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A Bevy of Books

     by Stephen Morris

Publishing books for children has to be one of the hardest jobs in the world. Everyone thinks they have a great book for kids within them, and everyone knows someone who's a decent artist. As a result, this is one of the most crowded, most competitive markets on earth.

One of the newest companies to enter the fray is Radiant Hen Publishing that has come out with a three part series of "Agri-Culture Books for Children." Author Tanya Sousa grew up, as she says, hunting for partridge nests, catching frogs, and writing stories." Today she gardens and keeps a flock of egg-laying hens, and these close-to-the land experiences are what shape her stories.

book cover: Ninny Nu

Ninny Nu's Organic Farm, nicely illustrated by Amber Alexander, portrays the contest between conventional Farmer Jack, a rabbit who is not adverse to using pesticides, fertilizers, and other chemicals, and Ninny Nu, an enlightened cat, to produce the healthiest, tastiest vegetables, eggs, and other farm products. When the day of judgment comes "although it was shaped a little strangely, the taster took one taste and thought he'd never feasted on a tomato like this before." Ninny Nu, in other words, kicks Farmer Jack's butt.quiet zone

Similar themes characterize Sousa's other titles Life is a Bowl of Cherry Pits (illustrated by Katie Flindall) and Fairy Feast (illustrated by Monique Bonneau). Are these great children's books? Certainly they are handsomely produced and carry messages likely to be embraced by "friends of the environment." But will they resonate with their intended audience? I have no idea, but I'm sending my copies off to a five year-old named Cassie in Florida to find out. (For more information on these books go to RadiantHen.com)

book cover: Green Devotional

Karen Speerstra's Green Devotional: Active Prayers for a Healthy Planet, (Conari Press, 2010) is an eclectic chorus of voices from Gaelic runs to Ashanti prayers to the writings of contemporaries Barbara Kingsolver and Vaclav Havel that share a concern for the survival of our planet and those of us who live here. It's a collection that can "be read without blushing in the company of large trees and solemn animals" says the ubiquitous Bill McKibben.

Framed by the author's original essays this book is an extended love poem to the planet, assembled with care and dignity. The author and publisher have generously extended a blanket permission for us to quote from the text, so short excerpts from this book will appear periodically on the pages of this journal.

book cover: New Solar Home

The message of The New Solar Home (Gibbs-Smith Publishing, 2009) by Dave Bonta and Stephen Snyder is not really new to readers of Green Living. That is due, in part, to the fact that author Bonta has been using this magazine for many years to communicate that solar homes are practical, affordable, comfortable, and beautiful.

What is eye-popping, however, is how widespread the applications of solar have become. Thirteen homes are profiled in dazzling color, ranging from Bonta's own warm, but modest, Country home to Wentworth Commons, a Chicago development aimed at recently homeless or at-risk families to Riverhouse at One Rockefeller Park, which bills itself as the East Coast's Greenest Condominium.

While Bonta is the technical expert of the author due, Stephen Snyder has done a yeoman's job of incorporating tips for saving energy and "great green features" from the different project. The informational aspects of the book are excellent, but it is the breadth of the photography that ultimately steals the show. If you have preconceptions to how a solar home looks or what design limitations it imposes, you will lose them before you are two chapters into this. The new solar home just gets newer with each turning page.

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River Valley editor: Stephen Morris
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