This month we saw the 46th celebration of Earth Day. Time to pledge to reduce your carbon footprint, limit how much disposable plastic you use, start composting and . . . read a book! Stories, fact books, activity books: many books tackle climate change, even for the youngest of readers.
Introducing them to the beauty of the natural world in all its diversity is already a good start. Animals, in particular, are often a good way into such big issues, as they allow the reader/listener to identify and empathise.
Ole Könnecke’s ‘The Big Book of Animals of the World’ is one to treasure: very young children will enjoy pouring over the wonderful selection of known and more unusual animals (pelican eel, anyone?), while imagining themselves exploring a wide range of habitats.
For older readers (4-6), the brilliant series ‘One Day on Our Blue Planet’ by Emma Bailey follows a specific animal through its day (an Adelie penguin in Antarctica, a lion cub in the Savannah). ‘The Wonder Garden’, by Jenny Broom and illustrated by Kristjana S Williams, with its realistic engravings of over 80 animals and many more plants, is a visual feast for readers aged 6 and up.
But of course, all this beauty, all this wonder is at risk and most of that risk is down to human activity. Barroux’s ‘Where’s the Elephant?’ demonstrates this super efficiently, under the cover of a ‘Where’s-Wally’ type of picturebook it can be enjoyed on many levels by the youngest of readers. Jimi Lee’s ‘Our Planet’ is a stunningly simple book explaining, only in pictures, how the natural world came to be threatened by man (ages 4+).
Solutions are also at hand, thankfully. In Neal Layton’s ‘The Tree’ (2-4), a human couple decide to put down roots beside a tree with no regard for the animals who live in and under it… until they come up with a new plan that accommodates the needs of all involved.
Older readers are ready for more practical solutions: they are ready to take action and save the world! Tapping into this enthusiasm and optimism are many ‘green’ books such as Mary Hoffman and Ros Asquith’s ‘The Great Big Green Book’, which explains climate change in very real but simple terms, and offers heaps of practical ideas to make a difference.
Written by Juliette Saumande, children’s book writer, Book Doctor and Reviews Editor for 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.