Monday, April 22, 2013

Making Our Readers Care A Whole Awful Lot

Happy Earth Day!
Some people say that every day is (or should be) Earth Day.  For me, that’s true. My full-time job is environmental consulting.  This means that every day I’m writing about protecting the Earth for a variety of audiences.  A lot of the time, this is in the form of regulatory guidance for water protection (think manuals for EPA or state agencies).  But there is a very significant public outreach and education component to what I do. Like developing fact sheets that remind pet owners to scoop the poop or educational campaigns to prevent people from using the storm drains on their street as garbage dumps because it all drains directly to the local river or streams. (But you already knew that, right?)
I never really thought there were many similarities between what I do as an environmental consultant and what I do as a kidlit writer. Until now.
And I have the Once-ler to thank for that. (You know, that greedy, green gruvvolous gloved guy from Dr. Seuss’s THE LORAX.)
At the end of THE LORAX, the Once-ler finally gets why the griping Lorax lifted himself away by the seat of his pants, leaving a pile of rocks with only one word: UNLESS.  He says, “Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. It’s not.”
And that’s the point of my outreach work as an environmental scientist, as well as a kidlit writer.  To make people care a whole awful lot.
When I write about a watershed—the land that drains rain and snowmelt to a specific river, lake, or stream—my goal is to make people care about that place and feel a connection to the problems facing the watershed.  Maybe it’s too much bacteria from pet waste or leaky septic systems. Or maybe it’s too many nutrients from people over-fertilizing their lawns. If I don’t succeed in this goal, people won’t feel compelled to take action…that is, getting involved and changing their behavior.
When I write picture books or middle grade, my goal is really quite similar.  I need to make the reader care about and feel a connection to my characters and the problems that they face. If I don’t succeed in this goal, readers won’t feel compelled to take action…that is, turning the page and continue reading.
So, here’s to using our words to make our readers care a whole awful lot.  And here’s to our words making the world a better place, today and every day.
My question to you…is there a story besides THE LORAX that you read or share in honor of Earth Day?  My two picks are Peter Brown’s THE CURIOUS GARDEN and I.C. Springman’s MORE with illustrations by Brian Lies. 


Angelica R. Jackson said...

I love The Whale's Song by Dyan Sheldon but it's out of print. Rachel Allen Dillon has a great book, Through Endangered Eyes, and she's working on a followup title, Through Desert Eyes.

prerna pickett said...

Hmmm...All that comes to mind is Captain Planet, which isn't a book. But I adored this show growing up, and since my birthday is on Earth Day, I feel especially responsible for doing my part to keep the planet clean.

Cathy Ballou Mealey said...

Miss Rumphius, written and illustrated by Barbara Cooney and first published by Viking Books in 1982, features the life story of fictional Miss Alice Rumphius, a woman who sought a way to make the world more beautiful and found it in planting lupine in the wild.

Beautiful and inspiring!

Kell Andrews said...

I'll scour my shelves, Kellie. And maybe do some book shopping...

Kellie D.G. said...

Cathy...Miss Rumphius was one of my mother-in-law's favorite picture books ever. We have a copy and I always think of her when I read it.

Happy Earth Day and thanks for stopping by!

LinWash said...

Any of the Jo MacDonald books by Mary Quattlebaum (like Jo MacDonald Had a Garden). They're all about the environment.