Resilience and Restoration — Over in the Wetlands: A Hurricane-on-the-Bayou Story by Caroline Starr Rose and Rob Dunlavey
I moved to Terrebonne Parish, Louisiana in 2007, a few months short of Hurricane Katrina’s second anniversary. To see the marks of devastation New Orleans still carried, to hear the daily conversations, it was clear Katrina, “the single most catastrophic natural disaster in U.S. history,” had left a lasting impact on countless lives.
What was completely unknown to me was the plight of Louisiana’s wetlands. Louisiana, which contains approximately 40% of the nation’s wetlands, experiences 90% of the coastal wetland loss in the lower 48 states. The state loses 25 to 35 square miles of wetlands per year. If nothing is done to alter this, all of Terrebonne, along with other coastal parishes, will be underwater by 2050.
At first, I was confused. Why had I only learned this after moving to Louisiana? Shouldn’t the loss of coastal wetlands be front-and-center national news? I made a point to ask friends and family across the country what they knew.
Were they aware over a third of our country’s threatened or endangered species make their homes in wetlands, and nearly half live in wetlands for at least part of their lives?
Did they know wetlands function as natural speed bumps for tropical storms and hurricanes?
Had they heard coastal wetlands lessen the impact of flooding by absorbing and dispersing water and that they help control coastal erosion by weakening the force of ocean currents?
Not at all.
That’s when I decided I wanted share the story of Louisiana’s wetlands in the most significant way I knew how. In 2008 I wrote the first draft of Over in the Wetlands: A Hurricane-On-The-Bayou Story. Loosely based on the traditional rhyme, “Over in the Meadow”, Wetlands is a celebration of the unique flora and fauna of the Gulf Coast. But I knew the story had to push beyond the familiar and expected. While Wetlands would focus on animal families, just as “Over in the Meadow” does, it wouldn’t be a counting rhyme. My animal families — gators and pelicans, turtles and crabs — would prepare for and then withstand a hurricane, safe in their wetland home.
Wetlands is not a Katrina book, but it is a reminder of that awful storm. I hope reading about these animal families will give young readers a measure of security. Storms are inevitable, but we are resilient. This wonderful world’s resilient, too. Let’s make every effort so that America’s coastal wetlands can thrive once again.
For more information on wetlands loss and restoration, please visit these sites:
Caroline Starr Rose was named a Publishers Weekly Flying Start Author for her debut novel, May B., which was an ALA-ALSC Notable Children’s Book. She is also the author of a second historical verse novel, Blue Birds. Caroline spent her childhood in the deserts of Saudi Arabia and New Mexico, camping by the Red Sea in one and eating red chile in the other. She has taught social studies and English, and worked to instill in her students a passion for books, an enthusiasm for experimenting with words, and a curiosity about the past. She lives in New Mexico. Visit her at www.carolinestarrrose.com.
Rob Dunlavey is the illustrator of The Dandelion’s Tale by Kevin Sheehan, which was called “luminous” and “radiant” in a starred review by Kirkus Reviews, and Counting Crows by Kathi Appelt. His work has been featured in the New York Times, the Boston Globe, and BusinessWeek, among many other publications. Rob has made murals for children’s museums in Miami, Florida, and Bridgehampton, New York, and in the East Hampton Public Library on Long Island. He lives in suburban Boston with his wife, two daughters, two insane cats, and a tropical fish named Bruce. Learn more at www.robd.com.