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Creek Critters

Creek Critters

Jennifer Keats Curtis with Stroud Water Research Center, Illustrated by Phyllis Saroff
Arbordale Publishing
32 pp.
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Small streams are often overlooked and underappreciated, but they provide ample opportunities for curious kids to learn what it is like to be a scientist. In Creek Critters, a girl whose name we never learn invites her younger brother Lucas to explore a stream one might find in the mid-Atlantic region of the United States. The pair turn over rocks and scoop up rotting leaves in search of aquatic macroinvertebrates that ecologists use as indicators of a healthy ecosystem. Most of this short book focuses on insects, especially in larval forms, describing their sizes and shapes along with appealing, detailed illustrations and photographs. The children’s goal is to find species, such as the mayfly and the caddis fly, that are sensitive to pollutants. “If we find them,” the girl explains, “we’ll know our creek is healthy.”

The book ends with a few pages of activities, including a scavenger hunt and a template for recording observations about the environment. The last page lists noninsect biological indicators of stream health, such as snails, crayfish, and planaria. The publisher’s website includes Spanish-language versions of the story (audio and text), and the Audubon Naturalist Society offers a “Creek Critters” companion app and additional activities.

I found myself wanting more from the book—more information about the importance of healthy streams, more explanation of how pollutants affect flora and fauna, and more illustrations—but most of all, it left me with the feeling that I want more time to explore my own nearby creeks. It may likewise provide inspiration and direction for children who enjoy getting their hands wet and their boots muddy.

About the author

The reviewer is a managing editor at the Science journals.