Silent Spring did indeed change the world, but Rachel Carson’s story cannot be folded easily into 32 pages.
By trying to pack so much of the complexity of the naturalist's life and work into this compressed format, awkward construction and lack of clarity abound. Her family owned 65 acres of woods and fields, but her father struggled to support them as a traveling salesman. Her mother is described as “doting,” then “fiercely proud,” then “stern-faced” as Rachel goes off to college to study writing as well as the plants and animals she examined so closely as a child. At 28, Rachel had her whole extended family to support, and she did so as a full-time biologist at the Bureau of Fisheries. Her Silent Spring, which carefully documented the effects of insecticides such as DDT on bird and animal life and ultimately on people, launched a huge governmental effort to eliminate that threat. The story ends with her death, at age 56 in 1964, with details of the revolution she initiated only in the epilogue. Beingessner’s pictures are attractive and well-constructed, as Rachel grows and changes (her clothing elegantly reflecting each time period) beside the fields, forests, waters and oceans she loved and studied.
Ultimately, too many unconnected facts are dropped in to the text to help children understand her life and accomplishments. (source notes) (Picture book/biography. 7-10)