It’s difficult to hear messages so frequently about the bleak outlook for our planet. Young people can start to feel saddled with—and even guilty about—problems they did not create. Mark Kurlansky’s World Without Fish, illustrated by Frank Stockton, arms kids with facts, and then the author tells them what they can do to change things for the better.
He provides them with Web sites that list sustainable fisheries (and rates those sites for their effectiveness); they can eat fish responsibly, knowing that these fish populations will continue to thrive. He gives young people concrete steps they can take in their own communities to effect change. He teaches them respectful ways to begin a conversation with the person in charge of the fish department at the grocery store or a waiter in a local restaurant. In the same way that Kurlansky presents the points of view of most everyone involved in trying to address the environment, he also instills respect for all parties involved.
The book does not shy away from worst-case scenarios, but Kurlansky also offers plenty of reasons for hope. He wrote it, in part, for his 10-year-old daughter, Talia. (When you read the book, you’ll notice that the characters in the running comics-style story are Kram and Ailat, Mark and Talia [at right] spelled backwards.) In a recent interview, I got to ask him what he believes is the most important thing we can do to help the planet. He answered, “Participate. The thing I find encouraging about kids is that they keep offering solutions… The most important message in the book for children is… that over the next 40 years more change [will occur] than was witnessed during the 120 years of the Industrial Revolution. They'll get to participate in these changes; I hope they view this as a tremendous opportunity.” What a great way to head into summer, thinking about ways to create positive change.