We Are Earthlings
We Are Earthlings
We may not all look alike
or breathe alike
or sleep alike.
But we all live here,
That you’re never too young to begin taking care of our collective home, the planet Earth, appears to be the message presented by author/illustrator Rachel Qiuqi in the globe-shaped board book, We Are All Earthlings. Given that the book’s intended audience is actually too young to meaningfully participate in such a worthy goal, perhaps the book’s contents are actually directed at the adults who will be sharing the book’s contents with youngsters in the hope that those adults will practice and model the Earth-caring behaviours suggested by Qiuqi.
The “We” of the title is not limited to just humans, and the term is interpreted by Qiuqi to include all living things, an interpretation which is reinforced by the contents of her cartoon-like illustrations. For example, a pair of facing pages contains the word “young” on one page and “and old” on the other. In the pastoral scene that is divided by a stream, a child and a puppy represent “young” while “old” is illustrated by a cane-using elderly woman and a tortoise on a rock. (Will children understand that tortoises are well-know for their longevity?) Similarly, the text, “We have families”, is visually expressed by a mature bear and two cubs and a human adult male and a female child. Qiuqi strengthens the global sharing by having one of the cubs atop its mother’s back while “dad” appears to be giving his “daughter” a piggyback ride.
By and large, Qiuqi’s text is simple and accessible to the target audience, but that changes about halfway through the book. After having established who the “We” is, the text asks the question, “How can we take care of our Earth?” Qiuqi offers her youngsters four concrete suggestions, with three of them being accompanied by text in a smaller font that is obviously meant just for the adult reader. For example, the text suggestion, “We can keep it clean”, is accompanied by an outdoor illustration of a little girl who is walking towards a waste receptacle with some paper in her hand. The bottom half of the illustration shows a pair of beavers atop their lodge. The facing recto shows a girl walking down the sidewalk and a child riding a bicycle. The accompanying “adult” text reads:
We can pick up after ourselves and others. We can ride a bike or walk instead of taking a car to keep our air clean.
Beavers build dams, which create wetland habitats for other species and improve water quality! The ponds created by the dams can retain sediment and pollutants. This improves the water downstream that’s used by humans and other species.
Though youngsters could visually get the girl/paper/waste basket connection to cleanliness, their making the beavers/walking/bike riding “keep it clean” connection will probably need some adult help, and the language used in the “smaller” text will need to be translated into words that the young audience can understand. The same observation can be made of the two other small text-accompanied suggestions.
Qiuqi’s illustrations are gender, race and species inclusive, and, while the message of her text is worthy, the intended child audience may just not get it.
Dave Jenkinson, CM’s editor, lives in Winnipeg. Manitoba.