The Twelve Green Days of Christmas

The Twelve Green Days of Christmas
Barry Timms and Siân Roberts
Farshore

The sentiments are great but I did find when reading this timely rhyming story aloud that it didn’t always quite scan; though if you sing the words using the popular seasonal tune, it works fine, beginning on the first day of Christmas with Santa coming upon ‘A star that had broken in three.’

On the next four days, as we see in Siân Roberts’ humorous, wintry illustrations, he comes upon worn-out wings (five), four party hats,/ three crushed cups, / two tattered gloves ‘ and that shattered star. What a careless lot those forest creatures are.

On the sixth day an unhappy Santa decides something has to be done. He puts up a sign urging the forest dwellers to start recycling.


Day seven brings a snowstorm which results in his sign getting blown away and Santa catching such a bad chill that he has to take to his bed, the result being the rubbish continues to spread and accumulate in piles.

Will Santa ever get his wish for a green Christmas before the big day arrives?

Happily yes, for Owl catches the flying sign, spreads the word spurring the animals to take action and on the eleventh day Santa receives something in the mail that lifts his spirits.

Next day he ventures forth and finds …

as well as five new recycling bins and lots of the animals busily restoring the broken star and putting it where it should be – right at the top of the tree. A Merry Green Christmas at last!

Eco Craft Book / The Extraordinary Book That Eats Itself

Eco Craft Book
Laura Minter and Tia Williams
GMC Publications

In their latest book, Laura and Tia offer some cool ideas for using bits and pieces that might otherwise end up being thrown away.

Instead of consigning that old T-shirt or other no longer worn garments to the rubbish or recycling bin, why not suggest your children try a project like the T-shirt friendship bracelets here.

Alternatively, if the T-shirt is white, it can be dyed using a natural plant dye and refashioned into a ‘no-sew tie-dye bag’. Those are just two of the fabric projects.

Getting even closer to nature, youngsters can make a collection of interesting shaped leaves, grasses or perhaps feathers and use them to make some printed cards (or perhaps wrapping paper)

and if you want to attract more wildlife into your garden, there are instructions for creating a bug hotel using for example, old tin cans.

Each mini project is succinctly explained with step-by-step guidance and clearly illustrated with colour photos. In addition there are spreads that talk about climate change, what youngsters can do to help protect the environment and why it is important to immerse children in nature.

This book would be a boon to parents who are coping with home schooling, but all of us who work with children have a duty to nurture their creativity and to encourage them to think about the impact on the environment of all they do.

The Extraordinary Book That Eats Itself
Susan Hayes & Penny Arlon, illustrated by Pintachan
Red Shed ((Egmont)

If you’re looking to engage a child or children in some environmental projects here’s a book to try. It’s packed with eco-projects – thirty in all – and each page (as well as the cover) is cleverly designed to be used in an activity – hence the title.

It’s amazing just how much difference simple everyday actions such as turning off the lights when you leave a room, and at night can make, not only for the safety of animals but to reduce electricity consumption. Ditto, saving water by turning off the tap while brushing your teeth or using your bath water to ‘feed’ your plants (of course that takes a bit of effort but every drip and drop counts). There’s a Make a Difference in your home’ page with additional suggestions .

One of my favourite projects is Throw a seed ball to rewild a built-up area, something I’ve never tried, although I have scattered plenty of packets of wild flower seeds. This is really clever though and all that’s needed in addition to wild flower seeds are water, flour and soil to make your mixture. Can’t wait to have a go at this.

(The reverse side suggests making seed paper for writing a message on – another clever idea.)

Whether or not home schooling continues, this is certainly worth getting hold of.

Elephant In My Kitchen!

Elephant In My Kitchen!
Smriti Halls and Ella Okstad
Egmont

‘There’s an elephant in my kitchen’ informs the child narrator of Smriti’s rhyming story but that’s not all. There’s been a veritable invasion of the house by wild animals and they’re doing such annoying things as bouncing on the bed and playing badminton;

but much worse – one has taken the liberty of having a dump when our narrator is absolutely bursting for a wee.

As for the food stores, they’re getting depleted by the second as polar bears, penguins, a wolf and a chimpanzee make short work of all the goodies they can lay their paws and beaks on; not to mention the din created when a chorus of frogs decides to strike up and one of their number flattens the boy’s favourite cuddly. Time to discover what exactly is the cause of all this mayhem and marauding.

Oh dear me! Turns out it’s the result of thoughtless and selfish behaviour on the part of we humans, doing things with no thought for the consequences of our actions upon the wildlife that shares our planet.

An urgent plan is crucial. We need to change our ways and everyone has a part to play otherwise who knows what might happen …

With lots of detail to explore and giggle over, Ella Okstad’s zany illustrations are a great complement to Smriti’s zippy cautionary tale. Humour is an important vehicle when it comes to vital messages: it certainly works here.

A Planet Full of Plastic

A Planet Full of Plastic
Neal Layton
Wren & Rook

Neal Layton has created an absolutely superb information book on a topic that’s on many people’s minds at present.

Right away he addresses the reader with ‘Quick question: do you ever think about what things are made of? ’ and goes on to mention other materials such as metal, wood, glass and paper before focussing in on plastic; plastic in all its shapes, colours and sizes.

We learn about the discovery of the material by chemist Mr Baekeland and how rapidly it became enthusiastically used in pretty much anything you might think of.

Plastic in the places it should be is all well and good, but the trouble is it doesn’t biodegrade and therein lies the problem. (Neal explains what this means with two sequences of strip pictures)

What eventually happens is that much of this plastic finds its way into our oceans

where it creates big problems for the marine animals as well as forming massive garbage patches in the Atlantic, Pacific and Indian Oceans, especially in the form of toxic microplastic particles.

All of us need to cut down on our use of plastic, especially that used only once,  is what we’re powerfully reminded here …

Neal’s narrative style is perfectly pitched for the intended audience – there’s not a scrap of preachiness about it – and his mixed media illustrations are a powerful reminder of the ubiquitous problems of plastic waste.

Children and young people care deeply about the environment as they’ve already demonstrated and the book concludes with a ‘How you can help section’.

If the government is really serious about the environment, and in particular the terrible effects of throwaway plastic, then perhaps they should fund a copy of this timely book for all primary schools and nurseries.

The Green Giant

The Green Giant
Katie Cottle
Pavilion Children’s Books

The natural world and our part in conserving it has never been more in the media than now with children marching for the environment and against climate change; in tandem there’s been a burgeoning of conservation/environment non-fiction books recently. Less so of fictional ones, so it’s especially good to see Katie Cottle’s debut picture book.

Bea is a little girl who goes to visit her garden-loving Grandad in the country; Bea when we first meet her, seems wedded to her tablet while her Dalmatian, Iris likes nothing better than chasing things.

When Iris gives chase to a ginger moggy, Bea sets aside her tablet and follows her dog, over the fence and into the garden next door.

The greenhouse she finds there is full of plants. From the rustling leaves leaps the cat but could something else be watching the girl, casting an enormous shadow over her?

Before her stands a huge green giant, friendly seeming and with a story he wants to share. Bea learns that long ago back in the city he germinated becoming a happy seedling but then as the city air became increasingly toxic, he was forced to flee, eventually finding refuge in the roomy greenhouse wherein he now stays.

It’s a happy summer Bea spends with her green friends but all too soon, the holiday draws to an end.

The giant gives his human friend a parting gift – handful of seeds.

Back in the city once more, Bea is struck by its greyness and she knows just what to do.

Thus with the help of sunlight and water, operation transformation begins to take place … Perhaps it might one day be a place which her giant friend would be happy to visit.

The disconnect with the natural world that has come about in part due to the digital gadget obsession of many youngsters is cleverly understated, while the importance of caring for our precious natural environment comes through more urgently in Katie’s eco-story. There are definite links between them and it’s up to us as educators/parents to set a positive example to youngsters before it’s too late.

A book to share, discuss and act upon at home and in school.