Cover of book showing prairie dogs peeking out of their burrowsElementary school children learn about living webs–that plants and animals interact with each other within an environment. There are some great books depicting ecosystem webs–High Tide for Horseshoe Crabs looks at the interactions of animals around Delaware Bay, No Monkeys, No Chocolate examines the interactions of animals and plants in the rain forest, Tree of Wonder explores all the life in a single tree. Prairie Dog Song follows in this tradition.

Prairie Dog Song looks at how plants and animals interacted to build the great American prairies and then what happened when those relationships were disrupted by farmers and ranchers. In a singsong cadence, we hear how “the grass turned to desert land.” The book ends hopefully, though, showing how keeping a “keystone species” like prairie dogs intact also keeps other parts of the ecosystem healthy. The text chants, “in one place lived prairie dogs,…and the grasses waved all around.”

The main part of the text can be sung as a cumulative song, based on an old tune titled “The Green Grass Grows All Around,” (music included in the back matter), but my favorite part of the book was the wonderful explanatory text on every spread. It gives rich detail about the science behind the page and also about scientists who have worked with prairie species.

The art on every page is collage. It reminds me a lot of Susan Roth’s previous work on Parrots over Puerto Rico. Her technique is especially successful when she’s depicting animals within a landscape, but even the collages with people in them have charm.

The great back matter for the book includes not just the music for the song but also “More Prairie Dog Facts,” a “Timeline of the Janos Grasslands,” a “Glossary and Pronunciation Guide,” a bibliography (with over 30 sources!), and my favorite–photographs of the animals, landscapes, and scientists depicted in the book.

Prairie Dog Song by Susan L. Roth and Cindy Trumbore. Lee and Low: 2016

Children around a globe.