In the Springtime with Rachel Carson
by Dr. Barbara ten Brink
Authors Press

"For the next several months, my family's farm became a working laboratory led by Rachel Carson as she put theory into practice for her research."

In the spring of 1953, Louise Lewis fervently hopes that her family's new neighbor near her mother's produce stand on Southport Island, Maine, has a daughter her age. Imagine her surprise and excitement when instead she gains an ongoing friendship with the eminent marine biologist and conservationist Rachel Carson as she engages in academic field research on the ecology and biology of the Atlantic coastline.

In this memoir-like middle-grade novella, based on the author's enthusiastic research of Carson's career, Carson finds time to encourage Louise's budding interest in science and guides her father to reconsider how he manages the family farm on the mainland. Carson shows Mr. Lewis how his use of pesticides must be reduced to protect the groundwater and the health of his workers, livestock, and crops, ultimately making the farm more productive. Louise's teacher Mrs. Franklin, Carson, and Mrs. Lewis take turns hosting dinner parties that include outdoor jaunts to study local ecosystems. They encourage Louise to take samples of plants and soil and make journal entries and sketches, always winding down at the end of the evening to sit and enjoy the sunsets. On one such occasion, Louise has an inspiring realization about Carson: "As [Rachel] spoke, I began to form a different picture of my friend. I had seen her as a scientist passionate about her work. Tonight I saw her as a poet who could convey beauty and mystery through her words."

Louise's life begins to parallel Carson's as her science project on the thin-shelled eggs the farm chickens were laying due to pesticide use wins first place in the 1953 Maine State Science Fair. Her future as a science teacher is secured. In the final chapters, Louise looks back on her summer of analyzing the problems caused by DDT on her family farm with Rachel Carson as the seminal inspiration for her future success.

There is much to discover about the basics of conservation, ecology, environmental science, biology, and agriculture in the book. The author turns what could be a more mundane tale into one of discovery and revelation. While somewhat cliché in a positive sense, the characters surrounding Rachel Carson are also engaging and serve as good role models for young readers, not just because of their hard work and love of science but also because of their sincere zest for life and service to others.

Author ten Brink uses her considerable talents as a member of a farming family, science educator, science fair director, and award-winning writer to add a biographical element of understanding into this inspiring, multidimensional tale. This book could serve well as an adjunct to elementary school classroom studies about Rachel Carson and her work. The back matter includes an epilogue, author's notes, research topics related to the story, and some school project suggestions for deeper engagement with the text. Overall, this little volume could be a memorable read for kids interested in exploring how individuals can react responsibly with the natural world. Using historical fiction as a tool, the author brings one of the most important figures in the history of ecology to life for young readers.

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