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Meet Charles S. Parker, an unsung yet trailblazing Black scientist who made major contributions to the fields of botany (the study of plants) and mycology (the study of fungi) in this inspiring STEM/STEAM picture book biography from the creators of Buzzing with Questions.
In 1882, Black botanist and mycologist Charles S. Parker sprouted up in the lush, green Pacific Northwest. From the beginning, Charles’s passion was plants, and he trudged through forests, climbed mountains, and waded into lakes to find them. When he was drafted to fight in World War I, Charles experienced prejudice against Black soldiers and witnessed the massive ecological devastation that war caused. Those experiences made him even more determined to follow his dreams, whatever the difficulties, and to have a career making things grow, not destroying them.
As a botanist and teacher, Charles traveled the United States, searching for new species of plants and fungi. After discovering the source of the disease killing peach and apricot trees, Charles was offered a job at Howard University, the famed historically Black college where he taught the next generation of Black scientists—men and women—to love plants and fungi as much as he did.
About the Author
Janice N. Harrington is an award-winning poet and children’s author. Her recent title, Buzzing with Questions: The Inquisitive Mind of Charles Henry Turner, was listed among NSTA Best STEM Books and the Nonfiction Detectives’ Best Nonfiction Book, and Chasing a Storyfish was A Kirkus Reviews Best Book of the Year. Her books The Chicken-Chasing Queen of Lamar County and Going North won many awards and citations, including a listing among TIME magazine's top 10 children's books and the Ezra Jack Keats Award from the New York Public Library. She is a professor of creative writing at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign.
Theodore Taylor III is an illustrator and comic artist. He received the Coretta Scott King John Steptoe New Talent Award and the Texas Bluebonnet Award for When The Beat Was Born: DJ Kool Herc and the Creation of Hip Hop. He is also the illustrator of the forthcoming graphic novel, Garvey’s Choice by Nikki Grimes.
A 2024 NSTA-CBC Outstanding Science Trade Book
A 2024 NSTA-CBC Best STEM Book
A 2024 CCBC Choice
"Like Harrington and Taylor’s previous collaboration, Buzzing With Questions (2019), another picture-book biography of a Black scientist, this one is similarly thorough. Along with Parker’s contributions to the field of mycology, Harrington emphasizes his encouragement of young Black scientists...Sure to inspire a passion for all things plant to take root among aspiring scientists." —Kirkus Reviews
"Accessible text traces the life of Charles S. Parker... Pleasing illustrations with varied layouts lend to the welcoming tone, while robust back matter with additional facts, a timeline, archival photos, and mini-bios of other notable Black botanists round out this appealing tribute." —Booklist
"Clear, engaging prose outlines Parker’s lifelong love of plants, his desire to know 'where, when, why, and how they grew,' and to help others 'learn to love plants, too.'...With an earth-toned palette, Taylor’s digital art spotlights Parker’s collection expeditions, the plants and fungi he studied, and his fieldwork with students." —The Horn Book
“Dr. Parker was a pioneering botanist. He explored and collected plants throughout North America, published his work on plant disease, and taught new students of botany at Howard University. He was a professor of many talents, and it is wonderful students will be able to learn about his life and legacy.” —Janelle M. Burke, associate professor of biology, director of the Howard University Herbarium
“Rooting for Plants by Janice Harrington is a wonderfully lyrical encapsulation of the life of Black botanist Charles Stewart Parker and a thoughtful introduction to the scientific method for young children.—Sujin B. E. Huggins, professor, School of Information Studies, Dominican University and current member of the Virginia Hamilton Award for Lifetime Achievement committee
“In the hands of a poet, science takes on a beauty not always accorded information. This biography of an early Black botanist is not only deeply researched but also lyrically written. With vivid illustrations grounding the text, children as well as their elders will find themselves enriched.”—Betsy Hearne, former director of the Center for Children’s Books, University of Illinois