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How can kids handle climate change? By throwing a tantrum!

Scott Sutherland
Meteorologist/Science Writer

Friday, June 15, 2018, 5:19 PM - Climate change is the most important and serious issue that human civilization faces today, but how do you talk to your kids about such a serious subject, without causing them to lose hope for the future?

The answer to this question? Teach them the value of throwing a tantrum!

Not just an ineffectual, unreasonable tantrum, though. Teach them how to throw a tantrum that has meaning and purpose, and that is aimed at the right people - those in power, who have the ability to change our world for the better.

That's the story in The Tantrum That Saved The World, a new picture book co-created by writer/illustrator Megan Herbert and Penn State climate scientist Michael E. Mann.

Combining science with storytelling, Tantrum weaves the tale of Sophia, a young girl whose house begins to fill up with unexpected guests - animals and people who have all had their lives or livelihoods disrupted by the impacts of climate change.

Sophia's unexpected guests and their individual plights, in The Tantrum That Saved The World. CLICK/TAP TO ENLARGE. Credit: Megan Herbert/Michael E. Mann/World Saving Books

As the story unfolds, Sophia's frustration grows - first with her unfortunate guests, and then, when she tries to find help for them, with those in power, due to their dismissal of her, and her concerns, because she is 'just a child'.

Sophia's frustrating experiences with those in power, in The Tantrum That Saved The World. CLICK/TAP TO ENLARGE. Credit: Megan Herbert/Michael E. Mann/World Saving Books

It's when her frustration reaches its peak that Sophia throws an epic tantrum, but one with focus, direction and action, so that - spoiler alert - she ends up saving the world.

This remarkable book isn't just about one story, though, but several.

Once we reach the conclusion of Sophia's tale, we learn about the stories behind her story. Why does a polar bear show up on Sophia's doorstep? Why was the I-Kiribati family forced to leave their home? What is happening with the bees that made them take shelter in Sophia's home?

Herbert and Mann give us the details on the plight of each of Sophia's guests, which ultimately led them to her door.

The plight of bees, in The Tantrum That Saved The World. CLICK/TAP TO ENLARGE. Credit: Megan Herbert/Michael E. Mann/World Saving Books

Going beyond my own thoughts and opinions on the book, I asked my coworkers, here at The Weather Network, to weigh in about what they thought, and if applicable, what their children thought of the book.

According to Dr. Doug Gillham, manager of the TWN Forecast Centre:

An enjoyable and educational story that is appropriate for a wide age range. Younger readers can read the story and grasp the message that they can make a difference while older readers will find a wealth of supplemental science content that allows them to dig deeper into such an important topic.
I have not read a children’s book that was so rich in scientific information as this book. Including the majority of the science content as supplemental material at the end (after the story) was genius as it allows younger readers to enjoy the story without getting bogged down in science that is still over their heads, but older readers (including parents) gain a valuable education by reading the material that follows the story.
It was idealistic, but it encourages kids to dream big and recognize that they can make a difference in the world when they get involved.

Isabella O'Malley, a summer intern filling the role as TWN's climate change reporter, said:

I think the narrative of a young girl expressing her concerns about the environment in a political way is a great example to show children that their opinions and voices matter and can make a difference, even if other adults and politicians disagree or are dismissive.

Charlene Newland, Assignment Editor for The Weather Network, answered some questions after she had her children read the book:

• What did they think of what was going on with Sophia’s visitors?
My 13 year old son read the book to my 6 year old daughter. She thought Sophia's visitors where coming for a party. My older guy understood it right away.
• What did you think of Sophia’s reactions and responses during the story?
I thought it was an appropriate response for a girl her age.
• What did you think of the information that was presented after the story – the explanation of what are global warming and climate change, and the explanation for the plight of all the different creatures and people that visited Sophia?
I thought it was great, but I think age 6 was a little young to understand. It did open the door for a great conversation. I was able to break it down in away she could comprehend and have a good Q & A.

An important story, to fill a crucial gap

When asked why they wrote this story, Herbert and Mann said that they wanted a way to talk to kids about climate change, but couldn't find any books that approached the topic in a way that was accessible to children.

"Both Mike and I are parents," Herbert told Penn State News, "and we were worried about the state of things not just for us but for our kids, and we wanted to do something about it."

"The idea was really to have this story stand on its own, but for parents and kids who want to dig deeper there's that second part which provides further scientific context," Mann added.

To be appropriate, the book had to go beyond just the science, and it had to present the information in a way that would move beyond any doom and gloom messaging.

"It was important to us to have empowering stories and narratives for children today, to make sure they feel emboldened to be part of the process of solving the great problems we face," Mann explained.

"The last thing you want to do is frighten children or make them feel depressed," added Herbert. "You want to make them feel empathy and then a desire to do something positive."

The Tantrum That Saved The World is available straight from the publisher's website, World Saving Books, in digital format for $15.25 CAD, and in hardcover format for $38.25 CAD (+shipping), payable by PayPal.

While the digital format is the most cost effective, according to the publisher both formats are equally environmentally friendly and carbon neutral. Each hardcover copy is printed powered by renewable energy, on 100 per cent recycled paper, using biodegradable vegetable dyes. Printing waste is kept out of landfills, and the books are shipped using sustainable practices, with carbon offsetting (contributions to tree planting, renewable energy projects, etc) taking up any necessary slack.

Sources: World Saving Books | Penn State News

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