For her first picture book Jennifer Swanson has found a topic that has nearly universal appeal. (There are some creatures like fish and snakes that don't have feet, but they do leave their marks in other ways.) The text explains that footprints can be large or small; made by feet, paws, or talons; and can be lasting or ephemeral. This isn't a poetry book, but the careful word choice is lyrical in its exploration of all the ways and places that footprints are made and how they are alike or different. From looking at "strong and purposeful" tracks left by elephants to chicken scratches in the dirt, a wide range of animals are shown.
As the book transitions to human footprints there is a beautiful spread that shows a dozen different pairs of shoes from various cultures around the world because "Footprints are also as diverse as the people of the planet." The discussion moves into how footprints mark the locations of great adventures with images juxtaposing mountain heights and ocean depths. Then we are shown fossilized dinosaur prints and the tracks of a Mars rover, spanning the past and "a glimpse of our future." The broader meaning of footprints is introduced with references to the historic impact of "people who stood up for change" like Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Greta Thunberg, as well as "reminding us that our way of living impacts everything around us."
Back matter offers additional information about the concepts and images. Details about the first footprints on Mt. Everest, carbon footprints, and digital footprints are some of the extras on these pages. Whether you are looking for a read-aloud to begin a lesson on comparing and contrasting for younger readers, or a text to lead into a discussion of human impact on the environment, this book is ready for all that and more. Between the perfectly chosen words and the images that accompany them, readers of all ages will be left pondering the final question the author poses: "What type of mark will you leave behind?"
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