Written by Sandra Neil Wallace
Illustrated by Rebecca Gibbon
A Paula Wiseman Book; Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers. 2020.
For ages 4-8.
My Top Ten Reasons to Read Marjory save the Everglades: The Story of Marjory Stoneman Douglas
“The Everglades is a test. If we pass it, we get to keep the planet.”
Marjory Stoneman Douglas
- This exceptional picture book biography tells the true tale of an older activist. This is a rarity. The book, not older activists! Marjory Stoneman Douglas fully deserved the recognition she received for her work on behalf of our environment. And she was also a suffragette, working to gain women the vote.
- After age 40, Marjory became an advocate for the Everglades—“a slow-moving, life-giving river of grass,” convincing officials to establish a national park there. She was almost 80 when a planned supersonic jetport required she amp up her activism, and her efforts continued until age 108.
- Very poor hearing and eyesight did not deter her, and her determination and creativity shine.
- At one point she took National Park Service officials high above the “swamp” as they regarded it. Floating above the Everglades in a dirigible they were awed by tens of thousands of birds.
- Thanks to Marjory it was “the first park created not for sightseeing but for the benefit of animals and plants…She became the first person to make the world realize why the Everglades mattered.”
- The text by award-winning author Sandra Neil Wallace is lyrical and evocative of Florida and the Everglades. I’m always a sucker for lovely similes like “a silk dress with pleats as thick as the saw grass jutting through the shallow waters.” (This was Marjory’s very first boat trip into the Everglades.)
- The story includes many important quotes from Marjory herself. For example, “I wanted to live my own life in my own way.” No small feat for a woman born in 1890. And “If the Everglades go, then South Florida becomes a desert,” Marjory explained. The brilliant illustrations by Rebecca Gibbons of Wales have a playful childlike quality. The sunny colors brought Florida into my wintry Minnesota home on a sub-zero day.
- Six pages of additional information in the back make this book a fantastic resource for teachers. The author’s note draws an important parallel between Marjory’s activism and that of the students at her namesake high school who have had to change the national conversation around gun laws.
- Marjory’s age is shared numerous times in the text. 18, 24, 40, 57, almost 80, 93, 108. What a terrific way to show kids that life doesn’t stall out after childhood or adolescence.
- This picture book gives adult readers the opportunity to talk about growing older in an accurate and positive way, and also to touch on ageism. We can show kids a vivid example of inner strength and experience winning the day. Marjory Stoneman Douglas was as tough as Jane Goodall or Jane Fonda in their environmental activism. She deserves her place in history.
“Ninety-three-year-old Marjory refused to be silent. As mosquitos buzzed and bit at town meetings, she spoke her mind.
“Go home granny!” people yelled and hissed. “Butterfly chaser!” They booed.
“Can’t you boo any louder than that?” Marjory demanded. “I’ve got all night, and I’m used to the heat.”
I received a review copy of Marjory Saves the Everglades from the publisher.
All three books are terrific reads for Earth Day on April 22, 2021.
Find more PERFECT PICTURE BOOKS each Friday at Susanna Leonard Hill’s blog here.
My new picture book bio A PLAN FOR THE PEOPLE: NELSON MANDELA’S HOPE FOR HIS NATION is available for pre-order. Releasing March 30, 2021.