Force of Nature: A Novel of Rachel Carson

by Ann E Burg (Author) Sophie Blackall (Illustrator)

Reading Level: 4th − 5th Grade

A beautiful and hopeful story of how a young impassioned naturalist grows up to change the world. For everyone who cares about our fragile planet.

"An absolute joy to read." ―Book Riot

"Gracefully written…pleasing to the eye and ear." ―Kirkus Reviews

Rachel was a girl who loved

science and the sea,

books and writing

and all the creatures of the world.

Rachel was quiet,

a listener by nature.

But when she saw problems,

she could not remain silent.

Some people thought girls

shouldn’t be scientists.

They thought girls

shouldn’t use their voices

to question or challenge,

even to protect

all the creatures of the world.

Luckily Rachel didn’t listen

to them.

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Publishers Weekly

In lilting verse, Burg (Flooded) writes, "We must always leave nature/ as we find her," quoting Rachel Carson (1907-1964), a marine biologist, conservationist, and award-winning author credited with launching the modern environmental movement. An early writing phenom enthralled by nature, Carson graduated college with a degree in biology. She received a PhD from Johns Hopkins in 1932 and went on to work as an aquatic biologist for the U.S. Department of Fisheries. Though she sometimes struggled to stand out in the male-dominated field, Carson eventually broke new ground by publishing several works, most notably the National Book Award-winning Silent Spring, which fluid text asserts is viewed as being the first to recognize "that unchecked progress wreaks havoc on our planet." Blending biographical detail with Carson's field notes and excerpts from her works, Burg crafts a fictionalized telling of Carson's life, which is accompanied by delicate and realistically rendered b&w illustrations of birds, flowers, and insects by Blackall (If I Was a Horse). An author's note expresses the hope that "readers will awaken to the beauty that surrounds us and become thoughtful caretakers of the earth, and recognize, as Rachel did, that we are part of the natural world." Ages 8-12. (Mar.)

Copyright 2024 Publishers Weekly, LLC Used with permission.


A convincing and charming portrayal of a woman who made a difference.

Review quotes

Praise for Flooded: Requiem for Johnstown:

* Stunning, significant and sorrowful, Ann E. Burg's requiem melts history into prose... Highly recommended. — School Library Journal, starred review

Chillingly effective. — The Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books

Awards and Praise for All the Broken Pieces:

ALA Best Books for Young Adults

IRA Notable Book for a Global Society

Jefferson Cup Award Winner

Booklist Editors' Choice

ALA Popular Paperback for Young Adults

* [A] stirring debut novel... will make readers want to rush to the end and then return to the beginning again to make connections between past, present, friends and enemies. — Booklist, starred review

* Using spare free verse, first-time novelist Burg beautifully evokes the emotions of a Vietnamese adoptee as he struggles to come to terms with his past. — Publishers Weekly, starred review

* The verse form carries highly charged emotions and heavy content with elegiac simplicity. — Kirkus Reviews, starred review

The story is a lovely, moving one."— School Library Journal

Awards and Praise for Serafina's Promise:

ALA Notable Book ALA Notable Trade Book in the Field of Social Studies Américas Award, Commended Title ​​​​​Kirkus Best Book of the Year

School Library Journal Best Books of the Year Parents' Choice Gold Award Winner

New York Public Library 100 Books for Giving and Sharing

The Herald-Sun Wilde Award for Longer Books, Middle Grade Novel Cybils Awards Finalists, Middle Grade Fiction

NAACP Image Awards Outstanding Literary Work — Youth/Teens nominee

Michigan Great Lakes Great Books Award

Nominee Bank Street College Children's Book Committee — Best Children's Books of the Year Kansas' William Allen White Award

* Lilting, lyrical, and full of hope."— Kirkus Reviews, starred review

* Powerful and uplifting."— School Library Journal, starred review

The grace of the Haitian people is revealed in Burg's poetic language, the vastness of Haiti's needs apparent in the details of Serafina's world. Serafina's journey is one readers will find unsettling but, at the same time, rich with examples of true courage and dignity. — Karen Hesse, author of the Newbery Medal winner Out of the Dust and Safekeeping

Serafina is certainly a resilient and admirable character who will touch the hearts of many... Through this story, Ann extends the reputation she established with All the Broken Pieces. — Don Gallo

A fascinating poetic tale, a magic window that opens gently and brings to your heart the cultural richness and wonders of a fate-taunting nation. — Denize Lauture

Awards and Praise for Unbound:

New-York Historical Society Children's History Book Prize Winner

Arnold Adoff Poetry Award for Middle Readers, Honor Book

Christopher Award, Books for Young People

Kirkus Prize Nominee

NYPL Best Books of the Year

* A combination of historical precision, honesty, and adventure... Beautifully done. — Kirkus Reviews, starred review

* Strong readers will appreciate the rhythmic flow of the poetry and the well-executed pacing... An ideal selection for classrooms and libraries... across a wide grade range. — School Library Journal, starred review

Ann E Burg
Ann Burg's debut novel, All the Broken Pieces, was named an ALA Best Book for Young Adults, a Jefferson Cup award winner and an IRA Notable Book for a Global Society, among its many honors. All of her subsequent novels in verse have garnered multiple awards and starred reviews. Serafina's Promise was named an ALA Notable, a Parents' Choice Gold Award Winner, and an NAACP Image Award finalist. Unbound was the winner of the New-York Historical Society Children's History Book Prize, the Christopher Award, and an Arnold Adoff Poetry Honor. Flooded was a Bank Street College Claudia Lewis Award winner, a Bank Street College Best Children's Book (with outstanding merit), and a Junior Library Guild selection. Burg worked as an English teacher for ten years before becoming a full-time writer. She lives in Rhinebeck, New York, with her family. Visit her online at
Sophie Blackall found inspiration for her drawings in Rachel Carson's writing and in her deep love for the natural world. "The ripples of Rachel's work affect us still, encircling us, reminding us more than ever that we are all connected." Sophie has illustrated over fifty books for children, including the New York Times bestselling Ivy and Bean series by Annie Barrows and the Caldecott Medal winners Finding Winnie by Lindsay Mattick and her own Hello Lighthouse. Originally from Australia, Sophie now splits her time between Brooklyn, New York, and the Catskill Mountains. Learn more at
Lexile Measure
Guided Reading Level
Scholastic Press
Publication date
March 20, 2024
BISAC categories
JUV057000 - Juvenile Fiction | Stories in Verse (see also Poetry)
JUV004020 - Juvenile Fiction | Biographical | United States
JUV014000 - Juvenile Fiction | Girls & Women
JUV029010 - Juvenile Fiction | Nature & the Natural World | Environment
Library of Congress categories
Childhood and youth
Novels in verse
Women scientists
Biographical fiction
Carson, Rachel
Free verse
JUVENILE FICTION / Science & Nature / Environ
JUVENILE FICTION / Stories in Verse (see also

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