Many people are rediscovering the benefits of the natural environment and integrating “greener” practices and products into their modern lives. From green design to natural health to green living to green books, adults are learning how to transform their world to take better care of themselves and the planet, and they are sharing this with their children in many ways, especially with books.
Jim is self taught in writing, art and the natural sciences. He has written and illustrated 86 books on nature subjects and has illustrated 46 other books written by various authors. He has been awarded the Christopher Medal, Orbis Pictus Honor, ALA Gordon Award, and Outstanding Science book awards from National Science Teachers Associations.
TCBR: Your picture book,Man Gave Names To All The Animals, by Bob Dylan, was released last year—and may I just add, it’s beautiful. In your note to the readers, you said: “From the first time I heard it, the lyrics created pictures in my mind of a land of primeval beauty, where the sky and earth were new, where plants first grew, and the animals knew no fear. I thought this vision would make a dream of a book, and I asked for Bob Dylan’s permission to make this dream come true. Happily, he said yes.” Can you tell us more about the process of receiving permission to illustrate a musician’s song? And, most importantly, exactly how you felt when the famous Bob Dylan said yes?
I am a nut. I admit it. My family will back me on this, too. What am I a nut about, you ask? I am obsessed with Tolkien’s world of Middle Earth. I can’t stop reading his books. I can’t stop watching Peter Jackson’s rendition of The Lord of the Ringsand Arthur Rankin Jr.’s rendition of The Hobbit. I named my son after the actor, Elijah Wood. I’ve lost count how many times I’ve read these books and opted to forego much needed sleep to read or watch the movies. Like I said, I’m a nut.
In the first few days after Japan’s 9.0 earthquake, there was continuous news on the devastation caused by the tsunami. My wife came home on the following Monday visibly upset. Her company has a distributor in Japan whose descriptions of the experience were scary. What wasn’t discussed was the radiation threat from damaged nuclear power plants. As the nuclear crisis grew, my wife became more upset.
Years ago, Bishop Milton Wright brought a rubber band-powered helicopter to his sons, Orville and Wilbur, who were then 7 and 11 years old. The Wright brothers later claimed that their interest in flight began with this gift.
Another child, age 5, was sick in bed. His father brought him a magnetic compass. The boy could not get the compass to point in any direction but north. There was “something behind things, something deeply hidden,” he observed. The boy was Albert Einstein.
Doable Renewables: 16 Alternative Energy Projects for Young Scientists(Chicago Review Press) is dedicated to “the unknown kid who is going to change the world.” The projects in this book will help any budding scientist construct and explore working models that generate renewable, alternative energy.
Earth Day will be upon us soon, April 22, 2010. It’s a great day to place emphasis on environmental awareness and to explore new-and-improved solutions for being “green” the other 364 days of the year. Many children’s book authors are embracing this topic with enthusiasm and dedication, producing some eye-opening and encouraging literature for kids of all ages—some of the books even manage to arouse the “green” within us grown-ups.
For the youngest set, reading books that feature trees and plants is a great way to raise their level of awareness of the world that surrounds them. As their awareness grows, books that introduce ideas on taking care of the planet through gardening, recycling, and water conservation are a natural progression. As readers mature, they will be much more able to grasp and digest the concept of global warming. With all of these topics in mind, the following books, no matter how simple or complex, have been selected to motivate the earth-conscious spirit within all of us.