Quote of the Month

When love and skill work together, expect a miracle. John Ruskin

Friday, October 4, 2019

To Create Change

We need to stop ourselves each and every morning and remember today is a day when one person, maybe you or me, will change the world for the better for at least one other person. We are never fully aware of how a look, a word or a gesture of kindness can shift a day, or a lifetime, for someone.  Close to ten years ago when I was assigned as the librarian in both an elementary school library and a middle school library, I was checking my email early in the morning.

It was one of those days when you question the course of your life's work.  In my email was a message from a former student, then in his early thirties.  It was a note expressing his gratitude to me for treating him with respect and understanding when he came to the library during his middle school years.

Earlier this week a friend on Twitter sent out this tweet to his followers.

We simply cannot predict how we live our life affects others.  If we work together inspiring each other to be our best selves, who knows what we will accomplish.

Perhaps, our beautiful world will become more marvelous for the larger community of all its inhabitants.  Our House Is On Fire: Greta Thunberg's Call to Save the Planet (Beach Lane Books, an imprint of Simon & Schuster Children's Publishing Division, September 24, 2019) written and illustrated by Jeanette Winter (The world is not a rectangle: A Portrait Of Architect Zaha Hadid ) is a timely look at the young woman championing for the only planet we have, Earth.  She has generated an international awakening and awareness.

Greta is a quiet girl who led a quiet life
in the city of Stockholm.
Her dog Roxy was her friend.

For most of her life, Greta saw herself as alone, unseen by her classmates.  One day at school a teacher spoke to her students about climate change.  As Greta heard her teacher's words something inside her shifted.  

She educated herself further by reading and watching films about our world and how it was warming at an alarming rate.  Greta was focused on this topic and this topic only.  She watched as specific areas were damaged and threatened by all the events happening then (and now).  The polar ice melting, the raging storms, the death of coral reefs, specie extinctions, extreme flooding, droughts and fires shocked her.

Greta was deeply saddened by the state of the planet's and its residents' status.  The more she thought about it, the unhappier she became.  Finally, she knew she had to do something for herself and Earth.  She began her strike from school for climate.  She had the support of her parents.

Greta positioned herself outside the Swedish parliament with her sign reading School Strike For Climate every Friday.  At first no one noticed.  She sat there in all kinds of weather.  Finally, people did notice.  She was no longer alone.  Other students in Stockholm joined her.  

Other students around the world joined her.  Greta spoke at world gatherings of adults focusing on climate change.  Her words, based on science, rang true.  A single voice made a difference.  A single voice became a chorus resonating around the world and is still growing. 

As in many of her books, Jeanette Winter, through research presents a true picture of Greta Thunberg's shift from frightened to focused.  We feel her isolation through word choices and use of language.  The repetition of two words over eight sentences builds toward her very real fear.  This makes her decision to strike all the more courageous and inspiring and also heartbreaking.  She was only fifteen when she started striking.  Many quotations from her speeches and journalists are present in this book.

As Jeanette Winter continues to write Greta's story, we are aware of the power of children.  We are aware of each generation's duty to better the world for the next generation.  The closing question penned by Jeanette Winter is for all readers of all ages.  Here is a passage from the narrative.

The quiet girl who always felt invisible was asked to speak to
very important people at the United Nations climate talks in Poland.

Greta only spoke when she thought it was necessary.

The matching illustration spanning both sides, left to right, of the dust jacket and book case speaks volumes.  The children from around the world, the bright colors of their clothing and signs, joining Greta demand our attention as if we can hear their voices chanting.  This first picture shows how one person can and has made a difference.  

On the opening and closing endpapers is a lighter shade of teal than that seen on the jacket and case.  Prior to the title page Greta stands alone on a crisp white background with one of her quotes above her:

"You are never too small to make a difference."

On the title page the five first words of the title text span left to right in huge reddish-textured print.  This is an important design decision as the final question is also enlarged across two pages in blueish-textured print at the book's close.

Each of Jeanette Winter's signature visuals spans a single page framed in a large white border, a full-page, edge to edge, or in one dramatic double-page picture.  She alters her perspective to strengthen her narrative.  By including Greta's rescue dog, Roxy, in many of the images we see Greta's empathy for those in need.  We understand her true heart.  For those special eight pages of Greta and Roxy watching each disaster, their facial expressions and body positions convey a wealth of emotions.

One of my many favorite illustrations expresses the depth of Greta's sadness.  Around Greta in the center of the page, seated with her knees drawn to her chest and hugged by her arms, swirls a world of despair.  Behind her is a purple sky with darker mountains and waves of varying blues.  Directly in front of her is a lavender portion with cracks.  Rain falls.  Roxy lays at her feet, eyes watching Greta's bowed head.  This is a poignant scene.  It is also moving to realize how this young woman raised herself up and galvanized an entire world.

Certain to promote discussions and further research, Our House Is On Fire: Greta Thunberg's Call to Save the Planet written and illustrated by Jeanette Winter is an important title and most worthy of a place on your personal and professional bookshelves.  On the final page author Jeanette Winter speaks about the initial march on March 15, 2019 and the countries that participated.  Nine research sources are noted along with bibliographic information about the quotes used in this book.  The noted resources are excellent.  Jeanette Winter's final words are:

When I heard her speeches, I felt Greta was speaking for me.  And I'm eighty years old.

If you desire to view interior illustrations from this title please visit the publisher's website.  Here is an article in Publishers Weekly titled Greta Thunberg's Call for Action Fast Tracks a Picture Book Bio.  Jeanette Winter is featured in an interview at A Mighty Girl website.  Here is the link to the Global Climate Strike on September 17 and September 24, 2019.  Here is the link to Fridays for Future which includes many of Greta's speeches.  

You will want to visit Kid Lit Frenzy hosted by educator Alyson Beecher to take note of the other titles selected this week by participants in the 2019 Nonfiction Picture Book Challenge.

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