A stunningly illustrated handbook for any eco-hero who wants to learn about our global environmental crisis.
Reviewed by Ben Harris
Planet S.O.S. 22 Modern Monsters Threatening Our Environment (and What You Can Do to Defeat Them!)
Monsters abound in this nonfiction book for all primary-school ages…but not the creatures of the imagination that you may expect!
Each double-page spread in this colourful, informative and highly original book presents a ‘monster’ that threatens the Earth. These are not the creatures from tales of old but the very real and hazardous risks to the health of our planet. The Noisybird, the Acid Sea Dragon, the Oil Spillathan and many others all burst forth from the pages and make their toxic presence known.
Environmental issues are brought to life here and dramatically connected to the child-reader. Monsters, dinosaurs and the supernatural fascinate many children; this book links that interest to something that has universal relevance. Although the concept may seem to ‘disguise’ the real danger by personifying it, I believe that in this way, children will better begin to understand the nature of the evils damaging our planet from a young age. Where fairy tales read to children from the cradle introduce the dangers of greed, arrogance and hatred in the forms of evil stepsisters and cunning wolves, the logical step is taken in this book to present genuine current concerns in a way that would make sense to them.
A more traditional mythological creature appears on each page too, related in some way to the environmental concern depicted. The Noisybird, for instance, derives imaginatively from the Chinese Jiu Tou Niau, a creature well known in folklore for its nocturnal cacophony. The Behemoth becomes the Grease Behemoth, its limbs of steel transformed into the fat-bergs created in sewers by negligent residents of the homes above ground.
The design of the book -the physical layout and structure of the pages – is integral to this aim. Each monster is assigned a ‘card’ rather like a trumps card, on which are presented pictorially the things that we do to ‘strengthen’ the beast and action that could ‘weaken’ it. A fold-out page allows easy reference to help children to identify symbols on these cards and a similar large page at the end demonstrates the ‘power’ of these monsters around the world.
Every primary-school classroom needs a copy of this book. Browsing through will delight the children but also then – most importantly – make them think. As the children grow older, the symbolic nature of these creatures and of course, at the right time, their real threat could be discussed.
I am always delighted to see nonfiction books presented to children in creative and appealing ways: this book, in particular, is a hugely impressive example of just that.