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The "Greta Thunberg Effect" Leads to a Boom in Children's Environmental Books

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Greta Thunberg, the 16-year-old climate change activist, has encouraged young people to read more about how to save the planet.

Some seek to convey the wonder of endangered animals, while others give advice on how to deal with waste or tell stories of inspiring environmental activists.

They are all part of what children's publishers call “the Greta Thunberg effect” - a boom in books meant to empower young people to save the planet.

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

Whether it's beautifully illustrated fact books like A Wild Child's Guide to Endangered Animals, apocalyptic weather catastrophe novels like Where the River Runs Gold, or how-to guides like Kids Fight Plastic, publishers are targeting a plethora of New fiction and non-fiction titles for young readers inspired by Thunberg, the 16-year-old climate emergency activist.

A Wild Child's Guide to Endangered Animals, by Millie Marotta. The author hopes it will spark children's interest in wildlife conservation. Photography: book jacket

Earth Heroes, which features Greta Thunberg on its cover, is one of them. A collection of stories by travel journalist Lily Dyu about 20 individual inventors and conservationists from around the world, including Sir David Attenborough, Yin Yuzhen, Stella McCartney and Greta Thunberg, was published in June by children's publishers Nosy Crow.

"I would definitely say there has been a Greta Thunberg effect," says Rachel Kellehar, head of nonfiction. "She has whetted young people's appetites for change, and that has fueled our appetite, as editors, for stories that empower our readers to make those changes."

Kellehar has sent the collection hurtling through the publishing process at breakneck speed to hit shelves in early October, just before Thunberg finds out if he will be awarded the Nobel Peace Prize: “We are changing this into four months, which is really unusual in children's publication. "


Greta Thunberg is doing amazing things, just like so many other people you've never heard of around the world.

Rachel Kellehar

The message of the book is: you are not alone and you can make a difference, she says. “We think it's important to get that message across as soon as possible, and that's partly due to the Greta Thunberg effect. Whether or not you win the Nobel Peace Prize, October will be a key time to reach out and say that Greta is doing this amazing thing, but so are many other people you have never heard of around the world are doing amazing things. From young people in Indonesia who were banned from plastic bags, to an engineer in India who is creating artificial glaciers, this is a book about people who are finding different ways to deal with climate change, wherever it affects them.

Bloomsbury will publish a similar collection, Fantastically Great Women Who Saved the Planet, by Kate Pankhurst, in February. Features women throughout history who have dedicated their lives to studying, conserving, and protecting planet Earth. Isobel Doster, senior editor for children's nonfiction, has also noticed a "Greta Thunberg effect," a "real thirst" for authors writing about environmental models that children can look to and the actions they can take to prevent change. climate.

"Also, there has been a tonal shift in the natural history books that are hitting the market," he says. "It is not enough just to explore the beauty of the natural world, we have a responsibility to tell readers why it is important to care for it."

Plastic is also a hot topic for nonfiction picture books: Walker Books recently acquired one from MG Leonard called Tale of a Toothbrush, which follows the journey of a single plastic toothbrush, while Hachette Children's Group pulled A Neal Layton's Planet Full of Plastic earlier this summer.

In fiction, Matt Haig's picture book, Evie and the Animals, about a girl who wants to save the planet, won applause from critics for its timely story and wide appeal to Thunberg fans when it appeared on shelves at June. Meanwhile, fans of "There's a Baby Orangutan in My Room," the heartwarming Greenpeace cartoon that went viral last year, were delighted when it was published last week as a picture book.

Author James Sellick hopes that his story, about an orangutan who loses his home and family due to palm oil production and deforestation, will have a greater longevity for children in picture book form, where it can be reviewed and given. more context from parents. The book also offers advice on actions children can take, such as writing letters to companies that use palm oil.

“I want to not only educate but inspire a new wave of green warriors. Children are the future. Fortunately, if they have been educated on environmental issues from a young age, they will continue, and go further, than we are at this time, "said Sellick.

Similarly designed to inspire the next generation of conservationists, naturalists, biologists, zoologists, and nature lovers, a guide to endangered animals will be published later this month. Author and illustrator Millie Marotta says she hopes the book will entice young readers to take a lifelong interest in wildlife conservation and show them that there are things everyone can do to help, right now.

“We are losing so many species every year, every month, every day, even. The generation of children who will read this book are the ones who will be the most affected and those who will have the greatest impact. They will be the people who will fix what happened and hopefully turn things around. "

Inspiring the next generation ...

Kids Fight Plastic
Martin Dorey

Written by a longtime anti-plastics activist and founder of the Beach Clean Network, it shows kids what they can do at home, on days out, and at school to reduce the plastic they use.

A planet full of plastic
Neal layton

Non-fiction picture book that explains where plastic comes from, why it doesn't biodegrade, and why it's dangerous to animals and the planet.

Where the river runs gold
Sita Brahmachari

An adventure story set in a terrifying caste-divided dystopian world where bees have long since disappeared and children must work on farms to pollinate crops.

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