This Picture Book Is the Perfect Way to Introduce Kids to Climate Change

Photo Courtesy of André Bakker

Climate change is a complex topic that even grown-ass people have trouble understanding. Imagine how kids must feel (oh, and the parents and teachers who bear the responsibility of teaching them about it). Luckily, there’s a new book to help with all that.

The Tantrum That Saved the World is currently available for pre-order online or immediate download as an e-book. The children’s book takes on the tough challenge of explaining climate change to children anywhere from 4 to 8 years old. Its authors, writer Megan Herbert and climate scientist Michael E. Mann, are parents themselves, so this book is personal for them.


“As the father of a 12-year-old girl, I am reminded every day that this is really about her, about our children and our grandchildren, and not making decisions today that will mortgage the planet for them and future generations,” Mann told Earther in an email.

Mann is a renowned climate scientist who has published a number of books and more than 200 peer-reviewed research articles on the subject. He, along with his fellow authors of the annual Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report, received the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize. Herbert has been a writer and illustrator for 20 years, having had her work featured on TV and in film. This is her first children’s book.

An illustration of New England anglers whose livelihoods are threatened by climate change. Image Courtesy of Megan Herbert

Mann and Herbert didn’t want to create just any children’s book on climate change, though. They wanted a book that not only educated their children but instilled in them an optimistic outlook on what they can do to address climate change. After all, this world needs saving, as the title implies.


“Horrific images of climate change news is not the way to start the conversation,” Herbert told Earther. “It’s so important to talk to kids about climate change but in a way that gives them a sense there are little things they can do

The book revolves around a young, racially ambiguous girl, Sophia, who receives an influx of uninvited visitors to her house: climate refugees like a polar bear, a family who lost their island home to a flood, Syrian farmers, an Andean flamingo, and a Bengal tiger, among others.


“I wanted all those characters to be jumping off points for conversations,” Herbert said. “It’s up to parents and teachers and adults in the child’s life to judge how deep to go.”

An illustration of the i-Kiribati family whose island nation is sinking due to climate change. Image Courtesy of Megan Herbert

Sophia doesn’t turn these visitors away (though she tries at first). She allows them inside and becomes an ally. She learns the importance of rallying, holding protests, writing representatives, and demanding change. She, essentially, throws a tantrum—the best kind of tantrum.

The book doesn’t show images of starving polar bears, melting glaciers, or flooded villages. A book on climate change could easily have gone down that route. Herbert and Mann, however, decided to focus on ways of empowering future generations and instilling the passion to help fix this global issue. More importantly, perhaps, is the element of empathy Herbert hopes to stir. That’s, in part, the purpose of keeping Sophia’s race unclear. Herbert wanted as many little ones as possible to connect with her.


“I wanted children to experience empathy for what other people in other parts of the world are going through and not reduce them to an idea of being an ‘illegal immigrant’ or an ‘exotic person I’ve never met,’” Herbert explained. For example, the i-Kiribati family came from an island nation, and Herbert wanted to show these children were, well, kids just like Sophia. She draws them playing with the polar bear and running around. Y’know, typical kid things.

To help explain these situations even more deeply, the second part of the book is an illustrated science section. It breaks down why island nations are sinking. It gets into the decimation of bees—and all in a language easily digestible for most six year olds. Mann helped write this section of the book, in particular.


“As a scientist who is dedicated not just to understanding the science of climate change but conveying it and its implications to the broader public, I am always looking for new ways to talk about the problem and new audiences to reach out to,” he said.

An illustration of the Andean flamingo whose home is at risk from climate change. Image Courtesy of Megan Herbert

That’s why the book’s last section is a removable action plan poster for a child (or parent). A book with this many moving parts—and, especially, one on climate change—isn’t exactly an easy sell, so the team raised the funds to make it happen on Kickstarter and self-published the book. Now, Herbert’s got herself a publishing house, World Saving Books, and she plans to illustrate many more.

What’s more, the book is entirely carbon neutral and so will be all others coming from the publisher. Its authors were sure to practice what they preach.


[h/t The Verge]

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About the author

Yessenia Funes

Senior staff writer, Earther. The one who "pulls the race card" in the name of environmental justice. You dig?

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