Our House Is on Fire: Greta Thunberg’s Call To Save the Planet

Beach Lane/S. & S./. Sept. 2019. 40p. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781534467781.
PreS-Gr 3–Greta Thunberg, the teen climate activist from Stockholm, made international headlines throughout this year. This picture book valorizes the quiet girl who began to speak out once she learned about climate change. Readers learn about Greta’s awakening, including the early days of her climate strike, and her growing impact on climate conversation. The narrative invites the kind of action required to avert the worst effects of climate change. Therein lies the book’s innate—and interesting—contradiction. The simple text addresses children much younger than Thunberg, who was 15 when she came to prominence. The visuals are rousing and inspiring, featuring pictures of young kids carrying signs. It sets up an expectation that everyone should do something to help mitigate climate change. This may be a lofty expectation, but it’s better than expecting too little. However, the statement that “there might not be a world to live in when she grows up” is likely to inspire panic among children. At the same time, her oversimplified assertion that Thunberg was eventually asked to speak to “very important people” at the UN climate talks and at the World Economic Forum undermines the book’s premise that everyone is important in this fight. The simple, vivid illustrations keep the focus on Thunberg and soften the clumsiness in the text. The memorable images can help children imagine their own activism into being.
VERDICT Thunberg is an important and exciting inspiration for activists of any age. This book attempts, and sometimes fails, to balance our grim prospects against the efficacy of hopeful action. Use this book in a way that encourages discussion.

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