From the creators of You are Stardust comes Wild Ideas, the latest picture book by environmental educator Dr. Elin Kelsey and mixed-media artist Soyeon Kim. Smaller in scope but more personal than Stardust, Wild Ideas employs a blend of language, art, and science to highlight humanity’s kinship with the animal world while showcasing nature as an inspirational force.
It’s been a while since I’ve featured a children’s story on Ekostories, but after this month’s spotlight on environmental artists and last week’s look at the need for hopeful tales in uncertain times, I thought it would be good to cover a story that employs both art and words to convey wonder to the next generation. Written by Elin Kelsey and featuring artwork by Soyeon Kim, You are Stardust from Owlkids Books is a picture book filled with tiny tales about the fascinating and unexpected ways that humans are part of nature.
With my mind still lingering on toads after finishing the piece on Orwell’s essay several weeks ago, I was delighted to discover a fascinating post by Nancy Adams, a fellow wordpress blogger over at Saints and Trees, exploring The Wind in the Willows, Kenneth Grahame’s classic children’s tale. A brief excerpt: “Toad in many ways is given more human attributes than the others, a fact that sets him apart—and seldom in a good way. In fact, I now wonder if Grahame’s rather satiric portrayal of Toad is meant as a comment on human foibles, particularly our fascination with technology, which we see all too often as a toy for our own gratification rather than a tool to benefit society at large…” The Wind in the Willows as Eco Story
There’s an art to writing for kids. Good children’s books aren’t simply dumbed down stories, written with smaller words and fitted with happy sappy endings. In reality, kids are quite discerning: Their faculties haven’t yet been dulled by the insecurities and neuroses accumulated during the process of growing up. They like what they like and are completely honest about it. It’s true that they happily consume works filled with tired clichés and moralistic messages, but lacking cynicism and regard for convention, they generally emerge none the worse for wear. The stories that stay with kids are ones that feel authentic and true, even if they can’t articulate why. These are stories that speak through the language of wonder, a native tongue we are all born knowing but can easily be forgotten through neglect and disuse. I think The Curious Garden by Peter Brown is a great children’s book. Inspired by the revitalization of the Highline railway on the west side of Manhattan, Brown fuses charming visuals with a narrative that is full of discovery and hope. …
The comic book is not the first medium that comes to mind for conveying the ideas of Henry David Thoreau, but it’s always nice to be pleasantly surprised. I stumbled upon Thoreau at Walden by John Porcellino at a small local bookstore several years ago and was immediately drawn to the thin tome. In this graphic novel, distilled passages are fused with a minimalistic art style to create a unique work that captures the essence of Thoreau’s physical and spiritual sojourn at Walden Pond. It has since become one of my favourite interpretations of the famous transcendentalist’s work, serving as a handy and accessible resource for Thoreau’s exploration into nature, culture, and self.
Human beings are visual creatures; our eyes and brains work in concert to extract patterns and meanings through the narrow visible spectrum. Vivid imagery can speak to us in a wordless tongue, reaching deep into our hearts and minds to make us see the world and ourselves in a new light. Because they are more open to interpretation than words, visual narratives can be less confrontational and more accessible. This week’s Reconnect highlights three past Ekostories which utilize aesthetics as a way to engage viewers to think more deeply about humanity’s relationships with the environment.
As I noted in The Changing Countryside, art can be a powerful platform for conveying environmental messages and raising ecological literacy. Most of us have been touched by a particularly poignant painting, a soulful song, an intricate sculpture. In instances where the written word seems insufficient to describe the essence of an idea or a concept, art can bypass our rational centers to evoke resonance and convey meaning. Instead of thinking, we first feel it deep in our core, in our soul. I felt the message when I first flipped through Belonging, a wordless picture book by Jeannie Baker. An artist and an author, Baker specializes in the creation of intricate shallow-relief multimedia collages. Primarily used as illustrations in her books, the collages have also been part of public art collections displayed in London, New York, and Australia. Each wordless double-page spread in Belonging is an astonishing depiction of a setting through time; each panel is packed with details and textures rich and subtle, providing a visual feast for the eyes and an experience for …