Despite all the global summits, impassioned warnings from scientists and general hand-wringing over the mounting catastrophe unleashed by our use of fossil fuels, humans are burning them more than ever. Efforts to transition to clean energy, while significant, are not happening nearly fast enough. Nature’s backlash — increased floods, fires and droughts — has begun, and it’s still building.
Some parents may want to shield their children from this grim reality. But around the world, children are already profoundly affected — 16 million by flooding in Pakistan this year alone, as rains worsened by climate change left a third of the country underwater.
Two new picture books and a novel for young readers place children at the center of climate calamity. Fittingly, they are stories of homes under threat; home, after all, is the thing climate change stalks, be it a house, a community or a livable planet. Each book offers its own lessons on how to cope with life under the monster we’ve created. The novel even shows how kids can help slay it.
DEAR WILD CHILD: You Carry Your Home Inside You, written by a father-daughter duo whose house burned to the ground in a wildfire, is about reframing loss. Based on a real-life letter Wallace J. Nichols wrote to Wallace Grayce Nichols in the aftermath of a fire, the story introduces us to a girl who grows up among California’s redwoods in a house her parents built while awaiting her birth. Her childhood — spent frolicking in the nearby canyon and surrounded at home by music and dinner parties — appears a bit too idyllic at times, but this can be forgiven as a loving father’s nostalgia. “I had hoped this house would be yours someday,” he writes. But after the fire, all that’s left standing is the ledgestone chimney.
In an era of climate change, rebuilding cannot always be the solution. “Retreat” is the word often used to describe how people will have to move away from coasts and fire-prone areas. This book understands that need. Instead of trying to rebuild, the father focuses on the house’s enduring legacy. “It grew you,” he writes. “You are made of hardwood and stone, bright stars and the wind’s song.”
Drew Breckmeyer’s rayon-and-watercolor illustrations evoke the exuberant innocence of childhood — one that stays inside the girl even after her home is gone.
Read more here.
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