________________ CM . . . . Volume XVI Number 34 . . . . May 7, 2010


Not Your Typical Book About the Environment.

Elin Kelsey. Illustrated by Clayton Hammer.
Toronto, ON: Owlkids Books, 2010.
64 pp., pbk. & hc., $12.95 (pbk.), $24.95 (hc.).
ISBN 978-1-897349-84-7 (pbk.), ISBN 978-1-897349-79-3 (hc.).

Subject Headings:
Human ecology-Juvenile literature.
Sustainable living-Juvenile literature.

Grades 5-8 / Ages 10-13.

Review by Gillian Richardson.

***½ /4


Biomimicry is about using nature’s best biological ideas to solve human problems. Or in other words, asking, “What would nature do?” Humans may have a long way to go toward living sustainably on this planet, but the 5 to 100 million species we share the Earth with have the time-tested genius to help us get there.

When you look at a forest, what do you see? A bunch of trees? A source of wood? How about a way to rethink the whole idea of trash? It’s most common to make cradle-to –grave products that are dumped in landfills at the ends of their lives, but a growing number of companies are making products whose old parts can be turned into something new again. This cradle-to-cradle vision seeks to do away with the idea of trash entirely—it’s an idea borrowed from nature. Old products become raw materials for new products, in much the same way that a dead tree’s wood breaks down into soil, nurturing the growth of new seedlings.


The title may be long, but it expresses the essence of this book that strives to bring a fresh message to young people about sustainable living on Earth. The more we become aware of the need for conservation, recycling, ways to mitigate climate change, the more these huge problems can evoke a sense of helplessness. Kelsey’s goal is to rekindle wonder and optimism about the environment with examples of our close connection to nature that will inspire and empower young people.

     The book has four well-researched chapters: a focus on eco-friendly clothing, an assessment of food production, the uses of technology that help sustain the environment, and new, surprising sources of energy. Each chapter looks at background of the topic, new trends, options for recycling and reuse, and presents fascinating links to nature. Comic strips highlight unlikely connections about everyday things familiar to kids, e.g. bike riding to reduce carbon dioxide emissions and save species vulnerable to effects of ocean warming. The book is packed with ideas kids can adopt to become involved in changes that will give them a happier outlook.

     Young readers will be motivated by examples of real people who are making a difference. The book describes scientists who have borrowed ideas from nature to help people, e.g. the tiny bristles on gecko’s feet inspired a new kind of adhesive bandage. Amazing news about green creations will encourage independent thinking: building bikes out of bamboo, or helmets with solar-powered headlights. Or how about a chair that transfers energy created when a person sits down into power for LED lights? There’s a challenge inherent in many of these examples: can you design something too?

     This book is appealing for the tremendous amount of detail and up-to-date research. There’s so much to tell. One drawback is the small type size which some readers might find a bit daunting. While the graphic illustrations peppered throughout add humor, the tightly packed text makes the pages appear busy and may deter less capable readers. But this is a book that should be read: the illustrations alone provide a small part of the explanations. It’s a great book to read as a family, to discuss and interpret. It will open up new understanding about conservation and sustainable living.

Highly Recommended.

Gillian Richardson is a freelance writer living in BC.


To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

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The Manitoba Library Association
ISSN 1201-9364
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