Monday, 27 April 2020

'The Problem with Plastic.' Children's author, Fiona Barker, talks picture books with an environmental theme.

Remember 2019? When all we had to worry about was carbon footprint and plastic pollution? Things have been overtaken by more immediate concerns with difficult and sometimes tragic consequences but the environment hasn’t gone away.

2019 saw a slew of books, articles, vlogs and blogs about using less plastic and caring for the environment. There were hints and tips for people wanting to reduce their plastic consumption and waste everywhere. Children’s publishing was no exception.

They say that ‘children are the future’ (well, actually it was Michael Masser and Linda Creed). They’re going to be the business leaders and consumers of the future. Teaching them well and letting them lead the way really is a good idea. Traditional in-print publication is generally quite a slow, considered business but it was great to see, following the lead of Blue Planet II, the fruits of writers and illustrators labours in the teaching-them-well department. 

My favourites were: 

·         ‘A Planet Full of Plastic’, a non-fiction picture book written and illustrated by the award-winning Neal Layton (Wren & Rook) which built on other non-fiction foundations such as ‘The Big Book of the Blue’ illustrated by Yuval Zommer (Thames and Hudson).
         ‘Clem and Crab’ by Fiona Lumbers (Andersen Press), a lovely gentle story encouraging children to act and show their love for the marine environment.

It was also great to see the mainstream publishing industry getting on board with the #lessplastic message. Authors and illustrators supported it too, creating the hashtags #Authors4Oceans and #KidLit4Climate.

Who knows how the world is going to look after corona virus? Will green issues still be on the agenda? I hope so. If nothing else, the pandemic has shown our capacity for change and ability to adapt. It’s those skills that will be needed in the fight to reduce carbon footprint and change the way we consume resources in the long term. 

My own ‘greening’ began in childhood when I toured the neighbourhood with my Dad and a wheelbarrow collecting newspapers for recycling. I’m a plogger (that’s a good thing, honestly) and low waste advocate. I’m thrilled that this year will see the publication of my own contribution to the green publishing canon (virus-permitting). It’s the story of a real-life mermaid and how her friendship with a lonely whale saves her, the whale and the ocean and, like Danny and the Dream Dog, is illustrated by artist and marine biologist Howard Gray. I hope you like the sneak peeks of Howard’s stunning illustrations. 

I wrote the story in 2017 secretly hoping he would get to illustrate it because I could see how much he loved the ocean just by looking at his portfolio when I met him at the SCBWI conference in 2016. Now our dream is coming true thanks to Tiny Tree Children’s Books and I’m looking forward to using it to spread the word about the excellent work done by the Marine Conservation Society.

During the lockdown, I’ve been using my daily exercise to pick up litter and I can tell you that this problem at least definitely hasn’t gone away, I’m just picking up different things. People still need a push to change their behaviour. We mustn’t let up on the longer term, but no less urgent, fight we face.


jlawson2 said...

Fantastic article, I love the idea of your lockdown litterpicking! I've written a Picture Book about plastic waste myself, to try and do my bit for this issue. Is there a specific publisher you'd recommend to give me the best chance to get my book out there? KUTGW, Josh :)

Fiona Barker said...

Glad you liked it! The green agenda has been quite high-profile and I'm hoping that won't go away. I wouldn't recommend any specific publisher as they're all on the look out for the 'right story' (whatever that means!) Good luck and well done on writing your own plastic waste story. The more the better IMO!

jlawson2 said...

Couldn't agree more, Fiona. Thank you so much! Fingers crossed 🤞😊