Seen: Rachel Carson

Boom! Box. (Seen: True Stories of Marginalized Trailblazers). Mar. 2021. 80p. pap. $5.99. ISBN 9781684156481.
Gr 4-6–Though the lyrical first-person narration in this work of graphic nonfiction is likely to leave readers with the mistaken belief that it’s made up of direct quotes, the pale, neatly detailed art captures environmentalist Rachel Carson’s sense of wonder and her intense connection with nature. Beginning and ending with the fundamental insight that “if you learn to love nature, you will want to protect it,” the story invites viewers to look into Carson’s wide-eyed face and over her shoulder as she gazes at birds and forests, at the wide ocean, and (less rapturously) at clouds of pesticides as she goes from childhood and through college on the way to writing books that energized the environmental movement as nothing has before or since. As befits the general premise of the series, Carson’s passion for seeing and understanding the natural world, her courage in the face of sexist backlash, and her intimate friendship with Dorothy Freeman (portrayed as platonic) are highlighted, but the book places little emphasis on specific biographical details—even her early death from cancer gets but one quick mention after several oblique hints that she knew she was living on borrowed time. An appended teaching guide features a spare bibliography but a plethora of discussion questions about the themes, the content, and even the art.
VERDICT Middle grade report writers will be better served by more conventional biographies—but this is nevertheless a good choice to win hearts as well as minds over to Carson’s compelling message.

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