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Yezerski, Thomas F., 2011. Meadowlands: A Wetlands Survival Story. New York: Farrar, Straus & Giroux.
From the top of the Empire State Building in New York City, you can see a flat, wet place in New Jersey. Some people think it's just smelly swamps. Others think of it as where the airport or malls or stadiums are. Most people think it's not much of a place at all. This place is called the Meadowlands.Though the word meadow conjures thoughts of an idyllic landscape, to many New Jerseyans and nearby New Yorkers, the word Meadowlands does not. Instead, thoughts of Giants Stadium, Super Fund sites, and, according to the governor, the state's ugliest building come to mind. But as New Jersey resident Thomas F. Yezerski points out in Meadowlands: A Wetlands Survival Story, the Meadowlands is and always has been a changing place.
Yezerski begins the Meadowlands' story several hundred years ago when the Meadowlands was "20,000 acres of marshes, swamps, and bogs that were home to many different plants and animals," as well as the native people, the Lenni Lenape. Throughout the 1960s, 70s, and 80s, the area went through various changes - most of them for the worse. Landfills, chemical dumping, noxious smells, overcrowding, filthy water - the picture looked grim, and the Garden State's new reputation as a smelly place along the Turnpike was fixed in the nation's consciousness.
But even after being dug out, filled in, run over, and dumped on, the wetlands still showed signs of life. The Hackensack River still flowed south. The tide still rose north from the Atlantic Ocean. The river and tide still met in the Meadowlands twice a day, as they had for 10,000 years. Because they did, the ecosystem had a chance to recover.Meadowlands is a hopeful story. A story of the return of fish, birds, and even the marshland itself. It's a story of possibility, of the positive effect that people can have when they are so determined. Yezerski's love for the area is apparent. His pen and watercolor illustrations show that he has spent many hours and days in the Meadowlands, capturing its essence. Realistic detailing is present throughout, particularly in the birds, which approach guide book quality. Each double spread features a rectangular painting set in a frame of white space. Related icon-sized images surround the main illustration. Text appears plainly at the bottom of each page - no more than 4 lines per page.
Meadowlands should be required reading for all New Jersey schoolchildren, but it has value beyond New Jersey as well. It spreads the hopeful message: If we can do it, so can you. Where there is water flowing, there is life.
Author's Note, Selected Bibliography, and Selected Web Sites are included.
You can learn more about the Meadowlands at the New Jersey Meadowlands Commission site or the many sites devoted to the Meadowlands' varied commercial ventures.
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