A Wetlands Survival Story
- written and illustrated by
Thomas F. Yezerski
- Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 2011
- 40 pp., full-color illustrations
- ages 5-8, grades K-3
- ISBN-10: 1-580-89346-5
- ISBN-13: 978-1-580-89346-6
The 20,000 acres of wetlands in New Jersey now known as the Meadowlands were once home to hundreds of species of plants and animals. But in the four hundred years since European explorers first arrived in the Meadowlands, people have dammed up, drained, built over, and polluted this formerly vibrant ecosystem — and all but destroyed it. Still, signs of life remain — under bridges, on the edges of parking lots, and beside train tracks. Slowly but surely, with help from activist groups, government organizations, and ordinary people, the resilient creatures of the Meadowlands are making a comeback, and the wetlands are recovering. Meadowlands: A Wetlands Survival Story is the ecological history of one of the most infamous urban wetlands as well as an exploration of the ways that humans and nature share the same environment and depend upon each other.
- Notable Children’s Books of 2011 – New York Times
- Cook Prize Honor – Bankstreet College of Education
- Horn Book Fanfare – Horn Book Magazine Best Books of 2011
- 100 Titles for Reading and Sharing, Best Non-Fiction Children's Books of 2011 – New York Public Library
- Best Books of the Year, 2012 – Bankstreet College of Education
- Growing Good Kids Book Award – Junior Master Gardener and The American Horticultural Society
- Outstanding Science Trade Book – National Science Teachers Association
- PA Young Readers Choice Award Master List – Pennsylvania School Librarians Association
- 2011 National Book Festival Featured Selection – New Jersey Center for the Book
- Junior Library Guild Selection
Meadowlands is the first book I have written myself since A Full Hand, in 2002. It took me so long to make it because I did not follow the rule “Write what you know.” Instead, I wanted to write about the New Jersey Meadowlands, a place that not only fascinated me but also bewildered me. I wanted to figure out the mish-mash of busy highways, working railroads, forbidding factories and impenetrable marshes. I needed to know exactly what was going on down there.
Once I started researching the Meadowlands, I did not know where to stop. I heard that pirates used to hide in the reeds. I read that one of the factories made Yoo-Hoo chocolate drink. I discovered a fenced-off warehouse that was closed because of poisonous chemicals dumped in the creek nearby. I walked around a swamp of cedar tree stumps left from hundreds of years ago. Dozens of fiddler crabs waved at me as I paddled by in a canoe, and a muskrat swam alongside.
I wrote hundreds of pages of notes and took hundreds more photos. How was I going to cram all of this into a picture book? I had to pick one good story out of everything I learned. The best story was about the Meadowlands, the place itself. It had survived in spite of everything that happened to it, and it was beautiful in spite of its confusing messiness. So, little by little, I starting taking out parts of the story that weren’t part of the most important story, even if I had worked very hard on them.
One story that did not make it into the book is very important to me nonetheless. When I had just started writing Meadowlands, I went to a publisher’s party and met a young lady who lived and worked in Manhattan. I asked if she wanted to go for a walk around a frozen mudflat at the foot of a closed landfill in New Jersey. She said she did, and I knew she was the one for me. Over the years, we went on many “dates” to the Meadowlands. While I was painting illustrations for the book, we planned our wedding. She has been with me through all those visits to the swamp and the often mucky process of writing, illustrating and publishing. Eleni is truly my swamp rose mallow, and I dedicate this book to her.
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