SONWA 2015 Young Adult Winner

By Jan Penn, SONWA Children’s Committee

Paul Fleischman’s Eyes Wide Open approaches the topic of environmental engagement from the angle of an old fashioned “investigative reporter.” It takes matters of who, what, when, where to the depths associated with the process of critical thinking.

A variety of current environmental news topics are introduced in this essay, but the unique manner in which the author presents is not just a factual litany of worries. Fleischman leads the young reader to explore human motivations, influences, and barriers in the decision-making process, and matters of societal and cultural bias impacting environmental headlines.

Without lecturing and with a solid foothold in educational theory, the author like a good parent or educator draws the young reader into the process of looking at an issue from new angles with eyes indeed wide open.

Chapter one begins a journalist exploration of environmental concerns applying the process of critical analysis in language that is youth friendly. The author employs a balance of humor and serious reflection. There is never a hint that critical analysis is beyond the reader’s ability, but rather affirms that the young reader is quite capable of complex processing. In the end, Fleischman takes the newly informed citizen activist to the doorstep of making at minimum a personal commitment to change behavior-action mode turn on.

The 2015 Sigurd Olson Nature Writing Award for Young Readers is every parent, educator, grandparent’s companion to revisiting the tradition of a good discussion around the family dinner table. It is process learning at its best! It is worthy of the award named in honor of a truly historic environmental leader, writer, and activist Sigurd Olson.


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