This is part of my Summer Reads series where I’ll be reviewing a series of “not just cookbooks”.
Today’s Summer Read is for those readers with younger family members (though there are lessons in the book for everyone!). It’s Andrea Curtis’s (of the fabulous Eat This!) latest book, A Forest in The City.
From the publisher:
This beautiful book of narrative non-fiction looks at the urban forest, starting with a bird’s-eye view of the tree canopy, then swooping down to street level, digging deep into the ground, then moving up through a tree’s trunk, back into the leaves and branches.
It discusses the problems that city trees face such as the abundance of concrete, poor soil and challenging light conditions. It traces the history of trees in cities over time, showing how industrialization and the growth of populations in urban centers led to the creation of places like Central Park in New York City, where people could enjoy nature and clean air. It wasn’t until Dutch Elm disease swept across North America, killing hundreds of thousands of trees, that people realized how important trees are to our cities.
So how can we create a healthy environment for city trees? Some urban foresters are trying to create better growing conditions using specially designed soil trenches or planters, they are planting diverse species to reduce the harm of invasive pests, and they are maintaining trees as they age, among a number of other strategies.
The urban forest is a complex ecosystem, and we are a part of it. Trees make our cities more beautiful and provide shade but they also fight climate change and pollution, benefit our health and connections to one another, provide food and shelter for wildlife, and much more. It is vital that we nurture our city forests.
Such a great message for young (and not so young) people, especially at this time when more of us are staying closer to home in our own “urban forests”, spending time in nature in our own cities and neighbourhoods as opposed to travelling which many of us might be doing if it were not for Covid. This is a beautifully illustrated, very visually appealing picture book (age range 9-14) that brings up some big questions in an accessible, kid-friendly way.
Andrea’s book makes you think in terms of the “big picture” – from the beginning where she describes “a city draped in a blanket of green” and asks “Is that the city you know” – it really makes you think about the challenges of growing trees in an urban environment. When I first read the description, I wondered how successful this would be – the topic is pretty heavy for younger kids – but I think Andrea and Pierre do a wonderful job of presenting a lot of information in a way that makes it easy to digest. The book reads like a storybook delving into the history of urban planning (so much more fascinating than I had imagined, if I am being honest!), punctuated with loads of facts and questions to really make you think.
The way the book is laid out (some pages text heavy) I feel it appeals to the upper end of the age range. For younger readers, some “fact boxes” or some other visual clues might work better to draw attention to important facts, however, that said, this is exactly the type of book I would love to see for many subjects that my students at school research. Facts, presented in easy-to-understand language, backed up by sources, a handy glossary and some thought-provoking questions that, quite frankly, everyone should be thinking about!
Living together in cities, we always have to weigh what is important to us as individuals, what is important to the collective good and, especially, how we might find a balance that works for everyone.
I can’t think of anything more pertinent for this day and age. It’s a wonderful introduction to some “big thinking” for kids (and their parents!)
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