After a brief digression about the Hanging Gardens of Babylon and medieval Scandinavia, present-day New York City’s architecture is the focal point. This would be a limiting choice if it weren’t for the abundance of green roof examples within the city, including post offices, apartment buildings, and schools. Lehar’s illustrations include New Yorkers of many ages, sizes, races, genders, and even species, with cameos from one of Central Park’s red-tailed hawks and a pizza-toting rat. The bold, eye-catching designs both provide visual stimulation and convey a sense of action to underscore the work’s message about the benefits of green roofs.
Though Sando and Lehar collaboratively paint a portrait of a brighter, healthier, happier green-roofed city, the last page of the book, which is meant to be a call to action, comes across more as a wistful hope that someday green roofs might become more widespread. The glossary and three websites are the only pointers to further investigation, and no sources are given for the book’s factual content, leaving curious readers wanting more. Best suited to classroom use, this beautifully illustrated book will encourage children and adults to think about what’s right overhead.
Takeaway: Urban schoolteachers will love using this primer on green roofs to start conversations with young students about built environments and ecosystems.
Great for fans of Peter Brown’s The Curious Garden, Sam Boughton’s The Extraordinary Gardener.
Design and typography: A
Marketing copy: A-
"Urban environmentalist and educator Sando makes green architecture accessible to an elementary school audience in this picture-book debut.
The rooftops of New York City come in several colors: blue, black, silver, stone, and green. Sando briefly describes the reasons behind the other structures’ hues before delving into the subject of green roofs and how planting atop buildings can have a tremendous environmental and emotional impact. In well-labeled diagrams and instructional illustrations, the author, along with illustrator Lehar, reveals the layered structure that makes planting atop a roof naturally beneficial. Sando also makes sure to mention the positive impact it can have on people, who “work and feel better when they look at nature.” Sando seamlessly introduces scientific terms (such as “compression,” “tension,” “habitat”), providing definitions inline or in a callout where necessary as well as in a glossary. Lehar’s bright cartoon illustrations depict real New York landmarks with green roofs to show the variety of appearances they can have as well as a variety of New Yorkers. The text’s complexity is best suited for independent readers at the second- or third-grade level, but teachers will also find plenty of plain-language classroom material here.
An engagingly illustrated work that brings a compelling concept to life."