Climate Rebels

Authored by Ben Lerwill
Illustrated by Masha Ukhova, Stephanie Son, Chellie Carroll, Hannah Peck, Iratxe Lopez de Munain
Published by Puffin

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I admit that I wasn’t too excited about reading another book about climate activists. Not because it’s an unimportant topic, but there has been a lot of them, and I was wondering if this one would bring anything new to the party. It did!

This mid-sized hardback format includes 25 stories featuring individuals and groups who have committed their work to make the world a better place, protecting the wildlife, protecting the environment and fighting for a better quality of life for all. Most of the stories cover a page and have a facing illustration, although there is some variation to the layout. The text is direct and provides just enough information to get a sense of the life being written about, which could lead to further research if reading the book in school.

As you would expect the familiar names are here; David Attenborough, Jane Goodall, Wangari Maathai, Greta Thunberg, but there are plenty of less familiar names spanning the last 100 years and covering all four corners of the globe.

To pick out a few, I was delighted to see mountaineer John Muir included. I read Muir’s book on the mountains of Alaska while travelling there a few years ago, It may have been over a century ago, but his voice was an engaging and informative guide through that landscape. Muir was born in Scotland in 1838 but later emigrated to America with his family. After an accident almost blinded him, he undertook a 1,000-mile walk to wonder at the plants, forests and landscapes of the USA, which had nearly been taken away from him. He understood the need to protect wildlife, and his campaigning led to the creation of the national parks, including the now world-famous Yosemite in California.

There are plenty of young activists included like Ridhima Pandey from Hardiwar in northern India. After flooding devastated her region, killing people and animals and leaving many more homeless, she started to campaign for something to be done to prevent it from happening again. Then at nine years old, a formal legal complaint, with her name, took the Indian government to court for failing to do enough to protect the environment.

The book also tells the story of the famous Black Mambas, an all-female, non-armed, anti-poaching group established in 2013 by a nature warden Craig Spencer. The astonishing achievements of these brave women is a 75% reduction in poaching in their nature reserve.

There are many more stories to be discovered in this handy volume. The reading level is just right for most upper junior classes. The book would be a useful resource for classes studying animals and humans or climate and conservation. Perhaps groups could use the individual stories as a launchpad for further research, either into the individual’s achievements or a broader investigation into the topic, e.g. endangered animals, climate control, conservation, sustainability. A map could be displayed with the different stories located on the map with pins for an at-a-glance image of where activism is taking place. The children could add other stories as they learn about them from the news or further reading.

Just one criticism and it is an important one. The illustrations are an integral part of the book. Many young readers will be attracted to the book on the strength of the illustration, so it is more than disappointing that the illustrators aren’t credited on the cover of the book, inside title page (my e-book version) or marketing material, although Jane Goodall gets a prominent place (quite rightly) for her introduction. I hope a future reprint can put this right.