Touch the Earth

Book review by
Jan Carr, Common Sense Media
Touch the Earth Book Poster Image
Cartoony mix of fun and soft science in environmental tale.

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

Directions north, south, east, west. Environmental issues: areas without water, polluted oceans, irrigation, water filtration.

Positive Messages

You can help solve environmental problems on the planet. It's good to be environmentally conscious.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Four children ride in a plane to fix environmental problems. They bring aid to people and areas of the planet that need it.

Violence & Scariness
Language

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Touch the Earth by singer-songwriter Julian Lennon with Bart Davis, illustrated by Smiljana Coh, is an environmentally themed book with an interactive element, the first in a planned trilogy. Readers are prompted to touch "buttons" on the page to address a variety of water-related environmental problems, and when they turn the page, the problem's fixed. The scientific information is basic, but the book might serve as an introduction to the idea that there are water challenges on the planet and that we have a responsibility to address them.

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What's the story?

In TOUCH THE EARTH, a feather becomes a magical plane, the White Feather Flier, that takes the reader on a "helping adventure," traveling to areas of the Earth that have problems with water. It delivers drinking water to people who need it, cleans up the ocean and returns the fish, irrigates the desert, and delivers a water-filtration machine, before returning home. Readers push flat "buttons" on the page and tilt the book to pretend they’re flying the plane and fixing problems, and they can see the changes they've made when they turn the page.

Is it any good?

This picture book about environmental problems and their solutions is playful and fun and may work as a very basic introduction to the issues. Touch the Earth has some fun interactive elements, successfully involving kids as it teaches concepts such as the directions north, south, east, and west. But it sometimes oversimplifies problems -- for instance, having kids address them merely by touching the flat "buttons" on the page. "Push the FISH button to bring the fish back." When the reader turns the page, fish have magically returned to a clean ocean. Similarly, after the concept of irrigation is explained -- we "bring water to where the land is too dry" -- readers see the desert bloom, but there’s no illustration of how irrigation might actually be brought in. In trying to be kid-friendly, the text sometimes underestimates kids' ability to grasp information -- and their need for it.

Illustrator Smiljana Coh's art has a fun cartoony look. But it strikes an uncomfortable note when it pictures three of the four kids in the plane as white, while all the people in water-challenged areas are brown-skinned. Still, the book might teach kids that our water supply is vulnerable and help develop kids' sense of responsibility.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the water problems in Touch the Earth. Do you know about any problems with water in your life or community? How do you get clean water?

  • Where do you live on the planet? Is there enough rainfall? How can you conserve water when you need to?

  • Is there a way you can actually help any of these problems in your life? What about the plastic in the ocean? How many things do you use that are plastic?

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