Book Review: Crinkleroot’s Guide to Giving Back to Nature by Jim Arnosky

Explaining environmental issues to children can be challenging, but because it is such an important subject, many parents want some help figuring out how to integrate environmental consciousness into their children’s daily lives. There are lots of books out there to help parents in this area, and I’m going to highlight one such book today: Crinkleroot’s Guide to Giving Back to Nature by Jim Arnosky. Thanks to the TD Friends of the Environment grant, we now have two copies of this great book.


This latest book in the Crinkleroot series help introduce children to nature and is full of great activities for families. It uses a picture book format so it is especially kid-friendly. Crinkleroot, born in a tree and raised by bees, acts as a guide to interested readers, highlighting different aspects to the wildlife that they can find in their own backyard. Each page brings the reader’s attention to different parts of nature. On one page, Crinkleroot tells readers that lots of animals can live in wild grass, like spiders, bees, sparrows, etc. He then invites children to identify these creatures in the colourful picture on the next page; what’s better than an engaging book that also helps kids learn? The guide demonstrates how to plant trees, how to release a fish unharmed, and in general, how to give back to nature while entirely avoiding a heavy-handed tone.

Take a look the next time you’re in the library, and you won’t be disappointed.


The Importance of Trees

Last Wednesday, July 4th, environmentalist David Fletcher came to the library to give a talk called The Enchantment of Trees: From Roots to Canopy. Mr. Fletcher started by pointing out the importance of trees to the environment and to the island of Montreal in particular, explaining that in areas which have a healthy forest canopy, more oxygen is produced, more energy is stored, and temperatures are lowered. Take a look at this temperature map of Cote Saint-Luc and the surrounding neighbourhoods – those white areas are white because they’re cool. And they’re cool because there are lots of trees around:

Heat Map of CSL and Environs

Of course, once we realize how important trees are, what can we do to ensure that our beneficial native species don’t become overrun by invasive transplants? Recognizing threats is the first step.

The Emerald Ash Borer

Emerald Ash Borer

This is an insect which has, in some places, severely reduced the native ash population. This is relevant to us because roughly 25% of the trees on the island of Montreal are ash trees or one kind or another.

This bug, as you’d probably guess from its name, bores into the wood of ash trees and eventually kills the tree from the inside. It is not native to Canada, having come from Asia. According to the Canadian Food Inspection Agency, this insect is responsible for the deaths of millions of trees in Ontario and Michigan.

What you can do: First, don’t move ash wood or branches from one location to another (and, in fact, it is currently prohibited to move ash off the island). If you see one of these beetles, contact Cote Saint-Luc’s Public Works department at 514-485-6868. For more info, see the Canadian Food Inspection Agency’s website here.

Common Buckthorn

Common BuckthornThis species of small tree is native to Europe and was brought to North America as a decorative garden shrub at some point in the 19th century. Its bark and fruit used to be used as a purgative or expectorant, though this is no longer the case due to its violent action and possibly dangerous side effects. It has become an invasive species in parts of North America because it leafs earlier than native species, giving it a competitive advantage. In areas where it is abundant, its dense leaf cover keeps native seedlings from growing. It also possibly gives off a substance that slows the growth of other species.

What you can do: This may sound drastic, but… pull it up! If you notice this shrub in your back yard or garden, it’s very easy to remove it from the ground when the plants are young. You may have to do this for a few years in a row, as the seeds have a high germination rate and can germinate up to three years after they’re dropped.

For more information, check out Tree Canada.

Norway Maple

Norway MapleThis is a species of maple that is native to eastern and central Europe and southwest Asia. It produces a large number of viable seeds and also emits a chemical that inhibits the growth of other species around it. It discourages competitors by throwing lots of shade in areas where it dominates (as well as the thick, suffocating layer of leaves that cover the ground around it in the autumn), and it is eaten less often by herbivores than other species are – yet another advantage. It is very tolerant of shade even as a sapling and has shallow roots, which compete with other species at the ground level. For these reasons, it is considered an invasive species in parts of North America, though it’s still often used in urban plantings and can be found everywhere. It is, however, banned in Massachusetts and New Hampshire and is no longer sold by any nurseries owned by Meijer, Inc. (an American chain based in Michigan).

What you can do: Choose an alternative tree for planting, such as sugar, red, or silver maple (which are all native to this area). Remove any Norway maples in your yard, if possible – they are easy to remove as seedlings or young plants. See Tree Canada for more info.

Become a Locavore

The Eleanor London Côte Saint-Luc Library will continue its seven-part series on the environment entitled Doing Your Part: Building A Sustainable Future Together.  Join us for what will be an interesting  session entitled “Become a Locavore: Bringing Local Foods to Your Table”
Wednesday July 18 at 7 pm

Sarah Elton, author of Locavore: From Farmers’ Fields to Rooftop Gardens, How Canadians are Changing the Way We Eat will discuss the benefits of eating local, sustainable food.
In addition, representatives from Lufa Farms and Arlington Farms will be on hand to discuss their local produce/fruit basket programs and CSSS dietician, Caryn Roll, will discuss the Good Food Box Program.

Talking about trees

Environmentalist David Fletcher will talk about the importance of the tree canopy and urban forests on the island and in our city on Wednesday, July 4 at 7 pm at the library.  Fletcher will also present the challenges we face due to climate change, putting the focus on our own indigenous trees and the new invasive diseases like the emerald ash borer.  Patrick Raggo, the Director of the Public Works Department, will also be on hand to discuss the city’s plan to combat the effects of the emerald ash borer on the city’s ash trees. 

This event is part of the Doing Your Part lecture series presented by the library.  This session is entitled:

The Enchantment of Trees : From Roots to Canopy