Literature Connections to
Environmental Detectives

Teacher's Guides > Environmental Detectives

The Big Book for Our Planet
Catch of the Day: The Case of the Helpless Humpbacks
The Eleventh Hour
Forest Slump: The Case of the Pilfered Pine Needles
From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler
Incognito Mosquito Makes History
Incognito Mosquito, Private Insective
The Missing ’Gator of Gumbo Limbo: An Ecological Mystery
Motel of the Mysteries
The River
Who Framed Art Decco?
Who Killed Olive Souffle?
Who Really Killed Cock Robin?

The Big Book for Our Planet
edited by Ann Durell, Jean Craighead George, and Katherine Paterson
Dutton Children’s Books, New York. 1993
Grades: 4–8
Nearly thirty stories, poems, and non-fiction pieces by notable authors and illustrators, demonstrate some of the environmental problems now plaguing our planet such as overpopulation, tampering with nature, litter, pollution, and waste disposal.

Catch of the Day: The Case of the Helpless Humpbacks
by Emily Lloyd
McGraw-Hill, New York. 1997
Grades: 3–7
This is part of the Kinetic City Super Crew series, based on the public radio show produced by AAAS. The Super Crew is a group of 7 young people who travel the world solving problems. In this book, they must try to prevent whales from getting caught in fishing nets and drowning off the coast of Nova Scotia. In the process, the readers learn much about whales and their plight. Visit the Super Crew at their web site http://www.kineticcity.com/

The Eleventh Hour
by Graeme Base
Harry N. Abrams, New York. 1988
Grades: 3–8
This uniquely illustrated picture book is about an elephant’s eleventh birthday party with other animals as guests. In addition to being an illustrative and poetic tour de force, this book is a compelling mystery. We learn that one of the animals has managed to gobble up the special birthday banquet. All eleven animals are suspects, and the solution is said to be contained in the many layers of clues provided throughout the book. The end of the book is sealed so you can’t find out who did it until you think you have it solved!

Forest Slump: The Case of the Pilfered Pine Needles
by Emily Lloyd
McGraw-Hill, New York. 1997
Grades: 3–7
This is part of the Kinetic City Super Crew series, based on the public radio show produced by AAAS. The Super Crew is a group of 7 young people who travel the world solving problems. In this first book, they receive a call reporting pine needles missing from a forest in South Carolina. As they investigate the scene of the crime, they learn quite a bit about the forest ecosystem. A good blend of humor and learning. Visit the Super Crew at their web site http://www.kineticcity.com/

From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler
by E. L. Konigsburg
Dell, New York. 1977
Grades: 5–8
Twelve-year-old Claudia and her younger brother run away from home to live in the Metropolitan Museum of Art and stumble upon a mystery involving a statue attributed to Michelangelo.

Incognito Mosquito Makes History
by E. A. Hass; illustrated by Don Madden
Random House, New York. 1987
Grades: 4–7
The famous insective travels back in time to solve five mysteries involving such notables as Christopher Columbug, Benetick Arnold, Buffalo Bill Cootie, Tutankhamant, and Robin Hoodlum.

Incognito Mosquito, Private Insective
by E. A. Hass
Lothrop, Lee & Shepard Books, New York. 1982
Grades: 4–7
In this book, the first of several, the mosquito detective tells a cub reporter of his exploits and encounters with such insect notables as Mickey Mantis, F. Flea Bailey, and the Warden of Sting Sting Prison. In each chapter, the detective tells of a past case whose solution is at first left for the reader to solve; the final page of the chapter then gives the solution.

The Missing ’Gator of Gumbo Limbo: An Ecological Mystery
by Jean C. George
HarperCollins, New York. 1992
Grades: 4–7
Sixth-grader Liza K and her mother live in a tent in the Florida Everglades. She becomes a nature detective while searching for Dajun, a giant alligator who plays a part in a waterhole’s oxygen-algae cycle, yet is marked for extinction by local officials. She studies the delicate ecological balance in order to keep her outdoor environment beautiful. This "ecological mystery" combines precise scientific information and a variety of important environmental concerns with excellent characterization, a strong female role model, and an exciting, complex plot.

Motel of the Mysteries
by David Macaulay
Houghton Mifflin, Boston. 1979
Grades: 6–Adult
Presupposing that all knowledge of our present culture has been lost, an amateur archaeologist of the future discovers clues to the lost civilization of "Usa" from a supposed tomb, Room #26 at the Motel of the Mysteries, which is protected by a sacred seal (a "Do Not Disturb" sign). This book is an elaborate and logically constructed train of inferences based on partial evidence, within a pseudo-archaeological context. Reading this book, whose conclusions they know to be askew, can encourage students to maintain a healthy and irreverent skepticism about their own and other’s inferences and conclusions, while providing insight into the intricacies and pitfalls of the reasoning involved. This book can help deepen the practical experiences students have gained in distinguishing evidence from inference. It also helps demonstrate, in a humorous and effective way, the connection between detective work and the science of archaeology.

The River
by David Bellamy; illustrated by Jill Dow
Clarkson N. Potter/Crown, New York. 1988
Grades: 3–5
Plants and animals coexist in a river and have to struggle for survival when a man-made catastrophe strikes. Details about stream ecology include a description of the effects of waste water discharged from a factory and how the bacteria, algae, and oxygen interact in the dam area and beyond. The ending seems overly optimistic with the river "back to normal" a month after the waste was discharged. "Everyone hopes the factory owners will be more careful in the future."

Who Framed Art Decco?
by Margaret Benoit
McGraw-Hill, New York. 1997
Grades: 3–7
On a rainy Saturday, homicide detective Angel Cordoni decides to visit a local art gallery to view works of sculptor Bern T. Sienna and painter Forrest Greene. But her day off becomes a working day when she learns someone is stealing artwork from the gallery and trying to frame gallery owner Arthur Decco for insurance fraud. In addition, art critic Rave N. Phoole is killed and it appears a piece of one of the sculptures is the murder weapon. Through brilliant deduction, careful experimentation, and applied science, the clever detective solves the case. The book is a well-blended combination of entertainment and learning.

Who Killed Olive Souffle?
by Margaret Benoit
McGraw-Hill, New York. 1997
Grades: 3–7
At a snow-bound country inn, homicide detective Angel Cardoni works to solve the murder of the inn’s famous chef using the only forensic tools available—the inn’s kitchen supplies. Despite the lack of evidence and a number of red herrings, Angel uses many important science-based crime-investigation techniques (such as paper chromatography and identifying liquids by their boiling point and density) to solve the case.

Who Really Killed Cock Robin?
by Jean C. George
HarperCollins, New York. 1991
Grades: 3–7
A young hero in this compelling ecological mystery examines the importance of keeping nature in balance. This is an inspiring account of an environmental hero who becomes a scientific detective. With its interweaving factors that contributed to Cock Robin’s death, this book was an inspiration for the development of Environmental Detectives.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

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