Only One by Deborah Hopkinson, illustrated by Chuck Groenink

Only One by Deborah Hopkinson, illustrated by Chuck Groenink. Anne Schwartz Books, 2022. 9780399557033

Rating:  1-5 (5 is an excellent or a Starred review) 4

Format: Hardcover picture book

What did you like about the book? Starting and ending with the number one, a girl takes readers on a numerical tour of the vastness of the universe and the diversity of life on Earth.  After explaining how one tiny speck exploded into the Big Bang, she heads out for a walk.  She is joined along the way by her brother and other friends, and expounds on the multitude of galaxies and stars, while emphasizing that “Only one galaxy is our home,” and “only one star is close enough to give us warmth and light.”  Planets and moons – each of which we also have only one – are covered before the narrator brings her discourse to a terrestrial level.  With 7 billion humans and 8,700,000 different species of living things, we are reminded that it is up to us to “care for, love, and preserve” the Earth.  It turns out the girl and her friends were walking to a tree planting day event, and “the story ends where it began, with only one.”  – one girl, planting one tree, hoping to make a difference.  

In straightforward, kid-friendly language, Deborah Hopkinson shares a brief general overview of both astronomy, earth science, and environmentalism.  That certainly seems like a lot to cover in just one picture book, but connections are deftly and clearly drawn and the concepts flow very nicely into each other.  Full-bleed, earth-toned illustrations provide a lot of depth to what might be a slightly dry narrative, and readers will appreciate Groenink’s attention to details as they explore the scenery on each page.  The girl narrator is white, but diversity is reflected among her friends and the community members at the tree planting event.  A list of suggested websites is included at the end.

Anything you did not like about the book?  No

To whom would you recommend this book? Only One will make a fine addition to a collection of Earth Day themed books, perhaps paired with Stacy McAnulty’s Earth: My First 4.54 Billion Years. It is best suited as a read aloud for students in grade 2 and up, for a variety of science topics.

Who should buy this book? Public and elementary school libraries

Where would you shelve it?  Dewey #523.1

Should we (librarians) put this on the top of our “to read” piles?  No

Reviewer’s Name, Library (or school), City:  Leigh Russell King, Lincoln Street School, Northborough, Massachusetts.

Date of review: May 2, 2022

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