Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Summer Solstice

Today is the Summer Solstice, the longest day of the year (in the Northern Hemisphere). Today, the reason for the season has nothing to do with any kind of human construct. It's all about our planet, it's 23.5 degree tilt, and its yearly trip around our amazing star, the sun.

Solstice seems like the perfect day to spotlight three books by Molly Bang about the sun.

In 2004, Molly Bang wrote My Light, a celebration of the sun and a description of how we can transform sunlight into electricity.

In 2009 (with Penny Chisholm), Bang gave us Living Sunlight, one of the clearest explanations of photosynthesis (down to the molecular level) that you'll ever read. Again, a celebration of our sun.

This year (again with Penny Chisholm), in Ocean Sunlight, Bang celebrates the sun's role in sustaining life on our planet, specifically, in the habitat of the ocean.

She begins by reminding us what we know about photosynthesis on land, and how every food chain begins with plants harnessing energy from the sun. Then she asks us to think about food chains in the ocean:

"All ocean life is part
of food chains, too.
And every ocean food
chain starts when plants
catch my light.

But where
are the ocean's plants?"

Where? In the billion billion billion phytoplankton drifting in the oceans! A microscopic pasture that feeds larger and larger organisms, all the way up to the whales.

That's interesting and mind-boggling, but then she takes it to a whole new the dark dark bottom of the ocean. How do the animals there get to participate in a sunlight-driven food chain when they have no light? They recycle all the "junk" that floats down from the surface. And how do the nutrients created by the life forms on the bottom of the ocean get up to the phytoplankton on the surface? The sun. The sun causes the currents that stir the oceans.

The sun. It always comes back to the sun. Life on earth, the water cycle, food chains, photosynthesis, oxygen and carbon dioxide, consumption and production.

Happy Solstice. 
Take a minute today to appreciate our sun.


  1. It's a special day & we finally have some cool weather, for a couple of days at least. These all are terrific, Mary Lee. Thanks for telling about them.

  2. I love this post! These books looks great and I can't wait to look for them at the library. The sun, something to be thankful for.

  3. That's what makes life interesting: we're all tilted 23 and a half degrees. Thanks for sharing Molly Bang's work.


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