Monday, 13 May 2019

Picture Books That Highlight Climate Change by Chitra Soundar



When I wrote You’re Snug With Me (illustrated by Poonam Mistry), it was intended to be a book about a mother reassuring her children of life in their habitat. We had chosen polar bears as our animal mother and children.

As I researched polar bears, I could not ignore the fact that polar bears faced loss of their habitat due to climate change caused by humans. How was I going to tell the polar bear cubs (as their mother) that their ice might be melting, and cause a threat? How could I tell the children who are reading this story that everyone has a role to play in combating climate change?

I created specific questions that the cubs ask about the ice, the oceans and about being the biggest predator in their habitat. And Mama Bear tells them “They must take only what they need.”

It’s been six months since this book came out and now climate change has risen to the top of everyone’s awareness after the climate change strikes by children across the world inspired by Greta Thurnberg. 


I also watched the BBC documentary by David Attenborough on the facts of climate-change, and I wanted to explore how this topic is dealt with for younger children (and their parents).

As storytellers, there are different ways to explain to young readers the effect of climate change and the need for action. As a picture book writer, this is an important decision to make. Is the story about conserving energy, or protecting our wildlife or reducing our carbon footprint more impactful as a fable or a fictional story or as pure hard facts.

So I looked at what’s out there for young children on this topic and I found these books dealing with the effects and activism of climate change in different forms of storytelling.  There are of course many wonderfully curated lists available if you wanted to research more.

As a fable:

Stories like “The Cloudspinner” by Michael Catchpool tell us a story of excess and how if we take more than we need, we will suffer the consequence. Illustrated by Alison Jay.

In The Promise, Nicola Davies tells us the story of an old woman who asks for a simple promise – the promise to change not just her own life  but the world.  Illustrated by Laura Carlin

As an inspiring tale of activism


Winston of Churchill (by Jean Davies Okimoto and Jeremiah Trammell) is a funny book about polar bears in Churchill, Canada and Winston who rallies the tourists to save the melting ice. It not only uses a real life example, but also shows us that no matter how small, we all must contribute to saving the planet.

Alison Jay who illustrated The Promise, takes us on a wordless journey in Bee & Me, showing young people how they can help in protecting our natural world.

As a life story


One Plastic Bag (written by Isatou Ceesay, illustrated by Elizabeth Zunon) and Wangari’s Tree of Peace (by Jeannette Winter) both tell us stories of pioneers who tried to change their corner of the world, thus inspiring children and adults everywhere.

As non-fiction


The Earth Book by Todd Parr shows us how we can all do our best to help this planet.

Water Wow! (A Visual Exploration)  written by Paula Ayer, Antonia Banyard and illustrated by Belle Wuthrich show us the importance of water and how climate change affects the availability of this important resource.


If you were to write a picture book about climate change – how would you go about it? Which specific topic will you tackle? Which method of storytelling will you adopt? Tell us in the comments.



Chitra Soundar is the author of over 40 books for children. Her picture book You’re Snug With Me (illustrated by Poonam Mistry), deals with the anxieties of polar bear cubs whilst also underlining the role of humans in saving our planet. Find out more about her here







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