© 2011 by Thomas F. Yezerski


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
Even after being dug out, filled in, run over, and dumped on, the wetlands still showed signs of life. The Hackensack River still flowed south. The tide still rose north from the Atlantic Ocean. The river and tide still met in the Meadowlands twice a day, as they had for 10,000 years. Because they did, the ecosystem had a chance to recover.
— Meadowlands: A Wetlands Survival Story


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.

© 2011 by Thomas F. Yezerski


  • 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

© 2011 by Thomas F. Yezerski


Yezerski not only can write a book on how to teach children about their environmental impact — he has. Meadowlands is tremendously (but not intimidatingly) informative, fun to read and gorgeous to look at.
— New York Times
Yezerski adroitly captures the tensions and hope in the sometimes adversarial, sometimes beneficial relationship between humans and the environment in this marvelous ecological history of the Meadowlands of New Jersey.
— The Horn Book, starred review
The goal is not displacement but coexistence. Although readers who know the Meadowlands personally will have a special interest in the topic, the idea of fostering and protecting plant and animal habitats in urban environments can resonate with a broad audience.
— School Library Journal, starred review
Judicious ink and watercolor illustrations pair with tender prose to tell the story of the Meadowlands estuary in New Jersey, which bounced back from being ‘one of the worst places in America’
— Publishers Weekly, starred review
Thomas Yezerski’s pleasingly presented history of this ‘flat, wet place in New Jersey’ helps all of us see the workings of an estuary, spongy ground where a freshwater river meets the ocean tides.
— Chicago Tribune
With beautiful ink-and-watercolor art, this picture book tells an urban-conservation story of how the New Jersey wetlands are slowly recovering from decades of pollution.
— Booklist
Reminiscent of Lynne Cherry’s A River Ran Wild (1992) in its subject and design, this appealing story of environmental recovery is simpler in its text and even clearer in its illustrations . . . A spectacular offering . . .
— Kirkus Reviews
The text handily covers the particulars, but keen, patient observers can ‘read’ the ecological story through the illustrations alone.
— Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books

© 2011 by Thomas F. Yezerski

Blog Reviews

© 2011 by Thomas F. Yezerski


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.

© 2011 by Thomas F. Yezerski


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