Over the last few years we have seen a rise in the number of books that talk about the environment. It is good to see that a lot of them have been aimed at the youngest age ranges, as we need to make sure that the need to change is embedded in all young people, as well as adults. Perhaps the main worry that this look at titles has raised is that Michael Foreman was talking about the problem so many years ago; it seems that the pace of change is still far too slow, however programmes such as “Blue Planet” have definitely raised awareness at government levels as well as with general populations. Here are a few titles that I hope will be useful for younger readers.
“The Deep Blue” by Charlotte Guillain and Lou Baker Smith. Mankind has always been fascinated by the sea and the creatures that inhabit it. Since the coming of modern media, such as film, television and now digital resources we have become more aware of the environment and the effect we are having on the oceans and its inhabitants. From Jacques Cousteau to Sir David Attenborough, we have been introduced to the wonders that lie below the surface and a thirst for knowledge has been developed by many children and adults. We have also become more aware of what can happen to mankind if we don’t care for our oceans, ice caps and animals. This is a fascinating look at the world of water and those animals who depend on it.
“There are Fish everywhere” by Katie Haworth and Britta Teckentrup is a gorgeous, stunningly coloured look at the world of fish. Starting with what they are and then the history of their development from pre-historic times, the reader gets to understand the part that they play in the eco-structure that we live in. The author looks at all parts of the world and also covers the relationship between mankind and the aquatic world. Definitely one to browse and enjoy as well as looking up the facts.
“One World” by Michael Foreman is now over 30 years old, but it was re-published last year to celebrate the anniversary. This is full of stunning artwork by Michael Foreman and the use of watercolours provides a very individual feel to the pictures. It is such a tragedy that we still have the same concerns about the environment, after all these years, but given the movements being led by young people at the moment, it is appropriate that this book comes to the forefront for a new generation. Whilst this book works as a picture book for reading to young audiences, it also works at another level in pointing out the dangers we face from pollution, plastics, climate change and industry. This is yet another book that should be in all primary schools.
“The Blue Giant” by Katie Cottle. This is a delightful allegorical story about cleaning up our oceans and landscapes. It is told as a picture book story, featuring Meera and her mum. When they go to the beach, they are surprised by a giant wave that speaks to them and asks them for help in cleaning up the sea. They start to help, but realize that it is a huge task. However, gradually they get their friends involved and the more people help, the more rubbish they can clear. This gives a strong message about us all doing our part and would be great as part of work about environmental issues.
“Goodnight Ocean” by Becky Davies and Carmen Saldana is a beautiful flap book for the youngest readers. It looks at a wide range of animals and environments related to the Ocean. the book was long-listed for the SLA Information Book Award in 2020 and works at both a story telling and an information level. It is a fantastic introduction to the watery world around us.
“Somebody swallowed Stanley” by Sarah Roberts and Hannah Peck brings home to us the dangers that sea creatures face from plastic bags that are thrown away. Stanley is a striped bag and looks remarkably like a jelly fish, so sea creatures think that he will make a good meal. Unfortunately he can get stuck in their throat and prevent breathing, or get tangled up in parts of their body. This story really brings it home to us how dangerous plastic can be in the environment and is a must read title.
“Clem and Crab” by Fiona Lumbers is about a young girl called Clem who has a day out at the beach with her sister. She finds a crab and takes it home as a pet. Of course, this turns out to be a bad idea and she has to take it back to its own habitat. She also discovers the dangers that it faces from pollution and rubbish and sets out to improve the beach and in doing so she gets lots of others involved in the process. This works beautifully as a picture book, but also acts as a starting point in discussions about the environment.