________________ CM . . . . Volume XVIII Number 19 . . . . January 20, 2012


Who Will Save My Planet?

María Urrutia.
Toronto, ON: Tundra Books, 2012.
32 pp., hardcover, $11.99.
ISBN 978-1-77049-281-3.

Subject Headings:
Environmental responsibility-Pictorial works-Juvenile literature.
Environmental protection-Pictorial works-Juvenile literature.

Grades 1 and up / Ages 6 and up.

Review by Dave Jenkinson.

**** /4


The contents of Who Will Save My Planet? confirm the truth of the adage that “a picture is worth a thousand words.” Wordless, Who Will Save My Planet? consists of 14 pairs of facing pages in which the left page contains a photo that reveals how “we” are destroying the planet on which we live while the photograph on the right page shows how the world should remain or be, if we are to save it. María Urrutia, the photographer, is also the founder and director of Ediciones Tecolate, a Mexican publishing house, and the book was originally published in Spanish in 2007.

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     Even the youngest “reader” will comprehend the differences that Urrutia’s photographs present: a forest on fire vs a pristine canopy of green; a chainsaw-wielding logger falling a tree vs a pair of hands planting a tree seedling; a caged parrot vs one in the wild; a polluted, stagnant stream vs a sparkling waterfall; a beach covered with the carcasses of large turtles vs a turtle swimming free in the ocean; vegetation killed by water-borne pollution vs plants thriving in a clear stream; two seals, one with discarded plastic biting into its neck, the other plastic-free; two forests, one blackened by fire and the other, lush and green; a caged lion vs one hunting its prey in the wild; the stumps of “harvested” trees vs the soaring trunks of living trees; a jaguar rug vs a jaguar living in the wild; a roadway with just tree stumps beside it vs. a tree-lined pathway; a garbage-strewn hillside vs a garbage can filled with trash, and a traffic-clogged street vs a person riding a bicycle.

     Readers of different ages will undoubtedly bring different understandings to the paired images. For example, with the opening pair, a younger “reader” might just see a forest on fire and another of a forest untouched by fire. On the other hand, an older reader might see the fire event of the initial picture as possibly occurring in a South American jungle where large portions of the Amazon forest are being deliberately set ablaze to create land for agriculture. This older reader might also be aware of how such burning is displacing indigenous peoples and animal populations while yielding only marginal agricultural lands.internal art

     Of course, the answer to Urrutia’s title question is that the saving of the planet begins with “me”, the reader. In a classroom setting, a skilful teacher can use the photographs to bring the book’s environmental message “home.” For instance, seals are not native to Winnipeg, MB, but the “lesson” of the seal being chocked by plastic finds its local expression in the area’s ducks and geese that are strangled by the discarded plastic rings that soft drink manufacturers use to hold six-packs together. Though only 32 pages long, Who Will Save My Planet? can serve as a catalyst for a spirited classroom discussion about what we, as individuals, can do to save our planet. The picture of the garbage-covered hillside, for example, isn’t just about cleaning up trash, but it also speaks to issues like over-packaging coupled with the need to recycle.

Highly Recommended.

Dave Jenkinson, CM’s editor, lives in Winnipeg, MB.

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

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