Through the Looking Glass Children's Book Reviews

Rachel Carson and Her Book That Changed the World

Rachel Carson and Her Book That Changed the World

Laurie Lawlor
Illustrator:  Laura Beingessner 
Nonfiction Picture Book
For ages 7 to 10
Holiday House, 2012   ISBN: 978-0823423705

From a very early age, Rachel Carson loved to spend time in the outdoors observing nature. She spent many hours alone, exploring the countryside around her childhood home. She enjoyed learning, and when she was only eleven, she decided that she wanted to become a writer.

Though her family was struggling financially, Rachel still managed to get into college. At the Pennyslvania College for Women, Rachel enjoyed her classes, and then in her second year she started taking a biology class. Her teacher, Miss Mary Scott Skinker, so inspired Rachel that the young woman decided to become a biologist, a career path that few women at that time chose to follow.

After getting a master’s degree from John’s Hopkins University, Rachel set about trying to find a job. At this time, the country was in the grip of the Great Depression and there were very few jobs for women biologists. Desperate to provide for her mother, her sick sister, and her two young nieces, Rachel took on part-time jobs teaching and writing articles for newspapers. Then, on the advice of her old biology teacher, she took the government scientist test, and eventually she got a writing job in the Bureau of Fisheries. One of the articles she wrote became the basis of her first book, which was called Under the Sea-Wind: A Naturalist’s Picture of Ocean Life.

The “remarkable connections in the web of life” fascinated Rachel, and she went on do a wide variety of jobs for the Bureau of Fisheries. In her spare time she wrote, and in 1951 her second book, The Sea Around us, was published. In this book, and in The Edge of the Sea, Rachel showed her readers that nature is being damaged by pollution and other forms of human intervention. She wanted people to understand that nature is not a system that can tolerate abuse indefinitely. Eventually something will break and the price we will all pay will be very high. This was just the beginning of a campaign to the save the environment that Rachel continued to follow for the rest of her life.

Rachel Carson’s efforts to educate the general public about the need to protect the environment had a profound effect on thousands of people around the world. This picture book biography tells her story beautifully, giving young readers a very real sense of what Rachel was like, and helping them to understand how valuable her work was.

An epilogue at the back of the book describes what happened after Rachel’s book Silent Spring came out.