I’m so very excited to have this Q&A with the author of What the World Needs Now: Trees. Cheryl Rosebush is the author of What the World Needs Now environmental children’s book series (for ages 4-8). She is also a Communications Specialist on forest protection and climate change.
For more information about her, her mission, and the book series visit:
www.environmentalkids.com or www.cherylrosebush.com.
You can find Cheryl on Instagram @environmentalkidsbooks and Facebook @WhattheWorldNeedsNowbookseries too!
1. What inspired you to write this book?
After 10+ years of writing about sustainability and climate change issues for governments, international organizations and the private sector, I felt it was time to add a new audience to my repertoire. And being a mom to two curious young boys over the past six years has given me daily practice in explaining my work and why it’s important.
But if I had to pinpoint my proverbial “light bulb” moment for developing my book series, it was probably when my oldest was about 3 or 4 years old. At the grocery store, I was explaining to him why I wouldn’t buy him a cheap, plastic toy (“…because it will break, end up in the garbage, and maybe end up in the ocean where a whale might think it’s food, and eat it. And that would make the whale sick.”).
What amazed me is how easily he followed the logic. He just got it. And I realized then that we shouldn’t be waiting to talk to young kids about our environmental challenges.
Then I hit Google and Amazon in search of books that could help me with these conversations. What I quickly discovered is that there is no shortage of environmental children’s books for ages 8+, but that far less was out there to help start conversations about environmental challenges with our little ones.
As they say, necessity is the mother of invention. So, I decided to write the children’s books I was looking for.
2. What’s your professional background?
I’m a former Canadian journalist who has spent the last decade writing about forest protection and climate change for international organizations including the United Nations, the World Bank Forest Funds and the International Union for Conservation of Nature. I’m committed to promoting better ways of living on this beautiful planet—one audience at a time.
3. My children love Jefri! He is absolutely adorable. What made you pick an orangutan to be your book’s star character?
I knew I wanted my first book in the series to be about trees, and after my World Bank mission to Sumatra in 2019, I knew I wanted my main character to be an orangutan. They literally have everything to lose by tropical forest loss. And since they share so similarities to humans, I thought an orangutan would be the perfect animal to underscore the ways in which we are all connected to trees.
4. Jane Goodall endorsed your book, which is incredible! What did that mean to you?
Everything! She is the one of the biggest (if not THE biggest) global name in nature conservation. She is strong and gentle, wise and kind. Her message of hope continues to inspire. Her tenacity, her grace-- she’s a hero in every sense of the word. The day I received her endorsement, I wrote “the best thing that could have possibly happened to my book just happened.” And that’s the truth. Her endorsement is literally the best thing that could have ever happened to my first book.
5. This is the first book in the series. What other books are you writing or planning to write?
Book 2 “What the World Needs Now: Bees!” is finalized and people can already pre-order it on EnvironmentalKids.com. We will start shipping printed copies around the 22 February 2021.
Book 3 “What the World Needs Now: Less Plastic!” is written and being illustrated as we speak. Pre-ordering will start (again on Environmentalkids.com) mid-March and we will start shipping Book 3 on Earth Day (22 April).
Book 4 “What the World Needs Now: Cleaner Energy!” will be released end of June.
And that’s all that is firm in the series as of now! My aim is to have at least five books completed and on sale by the end of 2021. The other goal for 2021 is to develop and release French and Spanish versions of all the books in the series.
Once the series is established, I plan to work with education professionals to develop curriculum based on the book series that we would make available to educators around the world.
6. What do you hope to accomplish through your book series?
To know about the climate crisis is to be profoundly scared by it, no matter how old we are. Many of us are grappling with a messy mix of emotions when it comes to the state of our planet-- anxiety, grief, ambivalence, hopelessness, numbness, or a mix of all of the above.
And as parents, educators and caregivers to young children, many of us don’t know where to begin to talk about our most pressing environmental challenges. How do we start these conversations without scaring our kids or leaving them feeling hopeless? (I wrote a blog about this too: https://www.cherylrosebush.com/blog/psychology-and-the-climate-crisis).
I’ve developed this book series to give parents and educators the right, age-appropriate starting point in these conversations. The series is designed to lay the foundation for future learning on the world’s most pressing environmental challenges. But for our littlest kids, the connection starts at a much simpler point: their first job is to fall in love with nature - because you don’t protect what you don’t love. The books support engaging with our kids on how we can better respect and care for the only planet we have.
7. I was so impressed to find out your book was eco-friendly and carbon balanced. Can you tell us more about it?
Thanks! Yes, all of the books in the What the World Needs Now series adhere to the highest standards of eco-printing:
To offset emissions generated from manufacturing and shipping, the book series contributes to the World Land Trust. Adhering to these eco-standards means this book isn’t the least expensive one
you could buy, but it is a book you can feel good about buying.
Achieving these standards of eco-printing was a must-have for me. I simply had no interest in developing an environmental children’s book series that didn’t walk its talk.
8. What can children do to help the environment?
The same things we can all do! One of my favourite quotes is from Maya Angelou “Do the best you can until you know better. And when you know better, do better.” So, whether you are 4 or 84, when we learn about the problem with plastic, or pesticides, or palm oil (the list goes on and on), the best thing we can do is to look for better, more sustainable alternatives. We don’t have to change everything overnight, but we do need to do better once we know better.
And what’s really important to communicate to our kids is that it’s not all up to them. None of this (ie our environmental challenges) is their doing, but we will need their help to change things for the better.
9. For children who are interested in reading more about protecting the environment, what books or magazines do you recommend?
The Jane Goodall Institute has been running an amazing global youth initiative since the early 1990s called Roots & Shoots. The program has developed so many wonderful resources to help children foster a deep connection with the natural world.
One of my favourite children’s books underscoring our connection with nature is The Great Kapok Tree- A Tale of the Amazon Rainforest. It’s so beautifully written, and it just celebrated its 20th anniversary in 2020.
10. If a parent wants to talk to their children about climate change and other environmental issues, what resources do you recommend?
In 2020, ClimateMama.com founder Harriet Shugarman released a book “How to Talk to Your Kids About Climate Change” (endorsed by Al Gore!), which is a great resource for parents, educators and caregivers.
Renowned Climate Psychologist, Dr. Renee Lertzman, did an amazing TedTalk in 2020 called “How to turn your climate anxiety into action” that I HIGHLY recommend watching. In 2020, Dr. Lertzman also launched a new initiative called Project Inside Out, which has developed great resources on climate awareness and action.
The WWF also has good resources available on their online education platform: https://www.worldwildlife.org/teaching-resources
Another great idea for parents and educators is to follow nature conservation leaders on their social media platforms, all of whom have initiatives to engage with. Dr. Jane Goodall has a new “hopecast” podcast; any one of Sir David Attenborough’s amazing documentaries, including his latest Netflix doc A Life on Our Planet; Al Gore’s Climate Reality Project; the Kiss the Ground movement, to name only a few.
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