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The Earth and I

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``The Earth and I are friends,'' begins this sentimental picture book in which a boy inventories the many ways he and the planet benefit and enjoy each other. Examples both obvious (``I help her to grow. She helps me to grow'' accompanies pictures of the boy tilling soil, then eating food) and inspired (``I dance for her. She dances for me'' is paired with the boy raking leaves, then the leaves being blown about by a gust of wind) give way to the book's ultimate ``green'' message: ``When she's sad, I'm sad'' captions a view of a scrap heap. The simple text is consistent with Asch's repertoire of very young picture books (Happy Birthday, Moon; Bear Shadow), but it lacks the humor that have made the others preschool classics. He paints a dreamscape of liquidy watercolors, with blues, purples, greens and reds bleeding together in a wash of rainbows that cover both the boy and the earth: hair, clothes, leaves, clouds are each multicolored. Jaded adults may have to stifle a laugh at the final, feel-good illustration, which features the narrator hugging a tree. Ages 3-7. (Sept.)

PreS-Gr 1-A simple story in which a boy describes his interactions with his special ``friend,'' the Earth. (``I tell her what's on my mind. She listens to every word.'') Asch's paintings show the child in close harmony with nature as he rides the back of a tortoise, plants vegetables, sings with the birds, and dances in the wind. Pollution mars their play towards the end (``When she's sad, I'm sad''), but he cleans up the garbage, plants a new flower, and hugs a tree on the final page. Despite the rainbow tones woven into each illustration, the muted pictures are blandly drawn and have little personality. They are in keeping with the universality of the author's message, but make for a rather unexciting picture book. The basic ecological theme is delivered in a straightforward manner; the book could be used to introduce nature units and is well suited to beginning readers. Nancy Carlstrom's Northern Lullaby (Philomel, 1992), Doug Florian's Nature Walk (1989), and Charlotte Zolotow's Say It! (1980, both Greenwillow) address the subject with more charm and imagination, but The Earth and I will reach even younger audiences.-Steven Engelfried, West Lynn Library, OR

"This appealing story gets right to the heart of a child's experience with nature . . . Delightful."--Booklist

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