Bulldozed years earlier and filled to make a cornfield, a lost creek is found and restored on an Iowa farm.
When Michael Osterholm learned that a creek had once run under his farmland, he determined to restore it. Following old photographs and using heavy machinery to uncover the original bed and add stones to the bottom, he then planted grasses, providing the necessary ingredients for the creek to thrive again. “Mike said the water remembered. / It seeped in from the sides, / raced down the riffles and runs, / burbled into holes, filled the creek.”
Plants, insects, frogs, birds, and small fish called sculpin returned on their own. A final touch was to stock the stream with the brook trout that once made it their home. Illustrator McGehee’s made her ripply, creature-filled illustrations look like painted woodcuts by using scratchboard, watercolor, and dyes. Her curving lines are filled with life. One striking spread has no color, only the gray outlines of what is to come.
Although Osterholm and the restorers appear to be white in the illustrations, a multiracial group is shown enjoying the restored creek at the end. Short lines of text are set in clear areas, but occasionally extra facts appear in tiny letters on the vegetation. The main narrative reads smoothly aloud, and the pictures, though detailed, should show well to a small group. Author’s and illustrator’s notes and a comment from the actual creek rescuer complete the package.
A heartening story of environmental restoration.
Additional consideration: While we at Teaching for Change agree this is a wonderful book and story, it is important for young readers to see images of diversity in farmers. The farmers in this story are all white and male — as is the case in most popular media about farmers. We encourage teachers and parents to scan your collection and make sure you also have books that feature farmers who are female and people of color.
Creekfinding by Jacqueline Briggs Martin
Illustrator: Claudia McGehee
Published by University of Minnesota Press on 2017
Genres: Environment, Nature
Reading Level: Grade K, Grades 1-2
Review Source: Kirkus Reviews
Buy at Powell's Books
Publisher's Synopsis: Once upon a time a creek burbled up and tumbled across a prairie valley. It was filled with insects and brook trout that ate them, frogs that chirruped and birds watching for bugs and fish. This is a true story about a man named Mike who went looking for that creek long after it was buried under fields of corn. It is the story of how a creek can be brought back to life, and with it a whole world of nature.
In the words of award-winning author Jacqueline Briggs Martin and the enchanting illustrations by Claudia McGehee, this heartening tale of an ecosystem restored in the Driftless Area of northeast Iowa unfolds in a way that will charm and inform young readers who are drawn to a good mystery, the wonders of nature--and, of course, big earth-moving machines.