Inspiring Young Readers
The Great Big Green Book by Mary Hoffman, illustrated by Ros Asquith
I am always on the look-out for non – fiction children’s books that convey information in an imaginative and aesthetically pleasing way. The partnership between this prolific author and talented illustrator is well established and they can always be relied upon to bring a zesty flavour to the most serious of subjects.
This one is the third in the ‘Great Big Books’ series and is no exception – after all what could be more serious than ideas about keeping our planet safe and beautiful? I believe that many children are already interested in learning more about the environment and I daresay that some of the recent concerns about climate change have leaked into their consciousness via the media. I used to be a child who worried about what I heard on the news, but if anything, this is a very reassuring picture book with a campaigning feel to the cover that shows children holding banners and wearing tee shirts with positive environmental slogans. Once inside, we find plentiful tips for encouraging children to take responsibility for looking after the environment in practical ways. This general upbeat ‘can do’ message is carried along via the lively and humorous cartoon like illustrations throughout the book. The reader is also encouraged to find a picture of a cat on every page which is a focussing device that younger children always enjoy.
There are plenty of strong messages on appropriately headed pages but the text is always minimal and never intrusive with lots to look at and discover in the detailed pictures. So for instance, the information about the blue planet has some basic statistics about water, a friendly conversation between two children, a problem posed and a solution to how we can ensure that we use water more carefully – all on one colourful double page spread.
This gentle formula continues throughout the book with clear statements about endangered species, pollution, the benefits of saving energy and water and how recycling and growing food on allotments can contribute. There is reassurance that scientists are already working on all these problems (phew) but also an encouraging call to action that implies that the young readers might be part of the solution now and in the future.
What I really like is how the illustrations also convey that we live in a multicultural society where young and old can contribute. There are also images of people with disabilities throughout the book which reflects an inclusive community of people all bearing the same responsibilities for the future of the planet. These messages are just as important as those more overt ones about the environment.
I am also impressed at how children are encouraged to ask questions because ‘Grown –ups don’t always get things right’ – very refreshing and true. The joint environmental responsibility is emphasised over and over again with a final strong statement on the final page. This is a book that needs to be in every home and every classroom as a way of enthusing children and adults about the need to think carefully about the future of planet Earth.