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2010 Winner: Children's Science Picture Book

Living Sunlight: How Plants Bring the Earth to Life, by Molly Bang & Penny Chisholm. Blue Sky Press, 2009.


The Sun narrates a clear, lyrical account of photosynthesis and its fundamental roles in life on Earth. It sketches what happens at the molecular level as green plants capture solar energy in their chlorophyll, use it to break apart water, and build sugar from carbon dioxide. It explains that animals (people included) require the sugar and oxygen produced by plants, and that the carbon dioxide exhaled by animals when they combine these cycles back to the plants. Bang’s vibrant illustrations—with leaves, animals, and landscapes outlined in bright yellow—light up the pages. Four pages of notes provide explanatory details (including the role of rubisco and chemical reactions for photosynthesis and respiration) and acknowledge some simplifications (such as leaving out phytoplankton, the focus of MIT ecologist Chisholm’s own research). Effectively combining text and artwork, the authors offer a very enjoyable science lesson.

This is the first book in an ongoing collaboration between Bang and Chisholm focusing on the living planet.


About the Authors

Molly Bang

Molly Bang is the author-illustrator of more than 30 children's books, including three Caldecott Honor Books: When Sophie Gets Angry—Really, Really Angry..., Ten, Nine, Eight; and The Grey Lady and the Strawberry Snatcher; and The Paper Crane, winner of the Boston Globe-Horn Book Award; Common Ground, which won The Giverny Award for the best children's science book of 2000; and My Light, which was chosen as an ALA Notable and won the Massachusetts Book Award for Children's Literature in 2005. writer-illustrator of over 30 children’s books and has won many awards including 3 Caldecott Honors, a Boston Globe/Horn Book Award, Charlotte Zolotow Award, Jane Addams Award, Giverny Award, and 2 AAAS Awards. She has also written Picture This, a book for adults showing how picture structure affects our emotions, used by graphics art courses around the world. She holds degrees from Wellesley College, the University of Arizona, and Harvard University and has worked as an educator, an interpreter, and a newspaper reporter.

Penny Chisholm

Sallie W. (Penny) Chisholm of Watertown, Massachusetts, is the Lee and Geraldine Martin Professor of Environmental Studies and in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering at MIT, where she also has a Joint appointment in Biology. She is a biological oceanographer whose research interests are focused on understanding of the role of microorganisms in shaping marine ecosystems.  She is recognized for her work on Prochlorococcus, a marine microbe that is the smallest and most abundant photosynthetic organism on Earth. Chisholm is former director of the MIT/Woods Hole Joint Program in Oceanography, and MITs Earth System Initiative a multidisciplinary research and education program. She is a member of the National Academy of Sciences and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, has been a Guggenheim Fellow, and received the Rosensteil Award in Ocean Sciences and the Huntsman Award for Excellence in Marine Sciences.  She received a B.A. from Skidmore College, a Ph.D. from S.U.N.Y Albany.