Green shoots of Spring
From teens going on climate strikes to primary school kids working on banning single-use party bags at birthday bashes, the young people of Ireland are very aware of issues around global warming and climate change, and they are ready to take action.
Last October, Children’s Books Ireland published its annual reading guide, Recommended Reads 2019–2020, which comprised a special section dedicated to the environment: 48 books for kids of all ages, lovers of facts, fiction or poetry, plus another 48 recommendations for further reading. And that is only what could physically fit in the guide! Publishers are busy continually bringing out new books that aim to enlighten and inspire younger generations to embrace and protect our one and only planet.
Marvelling at the Earth’s natural ecosystems and fostering a desire to protect them can happen from a very young age thanks to books such as Where’s the Elephant? by Barroux where the huge animal hiding in the jungle becomes easier to spot as the trees are taken down and the city encroaches on the forest (0–4). Petr Horáček’s The Last Tiger pictures a big cat living happily in its habitat until humans come along and snatch it to exhibit in the zoo.
Real-life stories of activism can be as informative as they can be comforting and inspiring. Young Greta Thunberg has already appeared in picturebooks (Greta and the Giants, by Zoë Tucker and Zoe Persico, 4+) and non-fiction chapter books (Greta’s Story by Valentina Camerini, Veronica Carratello and Moreno Giovannoni, 9+). For readers of 3+, My First Jane Goodall by Maria Isabel Sanchez Vegara and Beatrice Cerocchi is a very accessible account of the zoologist’s life and work to date. For readers of 5–8, try David Attenborough (also by Sanchez Vegara and Mikyo Noh) or Kate Pankhurst’s Fantastically Great Women Who Saved the Planet.
Readers of all ages with a grudge against plastic and waste in general are spoilt for choice. From Somebody Swallowed Stanley! (Sarah Roberts and Hannah Peck, 3+) to Alba The Hundred-Year-Old Fish (Lara Hawthorne, 5+), ocean-polluting plastic proves a great story starter that is treated alternately with humour or sobering concern. Fact books abound too: Lift-the-Flap Questions and Answers About Plastic by Katie Daynes and Marie-Eve Tremblay (5+), Plastic: Past, Present, and Future by Eun-ju Kim and Ji-Won Lee (6+), Kids Fight Plastic by Martin Dorey and Tim Wesson (7–9) and many more! Readers of all ages will find tips on how to reduce their family’s carbon footprint, be it by reusing and upcycling (The Perfect Sofa by Fifi Kuo, 2+), or recycling, replacing and refusing (Be Green! Mindful Kids, Global Citizens by Mandy Archer and Katie Abey, ages 8–12).
Readers of a more philosophical disposition will enjoy Oliver Jeffers’ latest picturebook, The Fate of Fausto (5–10) or the National Geographic’s Book of Nature Poetry (8+). And if you have a fan of post-apocalyptic fiction on your hands, try them with the whimsical The Last Zoo (9+) by Sam Gayton or Tom Huddleston’s Floodworld (10–14).
Written by Juliette Saumande (juliettesaumande.blogspot.ie), a children’s book writer whose latest title, My Little Album of Dublin, is illustrated by Tarsila Krüse and published by The O’Brien Press.
The Perfect Sofa by Fifi Kuo, Boxer Books
Penguin and Panda need a new sofa: the old one is stained, saggy and the springs are popping out. But finding the perfect replacement is trickier than you might expect: some sofas are too soft, some to hard, others too bright, and that’s before we get to the ‘too modern’ or ‘too expensive’ ones! The friends’ quest is told with great humour and the pictures are warm and welcoming. There is also plenty for the adult reader who will probably recognise the works of famous artists as inspiration for some of the more improbable couches. In the end, Penguin and Panda will discover the joys of upcycling and take a more ‘zero waste’ approach to their conundrum.
Fantastically Great Women Who Saved the Planet by Kate Pankhurst, Bloomsbury Children’s Books
The latest in a very successful series, Fantastically Great Women Who Saved the Planet features an array of terrific scientists, environmentalists, zoologists and campaigners who had an active part in furthering our understanding of the natural world and protecting it. From Eugenie Clark who revolutionised our knowledge of shark behaviour (by swimming with them until the age of 92!) to Anita Roddick who founded The Body Shop and campaigned against animal testing, via Wangari Maathai who started a movement that ended up with over 51 million trees being planted in Kenya, activists from all over the world are celebrated in a busy, bright book full of tidbits of info and colourful pictures. (Aged 5 – 8)
Plastic: Past, Present and Future by Eun-ju Kim and Ji-Won Lee, Scribe UK.
This clear, well-rounded book does a great job of presenting all the complexity surrounding the use of plastic in modern society. Yes, it is wasteful and non-biodegradable, but it is also the reason today’s cars are lighter and use less petrol than previous generations of vehicles. Plastic is everywhere and it is not always a bad thing. From the production process to ways to recycle or reduce our use of the stuff, Plastic: Past, Present and Future is an informative, nuanced and hopeful book with fresh, vibrant illustrations. (Aged 6- 9)
The Last Zoo by Sam Gayton, Andersen Press
A catastrophic explosion has brought about the end of the world as we know it. It wasn’t a nuclear bomb or anything of the kind that did it: it was a reality bomb. Since then, genies, unicorns, flying hippos and other creatures of legend have popped into existence and it is the job of the humans on board a floating zoo to look after them. This is not strictly speaking an act of compassion: rather, after over-exploiting the resources of the planet, mankind is now exploiting those of the imagination because some of these wonderful creatures are useful and may well be the solution to humanity’s problems. A terrific, mind-blowing read with a lot of food for thought. (Aged 9 – 12)
For more reviews check out Inis magazine which is published by Children’s Books Ireland, the national children’s books organisation whose vision is an Ireland in which books are central to every child’s life.