Sat, Aug 17, 2019 - Page 9 News List

Climate change activist inspires youth around the world

Greta Thunberg, a 16-year-old environmental activist, has galvanized young people to read more about saving the planet

By Donna Ferguson  /  The Observer

Illustration: Lance Liu

Some seek to convey the wonder of endangered animals, while others give tips on how to tackle waste or tell tales of inspirational environmental activists.

All are part of what children’s publishers are calling “the Greta Thunberg effect”: a boom in books aimed at empowering young people to save the planet.

The number of new children’s books looking at the climate crisis, global heating and the natural world has more than doubled over the past 12 months, according to data from Nielsen Book Research shared with the Observer. Sales have also doubled.

Whether it is beautifully illustrated factual books like A Wild Child’s Guide to Endangered Animals, apocalyptic climate catastrophe novels such as Where the River Runs Gold or how-to guides such as Kids Fight Plastic, publishers are targeting a plethora of new fiction and nonfiction titles at young readers inspired by Thunberg, a 16-year-old climate emergency campaigner.

Earth Heroes, which features Thunberg on its cover, is one of them.

A collection of stories by travel journalist Lily Dyu about 20 individual inventors and conservationists around the world, including David Attenborough, Yin Yuzhen (殷玉珍), Stella McCartney and Thunberg, it was snapped up in June by children’s publishers Nosy Crow.

“I absolutely would say there has been a Greta Thunberg effect,” said Rachel Kellehar, head of nonfiction. “She has galvanized the appetite of young people for change, and that has galvanized our appetite, as publishers, for stories that empower our readers to make those changes.”

Kellehar has sent the collection hurtling through the publishing process at breakneck speed so that it will hit bookshelves in early October, just before Thunberg find outs if she will be awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.

“We’re turning this around in four months, which is really unusual in children’s publishing,” she said.

The message of the book is: You’re not alone and you can make a difference, Kellehar said.

“We feel it’s important to get that message out as soon as possible, and that is partly driven by the Greta effect. Whether or not she wins the Nobel Peace Prize, October will be a key moment to reach out and say Greta’s doing this amazing thing, but also lots of other people you have never heard of all around the world are doing amazing things. From young girls in Tunisia who have got plastic bags banned, to an engineer in India who is creating artificial glaciers, this is a book about people who are finding different ways to confront climate change head on, wherever it is affecting them,” she said.

Bloomsbury is to publish a similar collection, Fantastically Great Women who Saved the Planet by Kate Pankhurst, in February.

It features women throughout history who have dedicated their lives to studying, conserving and protecting planet Earth.

Isobel Doster, senior editor in children’s nonfiction, has also noticed a “Thunberg effect” — a “real thirst” for authors who write about environmental role models to whom children can look up and actions they can take to prevent climate change.

“Additionally, there’s been a tonal shift in the natural history books that are coming on to the market,” she said. “It’s not enough just to explore the beauty of the natural world — we have a responsibility to tell readers why it’s important to look after it.”

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