Girl of the Year 2010: Lanie's Real Adventures

Author: Jane Kurtz
Illustrators: Rebecca DeKuiper and Robert Papp


Lanie's aunt Hannah has returned, in time for a family camping trip. Lanie and Hannah sleep outside in a tent while the rest of the family sleeps in Hannah's trailer, but the family is still together on a camping trip. Lanie couldn't be happier.

When they return, Lanie and Emily start planning another garden in the front yard, a butterfly haven. The next-door neighbor comes over to complain about it, though. She's worried that the Holland house is becoming an eyesore (Hannah's camper has been in the driveway for at least two months now, and there are city ordinances about front yard appearances). She's also worried that the seeds from the native wildflowers they're planting--weeds, she says--with blow over to her yard and ruin the perfectly landscaped rose garden she has. She's also using harsh pesticides and herbicides, which Lanie worries will kill butterflies and maybe even get into the Hollands' vegetable garden.

Lanie has also joined a summer gardening program through her school. She learns about natural pesticides and herbicides, like using ladybugs to eat aphids. One boy in class, Nicholas, is an aspiring entomologist. He shows Lanie a newspaper article about how he found a particularly rare ladybug. It hadn't been seen in fourteen years so was presumed extinct, and he found the second specimen (see "Real Girls, Real Stories" below). When Lanie learns that ladybugs seek out and eat aphids, she collects several of them for her neighbor, having already made inroads with her by giving her a natural aphid spray and some homemade zucchini bread. The neighbor is skeptical but intrigued, especially when she's told that some commercial farmers use natural solutions like ladybugs. Lanie eventually decides to forgo the front yard garden, and the neighbor starts using natural pesticides and herbicides.

Inspired, Lanie suggests the gardening program put on a festival. They can raise money to help the endangered orangutans that her best friend Dakota told her about: the local people in Indonesia are mostly very poor, and illegal logging of the rain forest is a quick way to earn money, but it displaces the apes. The emails from Dakota are a good thing for Lanie, as she'd been discouraged thinking kids can't make a difference. But then Lanie's neighbor becomes more open to ideas, and the garden festival goes so well. Emily even finds monarch eggs in the Hollands' back yard shortly after Dakota returns home. When she's interviewed at the garden festival, the TV reporter asks Lanie what one thing she wants people to learn from the festival. She says that people shouldn't give up, because one person can make a difference.

Real Girls, Real Stories

Jilene and her brother Jonathan saw a rare kind of ladybug one day, a species native to their Virginia home, which hadn't been seen in fourteen years. They told a friend of theirs who was majoring in entomology, and the friend started a conservation project to help protect the ladybug, once thought to have been extinct. Sabra is a junior ranger in California, helping take care of the redwoods forest. Julia helped her Maryland school get a recycling program (sounds like she was less grating about it than someone else). Isabel and her friend Gabe started a club at their Pennsylvania school to raise money for manatee research and protection.


Special thanks are given to Kathe Crowley Conn.

Like Lanie's first book, this one is full of illustrated nature facts.

Ah, now Hannah is an ornithologist.

Everything is made of chemicals. Water is H20--a chemical. Chemicals aren't necessarily bad (or good).

Yule Tree Farms in Oregon was featured on an episode of Modern Marvels ("Christmas Tech"). It uses ladybugs and similar things for pest control, but occasionally resorts to artificial chemicals to fight particularly bad infestations, targeting the specific trees that are affected.

The next-door neighbor hears Angela playing her cello, and arranges for her to audition for a youth program with the Boston Pops.

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