________________ CM . . . . Volume XXI Number 13 . . . . November 28, 2014


Why We Live Where We Live.

Kira Vermond. Illustrated by Julie McLaughlin.
Toronto, ON: Owlkids Books, 2014.
48 pp., pbk., hc. & pdf, $12.95 (pbk.), $17.95 (hc.), $11.99 (pdf).
ISBN 978-1-77147-081-0 (pbk.), ISBN 978-1-77147-011-7 (hc.), ISBN 978-1-77147-113-8 (pdf).

Subject Headings:
Human settlements-Juvenile literature.
Human beings-Effect of environment on-Juvenile literature.
Human beings-Effect of climate on-Juvenile literature.

Grades 3-7 / Ages 9-12.

Review by Gillian Richardson.

**** /4



Energy shapes our cities and towns. Before we used fossil fuels (fuels taken from the ground) for travel, London was a long, thin snake of a city that stuck close to the banks of the River Thames. Nearly everybody lived within a half mile (less than a kilometer) of that big river and used it as a convenient way to travel. But new energy sources changed all that. Steam-powered locomotives transported people far and wide. Electricity made subways zoom underground. Oil and internal-combustion engines came together to create the first automobile. Suddenly people could live far from where they worked, and cities spread and spread... and spread some more. Today, London is about 30 mi. (48 km) wide. The city of Atlanta, Georgia? A whopping 120 mi. (193 km)!

Expanding on the seemingly simple question of why we live where we live, this book uses an 'outside in' approach to explore every aspect of our home environment beginning with the essential conditions that make Planet Earth habitable. It examines basic climate, geography, food and water needs that influence our choices in general. Moving into specifics, it describes how energy sources, language, and the history and design of cities influence settlement. It delves into availability of money, jobs and immigration options. A couple of chapters describe some infamous choices to live near active volcanoes, the effect climate change is having on livable locations, and explains what we know about other potentially habitable planets in space (including an observation on asteroids from Chris Hadfield's International Space Station experience). An interesting feature of the book is the discussion of how a location's personality—culture, activities, attitudes—determines the appeal of a place to live. So many reasons for our choices of where to live make us all individuals and accounts for a variety of reports of 'the best place to live'.

      The book also delivers a conservation message by encouraging the reader to consider environmentally friendly options to the ways we live; e.g. choosing to live and work near jobs (or working from home) to reduce fuel consumption, and suggesting the use of locally seasonal produce when costs of shipping become unreasonable. After explaining why many settlements began near water, examples are given of how some locations far from rivers or lakes have adapted by building dams and reservoirs to bring necessary water closer. Both pros and cons of each topic are examined, and reader questions are well anticipated. How will Las Vegas solve its impending water shortage, for instance? The author poses the question of whether "extreme urban planning" that includes such over-consumption is wise.

      The design is appealing with small chunks of text, bulleted lists, and it is enhanced with liberal use of illustrations. For instance, in the chapter on 'Food in All the Right Places', a diagram-style presentation shows how oranges move from tree through shipping to distribution center to grocery outlet to your plate. This makes the details accessible to a range of reading and interest levels. Clever subheadings add to reading appeal: e.g 'Power Gives Us a Buzz', and 'Money is a Roam'n Numeral'.

      Concisely written but packed with a wealth of up-to-date information, Why We Live Where We Live has excellent potential to spark discussions among young readers as they consider their identity, their relationships with other people and cultures, and how they might want to influence the future of living situations. By examining where we live, and why, we learn more about our attitudes and further our understanding of the global community.

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.

Copyright © the Manitoba Library Association. Reproduction for personal use is permitted only if this copyright notice is maintained. Any other reproduction is prohibited without permission.
Published by
The Manitoba Library Association
ISSN 1201-9364
Hosted by the University of Manitoba.

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