Melanie Walsh’s My green day : 10 green things I can do today is a picture book with a conscious. Illustrated and written by Walsh, this gorgeous book is made from 100% recycled material and chronicles the day of a lower primary school child. Appropriately basic text – “I help empty the washing machine and peg our clothes on the line” – leads the reader through this normal day, while beautiful, bold illustrations tell the story too. In my opinion, what sets this book apart from many enviro books for kids, is the author’s ability to facilitate discussions of environmental sustainability, without ruining the flow of the story, or preaching “thou shall crush then recycle your soda cans.”
This is largely due to Walsh’s clever inclusion of sentences in smaller font size which complement the plot, and educate the reader. These sentences contain an advanced vocabulary and theme, acting as optional discussion starters. Such passages are linear certainly, but wisely, they are also independent, and therefore could easily be left out for too young or too impatient an audience. For example, pages reading, “At school, I make presents for my grandma,” are illustrated playfully with patterned off-cuts of paper and fabrics from the classroom craft box. The illustrations tell how the child uses scraps of materials to create art. In smaller type the optional discussion starter reads: “Making a toy out of old material is fun and a great way to recycle.” Likewise, a full plate at lunchtime becomes empty as the large type reads, “At lunch… I eat up all my pasta.” The reader sees and hears the message to finish all their food. For further discussion, Walsh includes in smaller type: “We throw away one third of all the food we buy. If we bought only the food we actually needed to eat, we wouldn’t have to grow or transport so much food, which saves lots of energy.” So the book can be read with or without these ‘extra’ passages; especially because the illustrations are so successful in narrating the ‘green’ theme. It is a lovely likelihood that as the reader grows, the book will be revisited and the non-fiction, didactic angle will be made the focus.
Naturally, this clever style of writing leads itself to classroom discussions, and talks at home during story times. Of course, library staff and teachers will also use this book in a unit of study. It is important to note how with so many potential ‘teaching moments,’ this author is careful to not stuff environmentalism down the reader’s throat. Instead, opting to ‘have a green day’ seems like a totally fun option, so why wouldn’t the reader chose to live this way? With Walsh’s help, let’s hope we raise many green beings.
Walsh, M. (2010). My green day: 10 green things I can do today. London: Walker.
Other picture books that make me think
- Nobody owns the moon by the always amazing Tohby Riddle
- Changes by the super-talented Anthony Browne.
- The Lost thing (or indeed any book) by Shaun Tan.