Picture Books and the Environment : A guest post by Michelle Royce

The following is a guest post by children’s author Michelle Royce. 

Ask most grown ups about a picture book they remember from their childhood and you’ll get varied responses as to their favourite- but they’ll all have one and it will have influenced them in some way. For myself, “Where The Wild Things Are” by Maurice Sendak was a fave, as well as many of the Doctor Seuss books for their magical wordplay.

Screen Shot 2013-08-12 at 9.44.36 AMToday there are many ways to read picture books- from ipads to e-readers- none of which involve processing trees for paper. A lot of the old favourite fairy tales have been given a total re-vamp and our kids can now read these classics with added interaction and enjoyment

But what I really want to talk about in this post is how these experiences can inspire future generations to want to make positive choices- in a nutshell How Picture Books Can Change the World.

We all want our kids to enjoy art and literature right? We all know that great art and great literature have a vital place in society’s evolution and can inspire us to want to be better and do better.

Art speaks with one voice to the right side of our brains, words with another to the left side. The humble picture book is a synthesis of both kinds of input, a WHOLE concept distilled down into a powerful essence which can make us laugh, cry and shiver.

This essence can also inspire us, teach us and cause us to think, even while we are laughing, crying and enjoying ourselves. It can seep into our consciousness, plant a tiny seed and change our minds- the first step towards changing our actions.

Screen Shot 2013-08-12 at 9.44.55 AMThis is where picture books with an environmental message come in. I’d love to share two examples with you. You may not notice the message because the books are so delightful and isn’t that the best way to learn?
The first is a classic from the aforementioned Master of Mayhem himself, Dr Seuss which has now been made into a wonderful movie.

“The Lorax” is the tale of a once pristine valley which grew ‘Truffula trees’ in great numbers. A character known as the Once-ler discovers the valley and processes the trees to knit “Thneeds” a thing which can be used as almost anything from a hat to a pillow to a carpet and is something “which everyone needs.” The Lorax lives in the Truffula tree forest and speaks for the trees “for the trees have no tounges.” He also cares for the local fauna and the story explains the vital connection between the trees, the fruit, the animals, and the air- in short- the whole ecosystem.

Screen Shot 2013-08-12 at 9.45.04 AMThe Lorax keeps trying to convince the Once-ler to change his ways with possibly one of the best lines ever; “Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. It’s not.” But sadly the Once-ler and his ambition to keep on “biggering” his factory results in the animals being sent away by the Lorax for their own safety and the last Truffula tree being cut down. The Lorax also departs, leaving a stone slab with the word “Unless” on it as a message to the Once-ler. All pretty sad, right?

SPOILER ALERT…Don’t read on if you haven’t read it and don’t want to know the ending but for those who do…

The Once-ler finally understands the message and passes on the last Truffula tree seed to a young boy telling him to plant it and grow a whole forest in the hope that the Lorax and all his friends will return. And do they? Well, you’ll have to read the book, won’t you?

Screen Shot 2013-08-12 at 9.45.11 AMFrom 1971 to 2013 and a delightful book called “The Windy Farm” by Doug Macleod illustrated by Craig Smith which tells the story of a farm where “the winds are so fierce that even the pigs are blown away.”
This laugh out loud tale, surprisingly, is all about renewable resources and environmental sustainability. Thanks to inventor Mum, the initial problem of excessive wind becomes the solution. And witout giving away too many details, the greedy get their just desserts!

These are just a couple of examples of the power of Picture Books. Do you have some?
“One teacher, one child, one book and one pen can change the world”Malala Yousafzai UN Speech 2013.

Michelle Royce is an author of children’s and young adult books, click here to head to her website.

Don’t forget to head over to our website! We are daughters, mothers, sisters and grandmothers getting on with practical climate action to live better for us and the planet. Join the movement at www.1millionwomen.com.au

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