Farrar, Straus and Giroux (Byr), Hardcover, 9780374349134, 40pp.
Publication Date: March 1, 2011
A "New York Times "Notable Children's Book for 2011
One of "Horn Book"'s Best Nonfiction Books of 2011
The 20,000 acres of wetlands in New Jersey now known as the Meadowlands were once home to hundreds of species of plants and animals. But in the four hundred years since European explorers first arrived in the Meadowlands, people have dammed up, drained, built over, and polluted this formerly vibrant ecosystem and all but destroyed it. Still, signs of life remain under bridges, on the edges of parking lots, and beside train tracks. Slowly but surely, with help from activist groups, government organizations, and ordinary people, the resilient creatures of the Meadowlands are making a comeback, and the wetlands are recovering.
Thomas F. Yezerski
About a year ago, I discovered something startling in the closet of my childhood bedroom -- I haven't changed a whole heck of a lot since I was five! I realized this when I found a picture that I made in kindergarten.
The subject of that first drawing was my stuffed bear, enigmatically named Mary Bear. As she was in life, the Mary Bear in the drawing is long and flat, the result of sleeping in the arms of a chubby little boy. She is fastidiously rendered in brown, black, and red crayon. Mom insists it shows I was going to be an artist when I grew up, but she is my mother, after all! When I look at it, I just see the love I had for my bear.
My feelings about the ordinary people and events in my life also tend to get into my work. Mom says the Mary Bear drawing was the first drawing I made in kindergarten. I can bet that I was missing my bear quite a lot during those first few terrifying days of my education, and that emotion is apparent in the drawing.
My first book, "Together in Pinecone Patch", is about the prejudices of Polish and Irish immigrants in the nineteenth century. But it's also about my gratitude to my parents and grandparents for working so hard to make life better for me. My personal fears about starting out on my own motivated that story, too. It may even be about my own experience of falling in love with someone I shouldn't have.
My outlook on life isn't all hungry peasants and gray coal towns, though. Queen of the World reflects my sillier side. After all, my kindergarten drawing wasn't sad and dark; it was a stuffed bear! I admit that the three girls in the story resemble my sisters. My sisters admit it, too, and they're slightly annoyed. I have a long history of slightly annoying my sisters, so this book is a sort of crowning work. I'm also proud of my siblings. I think my admiration for their individuality and zeal comes across through these words and pictures. Though I've conveniently left out a character representing myself, this book helps me laugh at my own busy, frantic quest to be the best.
"A Full Hand" is a trip down the Morris Canal in New Jersey, and a journey from childhood to adulthood. The route I travel from my parents' house to my home is roughly the same as that of the canal. Over the years, at the deliberate pace of a canal boat, my father dispensed mundane facts and taught me the right way to be. The boy in "A Full Hand" is amazed by and yet anxious about his father's world. He's also eager to do a good job in it. Decades after my first day in kindergarten, I still find my world daunting and amazing. In some ways, I'm still a five-year-old trying to put it all in my drawings.
Thomas F. Yezerski was born in 1969 and spent most of his childhood in Pennsylvania's Lehigh Valley. Tom took art lessons at the Baum School of Art in Allentown and at the Barnstone Studios in Coplay. He was a Boy Scout for six years and earned the rank of Eagle Scout. In 1987 he graduated from Parkland High School in Orefield, where he played xylophone in the band. Tom earned his BFA in illustration from Syracuse University in 1991.
Before illustrating children's books, Tom created a design a day for children's pajamas and swimsuits. He is forever grateful to Farrar, Straus and Giroux for publishing his first book, "Together in Pinecone Patch". Tom continues to write and illustrate new books, as well as to create graphics for computer software. He lives in Rutherford, New Jersey.
“The wetlands have retained their power to regenerate, a process that the book's beautiful watercolors bring to vivid life.” –Los Angeles Times
“Yezerski not only can write a book on how to teach children about their environmental impact — he has.” –New York Times.com
“Thomas Yezerski's pleasingly presented history of this "flat, wet place in New Jersey" helps all of us see the workings of an estuary, spongy ground where a freshwater river meets the ocean tides.” –Chicago Tribune
“Thanks to picture books like Yezerski's, young readers can appreciate the complexity of an ecosystem in their own neighborhood.” –The Sacramento Bee
“Judicious ink and watercolor illustrations pair with tender prose …Yezerski paints a vivid history of the place where the Hackensack River meets Newark Bay, and where the Lenni Lenape lived for thousands of years…The healthy commingling of urban and natural worlds in the final spreads makes this portrait especially poignant.” –Starred, Publishers Weekly
"Although readers who know the Meadowlands personally will have a special interest in the topic, the idea of fostering and protecting plant and animal habitats in urban environments can resonate with a broad audience." –Starred, School Library Journal
“Yezerski adroitly captures the tensions and hope in the sometimes adversarial, sometimes beneficial relationship between humans and the environment in this marvelous ecological history of the Meadowlands of New Jersey, an estuary trapped in a dense industrial, commercial, and residential area.” –Starred, Horn Book
“Along with the portraits of active conservationists, including young people, who are working to protect the environment, the close-up views of the interconnectedness of each small creature will grab readers.” –Booklist
“A spectacular offering.” –Kirkus Reviews
“The text handily covers the particulars, but keen, patient observers can “read” the ecological story through the illustrations alone.” –Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books
"This is a book they sit a long time with, examining the tiny drawings with care and interest. I used this book with great success as a classroom read aloud and the teacher reported that the book got constant traffic for independent reading after that." --Bookends, Booklist blog