A River of Dust: The Life-Giving Link Between North Africa and the Amazon by Jilanne Hoffmann and Eugenia Mello

Hello, Jilanne Hoffmann! Welcome to Watch. Connect. Read.! A River of Dust is beautiful! I learned so, so, so much while reading it! 

Jilianne Hoffmann: Thank YOU so much, John! I hope A River of Dust sparks kids’ wonder and curiosity to know more! We live in a magnificent world where science often feels like magic, so it’s important to discover what’s behind the curtain of mystery. Knowledge increases empathy and compassion for all aspects of our world, including the environment. So thank you for having me here to talk about dust!

Thank you for being here today and for finishing my sentences! 

A River of Dust: The Life-Giving Link Between North Africa and the Amazon
tells the story
of dust’s journey as it soars above the broad landscapes of North Africa, spills over the Atlantic, and settles in the Amazon rainforest. Its tiny particles deliver precious cargo that is key to the health of the Amazon, the Atlantic, and our planet. Dust’s story is a lyrical ode to the vital roles that even the smallest among us can play, and as a story of separation and reconnection, it is STEM with a beating heart.

Eugenia Mello’s illustrations are so gorgeous I cried when I first saw the final art! The flowing images give readers a sense that they’re flying along with the dust. Plus, her color palette spans the spectrum, from a burnt siena sunrise to billowing-desert-sand tans to ocean blues to lush rainforest greens and scarlet macaw reds. I love how Eugenia included birds or shadows of birds in most spreads as a metaphor for dust’s flight.

A River of Dust’s back matter answers questions kids may have, including how NASA satellites measure the amount of dust that makes the journey to the Amazon, how scientists figured out the secret to the Amazon’s dense vegetation (and phytoplankton growth in the Atlantic), and how rocks provided the clues as to how the continents were once joined. The back matter also describes how dust is affected by climate change, how it changes weather patterns, and how scientists use computer models to predict both. To extend learning opportunities even more, my website links to educator guides that span the curriculum—even PE! And I’ve created a fun satellite-building activity, too!

Story is emotional knowledge that fosters understanding and empathy. It’s the invisible thread that twines through all of our lives, binds us together, and helps us make sense of ourselves and our world. It shows us how we’re different, yet connects us through universal truths.

John Schu, you should have asked me why I wrote A River of Dust from the perspective of dust. I had tried other points of view, but they kept the reader at arm’s length. When I wrote from dust’s perspective, I felt the longing of continents that have been separated for millions of years, the satisfaction of maintaining their connection through dust, and the anticipation of being reunited at some point millions of years from now. It’s a love letter from one continent to another, an emotional journey that feels satisfying and comforting. Kids know what it feels like to be separated from the ones they love, whether that knowledge comes from being left in the classroom on the first day of kindergarten or when a beloved family member lives far away. Dust’s voice speaks to the universal experience of separation and reconnection.

Congratulations, Jilanne! 

Borrow A River of Dust from your school or public library. Whenever possible, please support independent bookshops. 


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