I am back on-line in time to get this Environmental Book Club post on reality-based picture books up for Earth Day.
I haven't been doing many environmental book club posts this past year because I find so few "environmental" books, particularly in fiction, that I want to read. Forgive me, if I've said this here before, but too often I find novels about the environment pedantic and predictable. They tend to be about saving an animal or piece of land from an evil business (middle grade) or a post-apocalyptic world that exists because of an environmental disaster caused by humans (YA). I find myself drawn, instead, to picture book stories based on true environmental situations. Reality is actually more interesting and less predictable than fiction.
The Water Princess by Susan Verde with illustrations by Peter H. Reynolds is about an African village whose women must travel for miles each day to get water. This isn't an entirely new-type of narrative. We've heard of water problems in Africa before. But the fact that this story is based on someone's experience gives it a sense of reality a totally fictional account wouldn't have. This was one of my ReFoReMo reads. Rather than reinvent the wheel, I'll just repeat what I've already said about it. "...what makes this book so workable is the main character, who fantasizes
about being an African princess. Also, she recognizes the struggle she
and the women she knows deal with, making a lengthy round-trip each day
to get water, but she doesn't lecture the readers about it. The author
trusts us to recognize that this is a tough subject."
I also liked One Plastic Bag by Miranda Paul with illustrations by Elizabeth Zunon, another ReFoReMo title. This book is based on a group of Ghambian women who handled a solid waste problem caused by plastic bags piling up and up around them by crocheting them into purses. I thought the author used repetition well, giving the book a "creative nonfiction vibe." One Plastic Bag reminded me of Ada's Violin, a book about a group in Paraguay recycling solid waste in a creative way. Ada's author, Susan Hood, also uses creative nonfiction techniques well.