Monday, March 19, 2007

Environmental Children's Book Double Feature

The Lorax by Dr. Seuss
  • Reading level: Ages 4-8
  • Hardcover: 72 pages
  • Publisher: Random House Books for Young Readers (August 12, 1971)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0394823370
  • ISBN-13: 978-0394823379
Just a Dream by Chris Van Allsburg
  • Reading level: Ages 9-12
  • Hardcover: 48 pages
  • Publisher: Houghton Mifflin (October 29, 1990)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0395533082
  • ISBN-13: 978-0395533086
I finished reading both of these on Mar. 19

So, my lucky lovelies, you are getting two books for the price of one. That's right, it's a crazy Booknerd two-for. I was pulling books today for a recycling unit, and came across Just a Dream, which I had never seen before. All the environmental love made me think of The Lorax, which I knew only by reputation, so, when I was at my library I picked up a copy (because that's what I do). They get a super special combo-blog because they are are birds of a (slightly mismatched) feather, and well, because I can.
Just a Dream is the story of a litter bug little boy who does not recycle. Instead of separating the garbage, he watches a movie about cool future robots on TV. That night he dreams of the future, but it is not the future with cool gadgets, but a future of a sad brown wasteland. There is little text and large expansive illustrations (this is all I could find) done with colored pencil. They are beautiful and hit the point home hard with pictures of our desolate planet-to-be if we keep on abusing it. There is also that device that I love in children's book (not sure if it has a name) where there is a little animal in most pages who is not mentioned in the text. In this case it's the boy's cat, who seems to be judging and teaching the boy, though it remains mute and shadowy. I always like to look for things like that in picture books. (I especially like Little Critter's Spider friend.) A google search tells me that this book is widely used in classrooms, so apparently I'm the last to hear about it. I must comment on the end though by saying that one boy planting a tree does not a planet save.
The Lorax is a little Wilfred Brimley looking environmentalist (no really, compare.) who warns against deforestation. See, the Once-ler just wants to make Thneeds, and to do so he must cut down all the Truffula Trees and this causes environmental mayhem. All the Seuss-tacular animals leave (in rhyme of course) and the world is a dark and sad place. This book was critically panned when Seuss released it, and was banned in California because it "criminalizes the forestry industry" (seriously) which it certainly does. However, I wrote a huge paper on Seuss (nee Geisel) once and I believe I read that this was one of the books he was the most proud of (though I clearly have no citation and am therefore the worst librarian ever).
I must say that I'm partial to the Seuss here, I like the illustrations and poetry and I think the message is handed out a little cleaner. Though I still give high marks to Van Allsburg because it is beautiful and a little scary.
Both stories are a bit heavy handed with their moral message, but I do not begrudge either of them. I feel that there are some messages with which we must scare children, this happens to be one of them. These are like child friendly versions of Mr. Gore's An Inconvenient Truth. Though really, let's be honest, kids should like that because Al Gore looks like a Muppet.

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