August 23, 2018

My River: Cleaning up the LaHave River

Written by Anne Laurel Carter
Formac
978-1-4595-0551-3
96 pp.
Ages 7-12
September 2018

Stella Bowles, her parents, younger brother William and dog Zappa live on the LaHave River in Nova Scotia. Though they have a wharf, a motorboat and her brother and father sail, Mom expects them to swim in their above-ground pool rather than the river where many swim regularly. After an issue with their septic system, eleven-year-old Stella learns that many people on their 97 km-long river, that runs from the Annapolis Valley to the Atlantic Ocean, still use straight pipes i.e., pipes that let toilets flush directly into the river.
From My River: Cleaning up the LaHave River by Anne Laurel Carter
After meeting Dr. Maxwell, a man who had been testing the water of the LaHave for several years and reporting it to the government without any action, Stella posts a large sign-"This river is contaminated with fecal bacteria"-to warn people about the dangers hidden in the river and begins a science project, under the guidance of Dr. Maxwell, to test the water for contamination. Readers learn much about the scientific method and Stella's experimental process while she endeavours to inform herself and others about the health of her river, garnering much attention both locally and online.
"My poop river project had gone viral." (pg. 43).
From My River: Cleaning up the LaHave River by Anne Laurel Carter
Though Stella finds much physical evidence of toilet waste (you don't really need the details), it's her test results for enterococci bacteria that are startling, revealing that several sites were not even safe for skin contact. Stella presents her findings at her local and regional school science fairs but the biggest hurdle is getting three levels of government to become involved in helping residents replace straight pipes with septic systems.  It's an arduous task, especially for one so young, but Stella Bowles is passionate about her river and getting it cleaned up.

Award-winning author Anne Laurel Carter caught wind of Stella Bowles's story after purchasing a property in the area in 2003. By telling Stella Bowles' story in the voice of the young teen, Anne Laurel Carter, best known for her acclaimed fiction, has made My River: Cleaning up the LaHave River a worthwhile read of citizen science and activism.
While My River does include some of the features of non-fiction text like photographs, information boxes and diagrams that can help provide clarification and greater depth to the story, it is the text of Stella Bowles's story of helping to put a stop to polluting practices on the LaHave River that carries the tale. It's the small steps in learning and discovery that make My River an exemplar of activism by young people with the message that, with perseverance and science, while looking in your own backyard, you can help change the world.

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