June 2, 2010
Along the way we’ve found a few books with a creative and green edge that we have really enjoyed, so much so that we’ve bought our own copy. Although I’ve definitely noticed an increasing presence of green and environmentally friendly children’s books in our favourite bookshops, the selection below are not as simplistic or preachy as some of these seem to be. Rather, issues of environmental awareness, sustainability, creativity, recycling or regeneration are intrinsic to excellent stories. Perhaps you might enjoy these too, or if you have any favorites of your own, please do share!
The Lorax, by Dr Seuss: An oldie but a goodie. Dr Seuss was way ahead of his time with this one. Or perhaps he was on time but the rest of the world wasn’t ready to listen. I remember reading this when I was a child with a real sense of discomfort and sadness at the destruction wrought by the Once-ler and his knitting efforts. Yes, it gives knitting a bad name, but it also leaves you with some seeds of hope, that perhaps it is possible to nurture the environment back to good health if we take the time to try.
Uno’s Garden, by Graham Base: We love Graham Base books here. There is always so much to discover and uncover in his illustrations (The Waterhole is also one of our favorites). The story follows the degradation and subsequent regeneration of a wonderful forest, initially full of strange and wonderful creatures and plants, until people start to live there. Ultimately a natural balance is achieved, with the people and the forest living in harmony. The story also explores mathematical sequences, offering some reading interest in the years to come.
The Curious Garden, by Peter Brown: Based on the real life urban regeneration of the High Line railway in New York, this is a beautifully illustrated tale about a young boy turned gardener, whose interest in the plants he discovers in a desolate industrialized city, transforms the city and the lives of its occupants. Peter's illustrations have a retro look and a wonderful humorous quality.
The Tomorrow Book, by Jackie French, illustrated by Sue Degennaro: Jackie French has written a range of wonderful books about gardening, sustainability and self sufficiency, including a number of children's books. This one is brought to life through imaginative collage illustrations by Sue Degennaro. Perhaps the most preachy and direct about sustainability in the book selection here, this story is about a small prince who wonders why the world outside his home doesn’t reflect the things he has learned in all the books he has read. When his parents go on holiday, leaving him in charge, he and the children of the city start to put in place simple, sensible and easy solutions to the environmental issues they see around them. There is hope for tomorrow.
The Story Blanket, by Ferida Wolff and Harriet May Savitz, illustrated by Elend Odriozola: This book I happened upon by chance when I was looking for a gift for a friend. It is a wonderful tale about knitting, recycling, giving, and sharing, complemented by beautiful watercolor illustrations. Babba Zarrah owns a colorful woolen blanket that children sit on to listen to her stories. But resources are scarce, and Babba Zarrah gradually unravels the blanket to knit things that are needed by others. When the villagers realize why her blanket has been shrinking they give her a wonderful surprise in return.
Iggy Peck, Architect, by Andrea Beaty, illustrated by David Roberts: Of course, I would be a sucker for any children’s book about Architecture, but even if you’re not an Architect, this book will delight. It’s a story about a young boy who is compelled to design and create, coupled with beautiful rhythmic rhyming prose, and captivating intricate watercolor illustrations (I’d really love to knit an Iggy sweater one day). Iggy wins over his architecture-phobic Grade 2 teacher when he masterminds a creative solution to the dire situation that his class finds themselves in.