By Bethany Carlson and Kyra Young
Local author Gregg Kleiner has joined forces with local artist Laurel Thompson to publish a children’s book about the effects of climate change, Please Don’t Paint Our Planet Pink! A Story for Children and Their Adult. Grass Roots Bookstore will host a launch party on Saturday, Oct. 25 at 3 p.m.
Some will doubtless recall Kleiner’s past work, which includes Where River Turns to Sky, for which he became a finalist for both the Paterson Fiction Prize and the Oregon Book Award. The book has also been optioned for a feature film by Fox Searchlight.
About this most current endeavor, Kleiner observes that one of the biggest challenges of climate change is its intangibility. “How do you inspire people, especially the younger generation, to first of all see it in some way, and then take action?” This book is an answer to that question.
The book follows the story of a boy whose dad asks him to put on magic goggles that allow the user to see carbon dioxide as bright pink clouds. Kleiner balances the challenge of educating kids in intelligent language that is neither alarmist nor dumbed down. “It’s a tool for parents to talk to their kids about it,” said Thompson.
Kleiner was inspired to write the book after several sleepless nights spent worrying about the type of world his two children will live in. He wanted to reach out to the younger generation, and their adults, for several reasons. He knows that children of today will be living in a different climate than that of adults, so he wanted to help children “see” carbon dioxide in the air and act. He said, “I wanted to inspire, not scare, and encourage courage and inquisitiveness.” He also knows from experience that kids have incredible imaginations. “I wanted to tap these imaginations in young minds, in hopes they ‘get it’ faster than my generation has.”
Kleiner recognized that although we hear about greenhouse gases and CO2 all the time, we can’t really see them, so there’s nothing to rally against. This is when he had his idea for the story: What if we could see CO2? After that, the story spilled out and he hasn’t quit working since. He said the hardest part was to find a good balance between offering a great story that includes both science and humor, but that doesn’t frighten kids. His favorite part of the whole ordeal has been the illustrations done by the talented Laurel Thompson. He really enjoys her renditions of his story from “the dad’s green goggles and froggy, bulging eyeballs to the pink pickles and even the pink tutu at the very end.”
Thompson developed the watercolor illustrations over the course of a year. Kleiner approached her about illustrating for him, and she was both thrilled and flattered. She immediately offered her help. The two worked together to figure out which parts of the book would get illustrations, which turned out to be harder than she thought. “I got so many great visuals while reading the story, and it was sometimes difficult to decide what would be illustrated and what would be left up to the reader’s imagination.” She feels very fortunate to be able to bring a story to life for the first time, and looks forward to working on another children’s book.
The launch party on Oct. 25 will include a book signing and reading by Kleiner and Thompson. The team is now in the marketing phase, and welcomes suggestions for places that might want to offer their book, like schools, bookstores, and libraries, at their website, www.cloudburstcreative.com/pink.