“Please Don’t Paint Our Planet Pink!: A Story for Children and their Adults” is a new children’s book by Gregg Kleiner about global warming. The idea is simple. Imagine if you could see CO2? In the book, it is imagined to be pink. The imagining takes the form of a quirky father, one imagines him to be an inventor of some sort, coming up with the idea of making goggles that would allow you to see CO2 as a pink gas. This is all described by the man’s patient but clearly all suffering son, who eventually dons the prototype goggles and sees for himself.
I read this to Huxley, age 5, and he loved it. He kept asking questions, and saying things like, “Is that true? Really?” I knew he would enjoy the book for its witty chatter and excellent illustrations, but frankly I did not expect him to be enthralled. He is fairly laid back when it comes to matters of science, nature, and for that matter, mathematics. He tends to absorb, then, later makes up song about it or comes up with difficult questions. His reaction was unique.
Bill McKibben’s reaction was pretty strong too. He is quoted as saying, “I’ve often wondered what would happen if CO2 were visible. Now I know!” … except he already knew. There would be pink everywhere. At the density of about 400ppm. More than the 350 value that gives his organization its name!
I had only one small problem with the book, and that is the description of what fossil fuels are. The majority of oil probably formed in aquatic, mainly marine, environments as the detritus of mostly small organisms and invertebrates, not dinosaurs and old trees like the book says. Coal is probably most plant matter, but boggy plants and detritus formed in low spots. And so on. Had I edited the book, I would have asked for a sentence or two to broaden the concept of where fossil fuels come from, and maybe a sentence or two to underscore the fact that the fossil fuels we use today were deposited in fits and starts of many tens of millions of years. The process of painting our planet pink over just several decades has released a huge percentage of that Carbon, mainly as CO2. It is like taking five years to fill up a glass of milk then spilling half of it on the sofa in one second. (A proper analogy for the targeted reading age for this great book.)
People often ask me for a recommendation on a book about climate change for kids. This book is great for that purpose. It fits a wide range of ages, but primarily little kids and elementary school. This is not an explainer on global warming, but rather, a great story that gives a sense of the importance of climate change without totally freaking out the audience. The illustrations by Laurel Thomson are excellent.
Of you want to do something about climate change, buy a few copies and give them to your local school’s library (they probably call it a media center) or your local preschool. And your kid, of course. Or to your annoying climate denying cousin’s kids. That would be good.
Gregg Kleiner also wrote Where River Turns to Sky.