of macaws very well indeed. The magnificent, muscular red birds would wander the lodge, fully and completely habituated to humans—that’s a nice way of saying they were a little bratty. They’d invade my room, fly my e-reader to the roof and then drop it, poop on my dresser, make off with my socks.

I was in the Amazon to research animals for my new middle-grade fantasy series, The Lost Rainforest, but the lodge that was hosting me is also home to a long-term macaw study—tens of thousands congregate at the clay lick nearby, seeking out salts to neutralize the toxins present in all jungle greenery. I asked one of the scientists working there what the story was with the tamed parrots.

He explained to me that macaws will lay clutches of 2-4 eggs, but only the first two to hatch get any food whatsoever. The third and fourth eggs are there for insurance, but are ignored by their parents and left to starve. The pair of macaws at the lodge, he explained, were the third and fourth eggs of a clutch. They’d been rescued by soft-hearted researchers who had been with the project, and now the humans at the lodge were stuck with them.

The Lost Rainforest is about five young animals banding together to save their magical rainforest home, and one of the characters is a macaw. I knew right then that I’d base him on one of those local macaws at the lodge; in my story he’s the third to hatch, and owes his life to his rescuer—for good and for bad.

Beyond giving me a character study for my book, the story of those macaws also complicated one of my rainforest assumptions. I couldn’t get the image out of my mind of one of those gruff researchers, breaking the scientific mandate not to interfere, hand-feeding a baby parrot, in a jungle lodge days from civilization. I tend to think of human interference as the enemy for the rainforests, that we can only bring suffering when we come into contact with a place like the Amazon. But the story of those two prankish macaws was the opposite. For those two birds, at least, human intervention was a source of good, of life itself.

Eliot Schrefer is the acclaimed author of nearly a dozen books for readers from middle-grade to YA to adult. Among his honors: two of his novels about great apes, Endangered and Threatened, were National Book Award Finalists, and his series Spirit Animals made the best-seller lists of both The New York Times and USA Today. Learn more about Eliot’s work at www.eliotschrefer.com.

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HELPING THE PLANET, ONE REUSABLE BAG AT A TIME by JoAnn Early Macken, the author of more than 130 books for young readers

Many people know that producing plastic bags requires petroleum—a nonrenewable resource—as well as water and energy. While researching an educational book I wrote about plastic, I found some other disturbing facts:

  • Most plastic bags are not biodegradable. If they are exposed to sunlight rather than buried in landfills, they can break into smaller pieces. But they never completely decompose.
  • Although plastic bags can be recycled, most are thrown away after one use. Many end up blowing down streets, caught in trees, or washed into waterways.
  • Countless birds and animals die after becoming tangled in plastic bags or mistaking them for prey.

Because I knew that many people already relied on reusable shopping bags, reducing and eventually eliminating disposable shopping bags seemed like a practical goal. Through our village’s Conservation Committee, I met several women who agreed. Together, we formed Bring Your Bag Shorewood.

Wisconsin state law prohibits local ordinances that restrict packaging, so we decided to focus on education first. We posted reminders in stores, gave away reusable bags and stickers, and connected with our neighbors through a Facebook group.

Then we discovered Boomerang Bags, a brilliant idea that started in Australia and is spreading around the world. Boomerang Bags are reusable shopping bags, handmade from donated fabric and displayed in stores. People who forget their reusable bags can borrow one and bring it back for someone else to use.

When we first checked the Boomerang Bags Communities map, we found only one group in the United States. Now ours is one of at least 25. More than 300 groups around the world have already made nearly 100,000 reusable shopping bags! Following the Boomerang Bags model, we’re collecting slightly used and leftover fabric, silk screening the boomerang logo on patches, and making reusable shopping bags.

More than 40 people took part in our first Sewing Bee. Some of them brought portable sewing machines, some brought ironing boards and irons, and some brought fabric, scissors, or thread. We set up cutting, ironing, pinning, and sewing stations around the large room we reserved in our Community Center. For a few hours on a Sunday afternoon, we stitched up a storm—and had so much fun! Several of us brought unfinished bags home to finish. Since then, we’ve held three more Sewing Bees and stocked more than 100 Boomerang Bags in a local grocery store. Most of them disappeared within a few weeks.

We need a larger inventory, and we hope to expand to more stores, so we’ll keep sewing. Every reusable bag we make can help reduce the number of single-use shopping bags on the planet. At the same time, we’re keeping leftover and unwanted fabric (including gently used tablecloths, sheets, pillow cases, and even clothing) out of landfills. And we’re raising awareness of a serious environmental problem that we all can pitch in to help solve.

JoAnn Early Macken is the author of Baby Says “Moo!” and other picture books, the poetry instruction guide Write a Poem Step by Step, and more than 125 educational books for young readers. Her poems appear in numerous children’s magazines and anthologies. JoAnn contributes to the Teaching Authors blog, and she speaks about poetry and writing at schools, libraries, and conferences. Visit her at www.joannmacken.com. And learn more about Boomerang Bags.

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BATS ARE NOT SCARY! by (very) creative nonfiction author Conrad J. Storad

conrad-with-story-monsterI’ve been blessed during my career as a science journalist. I’ve had the chance to write and edit thousands of articles for newspapers and magazines. Best of all, I’ve had the opportunity to write and edit more than 50 books about science and nature topics, mostly for young readers.

Every new story is a new learning experience. One of the best things about being a science writer is getting the chance to share what I learn. Best of all is sharing directly with readers, some young, some not so young, during my visits to schools and libraries across the United States. Sometime during a 2017 school visit I will reach my long time goal of reading stories for 1 million kids. It’s humbling and gratifying all at once.

I learned a lot while writing my newest book, The Bat Book (Afraid of a bat? What’s up with that?). I was privileged to get great information from scientists working at Bat Conservation International, based in Austin, Texas. The most important message I learned is conveyed in one simple sentence. And it is very easy to remember. Are you ready?

Bats are NOT scary!

bat-bookAnswering questions. That was an important reason to write about these amazing but very misunderstood creatures. But the real inspiration for The Bat Book came from the illustrator, Nathan Jensen, an Austin-area native and University of Texas graduate.

Nathan and I have worked together for many years on lots of books. He brings my words to life on the page with brilliant, vivid, and witty illustrations. This time, he wanted to illustrate AND write the story himself. He asked me to be his editor. I agreed.

Why bats? Location, location, location, of course. At the time, Nathan lived in Austin, home to one of the world’s most famous bat colonies. More than 1.5 million Mexican free-tailed bats live under the Congress Avenue Bridge in downtown Austin. The bats are part of Austin’s culture. Visitors from around the world love to stand on the “Bat Bridge” at sunset. The tornado of bats exiting from under the bridge for a night of insect eating is always spectacular to witness.

After almost a full year of effort, Nathan called me again. He had the skeleton of a story and some great ideas. But the writing was just not his thing. “Let’s go back to the regular way,” he said. “You write the story. I’ll illustrate.”

Nathan’s superb idea was to tell the story from the perspective of one small bat who lives under the bridge. The bat overhears human kids saying nasty, mean things about his kind. What to do? A teaching moment is born.

The solution: On suggestion from Mama, the young bat will create a book about bats and leave it for humans to find so that they might learn the facts.

Little Boy Bat does part of the writing and illustrating within our book. Nathan put his 8-year-old son, Tristan, to work to render Little Boy’s artwork.

Little Boy teaches us that bats do NOT build nests in your hair.

brookes bat shot 2All bats are not infected with rabies.

Bats are not flying vampires just waiting for the opportunity to suck your blood. Scrape those myths out of your brain right now.

The truth is that bats are mammals, just like us. Only, bats can fly, and lots more. That’s very cool.

For teachers, we added a story within the story that explains the process of creating a book for young readers — from idea to first draft to rewriting to final illustrated copy. We think the final product is our best work to date.

Still afraid of bats? If so, what’s up with that?

Conrad J. Storad has authored dozens of books for young readers, including a USA Book News Best Book Winner Fang and Stinger (An Arachnid Story). He also writes a monthly science/nature column called “Conrad’s Classroom” in Story Monsters Ink, a national-award-winning magazine launched in 2014. Learn more at www.fivestarpublications.net/conradstorad.

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CHEERS and CONGRATULATIONS to our 2017 Authors for Earth Day Participants, who brought us to nearly $75K

The enthusiastic applause of hundreds of young readers roaring through the school! That’s what our A4ED authors & illustrators hear every year as we announce the conservation organizations that win our students’ votes. It’s quite a thrill!

This year we supported 34 events across the United States and in Canada, a couple of which were in the news. Along the way, we celebrated 16 new participants and 11 participants who have joined us for at least 3 years. And with an average donation of $700, our annual total reached $22,560!

That brings our grand total to nearly $75K!!

Such a feat could never be accomplished without the extraordinary generosity of our 2017 Team. And what a prestigious line-up it was: KUDOS & THANKS to Stuart Gibbs (who actually did two events this year), David Lubar, Joann Early Macken, Peter Catalanotto, Lili DeBarbieri, Jeramey Kraatz, Darcy Pattison, Ken Keffer, Alyssa Satin Capucilli, Linda Crotta Brennan, Sandy Asher, Miranda Paul, Rebecca Stead, Yolanda Ridge, Debbie Dadey, Elissa Brent Weissman, Kim Norman, Deborah Lee Rose, Kate McMullan (who also enjoyed two events), Jeff Kinney, Wendy Mass, Andrew Clements, Nancy Castaldo, Sarah Mlynowski, Barbara Gowan, Jody Feldman, Steve Swinburne, Dan Gutman, Brooke Bessesen, Linda Bozzo, Heather Alexander and Peter Lourie.

Dozens of organizations received our financial support. From cleaning up waterways, to replanting forests, from protecting endangered species and preserving wild spaces, to instituting ingenious advances in human sustainability, every beneficiary plays a role in the global conservation effort. A full list of donation recipients, now totaling more than 80 organizations, can be found here.

While our participants are grateful to be able to contribute to so many important charities through the voices of our readers, Authors for Earth Day is exponentially greater than the sum of our donations.

We engage today’s youth with encouraging words, empower them with fact-based knowledge, and cultivate social responsibility and environmental stewardship. After students research the most pressing environmental problems, every educated vote they cast is a vote for solutions. Most importantly, their experience is shared with parents and peers. Knowledge gained grows and spreads—seeding new soil, nourishing new minds.

We love that our program is a win-win-win for everyone involved. And in this time of political unrest, we love bringing hope for a brighter tomorrow.

Please help us celebrate on Facebook. And share our links with all the authors and teachers you know to help us grow.

2018… here we come!

Brooke Bessesen, A4ED Executive Director

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TREES WE TREASURE by Andrea Alban, children’s author and writing coach

andrea-alban-blogKeep a green tree in your heart and perhaps the singing bird will come.  Chinese proverb

The flatbed truck loaded with tree trunks passed my car in Golden Gate Park. I was struck by the contrast of an evergreen-lined boulevard and the dozen redwoods felled by chainsaws, lying in a sad heap on their journey to a lumber yard.

My chest tightened and I tried, but was unable, to hold back tears. In my imagination, the tree sprites whispered their wish for a tree guardian to stop the clear-cutting of land. I pondered how trees provide beauty, shelter, fuel, food, and clean air. Trees inspire art and poetry, by arousing emotions and filling our senses. Trees stand for our best qualities such as peace, courage, compassion, generosity and happiness.

That moment, the seed of a tree poem sprouted into a little sapling. These lines poured from my mind without a single edit:

Everything good begins with me,

the acorn told its mother tree,

and drifted on the dancing breeze.

to find a cloak of golden leaves.

I worked at my writer’s desk for months on my ode to the forest. On the wall above me, was a bulletin board tacked with photos of trees I grew up with. There was the Ponderosa pine at our summer lake home that I measured my height by, the cherry tree I climbed which provided enough sweet fruit to fill a pail (and my belly), and the white pom-pom tree I lay beneath as it shed in the wind and sprinkled me with fairy petals. (My father preferred a pristine lawn so he vacuumed up the “mess” with a Hoover upright every Sunday.)

HTcoverEighteen months later, Feiwel & Friends, an imprint of Macmillan, published The Happiness Tree on recycled paper using soy ink. We included in the back matter an index of state trees and information about how to plant trees through the Arbor Day Foundation. I visited schools with my puppet, TREEna and taught the students—the next generation’s tree guardians—this pledge:

I promise to care for the birds, chipmunks, squirrels, and wildlife nestled in the branches of trees.

I will protect the trees in my community.

I will water my trees.

I will sit beside my trees.

I will start with my heart and my own little patch of earth.

From seed of hope to forest of happiness, I invite tree-huggers of all ages to celebrate Earth Day every day. Adopt a tree in your neighborhood and watch it thrive through the seasons.

Andrea Alban (a.k.a. Andrea Gosline) is the author of three picture books, including The Happiness Tree, currently traveling with the OUT ON A LIMB exhibit through children’s discovery museums in the U.S. and Canada. Her debut novel, Anya’s War, is an A.L.A. honor book. Visit her at www.andreaalban.com

 

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THREE POEMS FOR EARTH DAY by April Halprin Wayland (April is National Poetry Month and Earth Day is the 22nd)

I love this photo of my dad by the Feather River that ran beside our farm

I love this photo of my dad by the Feather River that ran beside our farm

My father was a farmer. He worked and wrote all his life to protect the people,  animals, land and waters of our world.

He farmed acres and acres of walnut trees, but Daddy also planted experimental rows of peanuts, to see if they would grow in our sandy soil. When rabbits began eating the young plants, Daddy wouldn’t poison the rabbits. He figured out another way to protect those peanuts.

PROTECTING THE PEANUTS

“The rabbits,” my dad said,

“are eating the peanut plants

in our garden.”

 

He puzzled over this on the hot tractor,

dragging the disk up and back

thinking about jack rabbits.

 

“One thing we know,”

he said, chewing a peanut butter sandwich,

“is rabbits are afraid of people.”

 

So, he made a scarecrow—

a scarerabbit.

Even gave it his old straw hat.

 

But the next morning

he wrinkled his brow.

“Those darn rabbits,” is all he said.

 

He pondered all morning on the tractor.

“One thing we know,” he said, sipping ice cold ginger ale,

“is rabbits are afraid of the smell of people.”

 

So, he ripped up pieces of his old khaki shirt,

tied them to sticks, and stuck those sticks between the rows of peanut plants.

Looked like a little parade.

 

Who cares,

said the rabbits that night.

We’re not scared.

 

Back disking those long rows in the morning,

Dad deliberated, contemplated, meditated,  ruminated, and speculated.

About rabbits.

 

Then, he took a

big aluminum bucket

and peed in it.

 

Added some water

and dribbled a line of demarcation

around the peanuts.

 

The rabbits

got

the picture.

 

“One thing we know,” he said with a wide smile,

“is that people can be as smart as rabbits.

Just give us time.”

Copyright © 2017 April Halprin Wayland. Used by permission of the author, who controls all rights.

========================

When he was a boy, Daddy said he stood in awe each fall as a massive wave of birds migrated over our farm.

ENDANGERED

My father says

that every fall when he was a boy

the sky blackened like some huge dark tongue

sticking out over our farm

as hundreds

 

no thousands of wood ducks or terns

flew overhead

in one great flock

hour after hour

all day long.

 

On the haystack, I am between my mother and my sister

On the haystack, I am between my mother and my sister

I am standing in this field searching the sky

waiting for that huge dark tongue.

I haven’t seen thousands

I haven’t seen hundreds

I haven’t seen

 

one bird.

Copyright © 2017 April Halprin Wayland. Used by permission of the author, who controls all rights.

======================


Like my father, I love this earth and work to protect it. Sometimes all it takes to begin is one small action.

LISTENING TO OUR OAK TREE

Do you flip your paper over

when you draw or make a list?

I do—our oak tree tells me to—

she’s gentle but insists.
“See this twig?” she asks me.

“A teensy weensy limb.

If you use the back of every page,

you’re saving one of him.
And his sister and her sister

and another limb until

one day you’ll save a grove of trees!

You’ll do it if you will
just use each paper’s blank side

april-waylandso saplings live for years.

You’ll grow up and you’ll change the world;

they’ll have long tree careers.”

Copyright © 2017 April Halprin Wayland. Used by permission of the author, who controls all rights.

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April Halprin Wayland is the author of seven books, including More Than Enough—a Passover Story, which has been praised by the New York Times, Kirkus, and Publishers Weekly, the gold medal-winning picture book, New Year at the Pier, and the award-winning novel in poems, Girl Coming in for a Landing. When she is not writing, April plays the fiddle, hikes with her dog, and advocates for world peace. Learn more at www.aprilwayland.com.

Her father’s name was Leahn J. Halprin.

 

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