This is a book I picked up for my children, and while I rarely review children’s books, I thought this one was worth a mention. Earth Heroes is a collection of 20 short biographies of people making a difference to the environment. There’s a wide variety of ages, from teenage activists to senior citizens, a nice mix of household names and more unusual characters, and representatives from all around the world.
Each of them gets a ten page or so summary of their life and their work, telling their story in outlining their achievements in accessible and child-friendly language. Greta Thunberg gets the first chapter, Sir David Attenborough gets the last chapter. In between we read about indigenous activists in Australia and in the Arctic, with Amelia Telford and Sheila Watt-Cloutier respectively. (My review of Watt-Cloutier’s book The Right to be Cold.) Marina Silva features from the forests of Brazil, Chewang Norphel from the glaciers of Tibet. There are conservationists, plastics campaigners, surfers, politicians and entrepreneurs, food waste activists.
I was delighted to find William Kamkwamba featured, the Malawian who built a wind turbine out of scrap parts as a teenager, and brought electricity to his family. The kids loved this idea, and so we watched the Netflix film together about the same story, The Boy who Harnessed the Wind. It’s a film that is probably worth a post in its own right at some point.
We’re something of an activist household. My two children hear plenty about environmental issues, and they’re very involved. They came with me to a local Extinction Rebellion action last friday, and we’ll be tree planting at my son’s school this friday. An ongoing challenge for me as a parent is how to balance their interest and their emotional safety. I don’t want them to be ignorant of the crisis we face, but I don’t want them to be afraid. I want to raise them knowing they can make a difference, without burdening their young minds with the weight of our ecological emergency.
So I’m grateful to Lily Dyu for this collection. We’ve been reading it a chapter at a time as bedtime stories, and it strikes just the right tone – outlining a problem, and showing how ordinary people have responded with hard work and bright ideas. They’ve found it inspiring too. We read about Mohammed Rezwan, the architect of floating schools in Bangladesh. The day after we read that chapter, my son started building a floating village in his Minecraft world.
Christmas is coming up. If there are children in your life who you’d like to inspire with some Earth Heroes, you might want to consider this book as a present.