The sun tells us how fossil fuels came to be and why unleashing the energy they hold has become a dangerous proposition for earth.
This book introduces a lot of complicated scientific concepts. To alleviate the density of the text, it is organized around a logical progression of questions beginning with “Where does energy to grow come from?” and ending with: “Will you humans keep burning more and more fossil fuels every year and risk the changes this will bring? Or will you work together to use my ancient sunlight more slowly, find other sources of energy and invent ways to thin the blanket of CO2?” It sounds like a giant leap. But the succession of questions has led us through the meaning of the term “fossil fuels” and on to a brief explanation of photosynthesis and respiration and the almost perfect balance between them before it outlines the consequences of increasing the level of CO2 in the atmosphere. As a result, the dire question at the end comes as no surprise.
What I like about this book is that it tackles a subject I haven’t found in another picture book and explains complex processes in a comprehensible way. For example, fossil is said to refer to the ancient plants buried underground, and fuel to the unbroken carbon chains locked inside them. Having the sun narrate the events helps to bring intimacy to a remote subject and to imbue the didactic tone with some warmth. That being said, I think an audience younger than fourth grade wouldn’t get much out of this book.
I am a fan of Molly Bang’s artwork from way back, but I find the illustrations in Buried Sunlight to be overwhelmingly busy. Cluttered by diagrammatic arrows or thumbnail inserts, the rich underlying earthscapes are lost in the mix. And throughout the book there are the distractions of little eyeball floaters which represent carbon dioxide molecules, mini-packing peanuts for oxygen, and lines of golden energy dots. But I have to point out that my opinion is not seconded by the majority of reviewers on Goodreads.
Buried Sunlight got a starred review from Kirkus, Booklist, and Publishers Weekly.
I’ve included links to a couple of videos to get you fired up about opposing continued reliance on fossil fuels. The first is too scary to be appropriate for young children. But the other videos are uplifting scenes of people coming together from all ends of the earth to get their leaders to act on climate change.