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“The Parking Lot Will Crack and Bloom Again” in Children’s Books February 20, 2012

Filed under: Books,Environmental Education — explorergarden @ 6:53 am

A recent study, posted at journalism/media  watchdog group,, and referenced by the nonprofit organization Children and Nature Network, (read the article here: suggests that illustrated children’s picture books are increasingly focused on the built world, rather than the natural world. The study examined nearly 300 Caldecott Award-winning children’s books written from the 1930s to 2008, categorizing 8000 images as depicting natural or built environments.  From the 1930s to the 1960s, the images were equally divided — natural and built. Starting in the 1970s, however,  the balance began to shift, with each subsequent decade seeing a decline in the depiction of natural environments, animals — even domestic animals. Today, the study says, it is rare to find the natural world depicted at all.

Those of us who write books for children, and care about the environment, like to believe that creating beautiful books that depict the wonder of nature can have a tremendous influence on children’s view of the natural world.  Plenty of books beautiful books come to mind that depict the natural world with beauty and grace. In particular, Marla Frazee’s illustrations in Liz Garton Scanlon’s 2010 book  All the World show a natural world reminiscent of The Little House, and Snippy and Snappy, and Caps for Sale, all written in the 1930s. The natural world is not dead in children’s books. Perhaps it is dormant, springing to life again in books such as this. Here’s a book trailer for this beautiful book

Those of us who write — and the publishers who put our books out in the world — may need a wake up call. Perhaps all it takes to reverse this trend is for us to notice and appreciate the beauty of the natural world ourselves. In the words of Dana Lyon’s beautiful song, “Willy Says,”  “The parking lot will crack and bloom again. There’s a world beneath the pavement that will never end. The seeds are lying dormant, it will never end.”


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