October 17, 2012


Ocean Sunlight

How Tiny Plants Feed the Seas

By Molly Bang and Penny Chisholm

The Blue Sky Press, 2012

ISBN #978-0545273220

Grades K-5

Nonfiction picture book

“Dive into the sea! Now flip over slowly, and look up. The water is shimmering with light—my light. I am your sun, your golden star. All ocean life depends on me; so does all life on land.”

I love books about the food chain, and this one delivers on a grand scale. Ocean Sunlight begins with an  explanation of photosynthesis and its value, and then goes on to relate that ocean plant life is part of the food chain. Seaweed is obvious, but the explanation of the food-producing phytoplankton is one of the best I’ve seen.

The book continues with the photic levels, explaining the amounts of light at the different divisions of the world’s oceans and shows the food chains in them. It continues to the deepest levels and discusses adaptations that the life has there to survive, including marine snow, the detritus that falls to the sea floor. The cycle concludes with the sun’s heat causing the water to move upward and bring the nutrients and CO2 back around.

This book can be read with many different grade levels and matched to the level of the children’s understanding. The art is bright and inviting and adds details to the informational text. It’s a lovely book and could lead to many discussions about food chains and webs while making a perfect introduction to the concept.

Several pages of back matter give much more detail, but as a science teacher, I’d love to have seen sources, a glossary, and more reading included in the back matter. Nonetheless, it’s a terrific book and one that every science teacher should know and introduce.

Activity 1 (younger)

List the plant and animal life in one of the food chains depicted in the book. Create a diagram or flow chart to show the different levels. Label and illustrate the food chain.

National Geographic has good information.

Here’s a fun food chain e-game.

Activity 2 (older)

Look up the word chemosynthesis. Compare and contrast the food production by chemosynthesis with photosynthesis. Identify what hydrothermal vents are. Then explain how tube worms and clams at deep sea vents use the hydrogen sulfide to make food.

This site has good information, but you might want to enlarge it so it doesn’t look so intimidating.

National Geographic has good information.

This site has a comparison of photosynthesis and chemosynthesis.

Author website with information

This review was a good one.

National Science Standard: LS2: Ecosystems: Interactions, energy, and dynamics

Common Core: CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.4.5 Describe the overall structure (e.g., chronology, comparison, cause/effect, problem/solution) of events, ideas, concepts, or information in a text or part of a text.

Book provided by Scholastic for Librarians’ Choices Book Reviews

Cover It With Green

February 18, 2009


Wangari’s Trees of Peace

By Jeanette Winter

Harcourt, 2008

ISBN #978-0-15-206545-4

Nonfiction picture book

Based on the true story of Wangari Maathai, environmentalist and Nobel Peace Prize winner, this simply worded picture book tells of the power of one woman who made a difference in the environment of her nativeKenya. After returning home from studying in theUnited States, she sees now barren land where trees were cut to make room for new buildings. Starting with nine seedlings, she encourages the women throughout the villages and they in turn plant more trees, until the land is barren no more.

“Wangari thinks about the barren land. I can begin to replace some of the lost trees here in my own backyard—one tree at a time. She starts by planting nine seedlings.”

 Activity 1

Ask the students if they’ve heard about global warming. Discuss greenhouse gases and why and how they warm the earth.  

Explain that these greenhouse gases trap energy in the atmosphere and make the Earth warmer.  

Discuss climate changes that are taking place and the impact it can have on habitats. Examples might include rising sea levels, loss of ice in Antarctica and the Arctic, or climate change might have effects on crops that can grow.

 Use the book to define reforestation and discuss how replenishing trees can reduce global warming.  how we can help.


Take this global warming quiz.


Activity 2

Define reforestation. Review photosynthesis and remind the students about the use of carbon dioxide by plants to make energy in the form of food. Then define the greenhouse effect and discuss how reforestation like that shown in the book can help restore balance to the natural system.


Reforestation is the restocking of existing forests and woodlands which have been depleted, with native tree stock.



Greenhouse effect is the rise in temperature of the Earth’s atmosphere due to certain gases trapping the sun’s energy. These atmospheric gases include water vapor, carbon dioxide, nitrous oxide, and methane. We need them to keep all the Earth’s heat from escaping, because we need some heat. They are called greenhouse gases because of how they keep the world warm. 

Global warming is the average increase of the Earth’s temperature due to the addition of more green house gases. These additional gases can cause a change in the climate


Photosynthesis is the process where green plants make carbohydrates from carbon dioxide and water using light as the source of energy, and release oxygen as a waste by-product.

For more, see the carbon cycle and the carbon cycle game.


Another book about saving a tree is The Tree, by Dana Lyons.









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