Rooting for Plants

The Unstoppable Charles S. Parker, Black Botanist and Collector

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Published by: Calkins Creek
Release Date: August 29, 2023
Contributors: Theodore Taylor III (Illustrator)
ISBN13: 978-1662680199


Meet Charles S. Parker, an unsung yet trailblazing Black scientist who made major contributions to the fields of botany (the study of plants) and mycology (the study of fungi) in this inspiring STEM/STEAM picture book biography.

In 1882, Black botanist and mycologist Charles S. Parker sprouted up in the lush, green Pacific Northwest. From the beginning, Charles’s passion was plants, and he trudged through forests, climbed mountains, and waded into lakes to find them. When he was drafted to fight in World War I, Charles experienced prejudice against Black soldiers and witnessed the massive ecological devastation that war caused. Those experiences made him even more determined to follow his dreams, whatever the difficulties, and to have a career making things grow, not destroying them.

As a botanist and teacher, Charles traveled the United States, searching for new species of plants and fungi. After discovering the source of the disease killing peach and apricot trees, Charles was offered a job at Howard University, the famed historically Black college where he taught the next generation of Black scientists—men and women—to love plants and fungi as much as he did.


"Like Harrington and Taylor’s previous collaboration, Buzzing with Questions (2019), another picture-book biography of a Black scientist, this one is similarly thorough. Along with Parker’s contributions to the field of mycology, Harrington emphasizes his encouragement of young Black scientists. . . . Sure to inspire a passion for all things plant to take root among aspiring scientists."
Kirkus Reviews

"Accessible text traces the life of Charles S. Parker. . . . Pleasing illustrations with varied layouts lend to the welcoming tone, while robust back matter with additional facts, a timeline, archival photos, and mini-bios of other notable Black botanists round out this appealing tribute."

"Clear, engaging prose outlines Parker’s lifelong love of plants, his desire to know 'where, when, why, and how they grew,' and to help others 'learn to love plants, too.'...With an earth-toned palette, Taylor’s digital art spotlights Parker’s collection expeditions, the plants and fungi he studied, and his fieldwork with students."
The Horn Book

Interview about Rooting for Plants