Thursday, September 18, 2008

Little Green Books

So Little Simon of Simon & Schuster has a new line of books for young readers. The Little Green Books series. You can read the press release here. You can see all the lines in that series here.

Today I'll be highlighting two of their picture books. Both books are made from 100% recycled paper. And that's good and all. But...

I'm a big believer in stories. I'm a believer in good messages. But I'm not such a good believer in stories weighed down with good messages. In library school, you're taught (and wisely at that) to frown upon didactic reading materials. So, for example, there could be a message that you believe in--support--100% (or 90% of whatever) and still not want to see that message spun into a "story" for children. (If you ask me, if parents want their children to grow up green, then modeling green behavior is the first and most important way to convey that message. Not reading them "story" books about the subject.)

The fact that these two books in the series do not feature an author's name on the cover...says something in my opinion. These books are all message, little story. What story there is in the books is weak and flimsy.

The books in question: The Polar Bears' Home: A Story About Global Warming and I Can Save The Earth! One Little Monster Learns To Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle.

What does the text look like? Obvious and not-so-subtle messaging about humans' bad behavior and bad habits.

Max the Little Monster liked to fling candy wrappers. He left a trail of trash wherever he went. "Whee!" said Max. Max the Little Monster did not like to give away his old toys--even when he'd outgrown them. "Mine!" cried Max. Max the Little Monster like to overflow the sink...and the bathtub...and clog the toilet. "Hungry toilet!'" said Max. Max the Little Monster left the lights on and blared the TV--even when he wasn't in the room. "No big whoop," said Max.

But all this changes when Max experiences a black out which leads to a change of heart....and behavior.

With The Polar Bears' Home we've got a message-as-dialogue between father and daughter about the plight of the polar bear and the world at large due to global warming. It's very message-heavy. Even more so than the out-of-control monster who learns his lesson. There are better books out there about polar bears (ones with the author's name on the cover and everything) that include this subject within a larger context. So this one isn't all that great in my opinion.

Good message? Mostly. Good literature? Not really. Not the "quality" type you'd want to read with your littles unless you wanted to preach to them about reducing, reusing, and recycling. Goodnight Moon, Curious George, or Knuffle Bunny this is not.

Here is what I'd like to see. Good old regular stories about anything and everything being printed and published in an eco-friendly way. I'm all for publishers taking steps to go green. Using recycled paper, etc. But I'd like the stories printed on that paper to merit it.

© Becky Laney of Young Readers

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