ISBN-13: 978-0-06-054671-7 or ISBN-10: 0-06-054671-9. “Why are the Ice Caps Melting? – The Dangers of Global Warming” by Anne Rockwell (illustrated by Paul Meisel) was published by Harper Collins in 2006. This is a “Stage 2” book from their “Let’s-Read-And-Find-Out Science”. Stage 1 books explain simple science concepts for pre-schoolers whilst Stage 2 explores more challenging concepts. Other books in the series cover what happened to the dinosaurs and what happens to rubbish. The review copy is a paperback with 36 pages of bright and colourful illustrations – everything you would expect really. So your very youngsters from age 3 will probably enjoy this aspect before they grow to understand the words. Thankfully the authors decided to use Penguins rather than the hackneyed old cliché of Polar Bears. Despite this they chose the phrase “global warming” rather than the technically more accurate “climate change”. We guess this is because this is an easier concept for children to grasp.
There is a technical credit for a Professor Mark Cane from the Earth Observatory at Columbia University. The book is North American in origin so watch the spelling. It kicks off with an explanation of the greenhouse effect which correctly identifies water vapour carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide and fluorocarbons as greenhouse gasses. It goes onto explain how it is only a small imbalance in this system that will lead to warming. We see where all these gases come from and how it is the fault of too many people, too many cars and too much waste. The book goes onto immediately identify melting sea ice (cue polar bear illustration) with alarming rises in sea levels – neither of which are strictly accurate (but never mind). This mistake is quickly forgotten as we move on to examine the real threat to agriculture and biodiversity. Next we discover the sceptic’s view about climate change before reaching a surprising conclusion – even if these doubters are right it is still a “good idea” to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. BRILLIANT! It is funny how such a frank description of the problem rarely enters adult discourse.
Onto solutions – we can plant trees and stop deforestation. Oddly the next page describes the impact upon the oceanic plankton, to touch upon feedback loops, before the next page goes back to solutions. Here it repeats the bit about planting trees before suggesting using less aerosol sprays. It goes on to suggest walking and cycling more. They also suggest that children write to something called “representatitives in Congress”. Americans really don’t know how to internationalise books! Not even children’s books. It makes you roll your eyes. Further advice to children includes buying more energy efficient appliances, turning down the heat, turning down the air-conditioner, turn off appliances when not in use, not buying pre-packaged foods and doing more recycling.
The book goes on to suggest that children take up a career in science so that they can better understand how to preserve life on Earth. At the end there are a couple of pages of activities where it is suggested the children measure the temperature inside and outside of an actual greenhouse. There is also a suggestion that children make a list of things they do everyday that produce greenhouse gasses, and those that don’t, with a suggestion that there are plenty of fun things to do that are benign. And there you have it. Probably not the sort of bedtime story to read to the nippers but rather one to have on the shelf for when they are older and more curious. The structure of the book could have been better and it only looks at the things that young children can do rather than what they can ask their parents to do. Other than this, given that such books are in short supply we would recommend it amongst any pile of science books aimed at kids around the age of seven.