Hello from Renn Lake
“I walk away from the reeds and kneel by a clearer part of the water. ‘Renn? Everything okay?’ There’s a pause, then: I’ve been better. ‘What’s wrong?’ Hard to explain.” (Chapter 9).
Hello from Renn Lake was the winner of Green Earth Book Award Children’s fiction 2021. The story features two main characters, 12-year-old Annalise and Renn Lake, and one environmental problem to be solved. Annalise is the main narrator of the story. In addition to Annelise and Renn, the reader encounters Maya, Annalise’s best friend, and the boy Zach. Zach is staying with his father for the summer in one of the cabins that Annalise’s adoptive parents have for rent. Renn and Annalise are strongly connected due to the circumstances when she was found as a new-born baby. Annalise is able to share and listen to Renn’s worries and needs. In collaboration with her friends, Annalisa takes action to save the lake from a growing and harmful algal bloom. Many in the community depend on the lake, as does Annalisa’s adoptive parents’ tourist business.
Already the first time Renn and Annalise say hello to each other, Annalise demonstrates that she wants to care for the lake. Renn, who in some chapters is the narrator of the story, tells that when Annalise was three years old, she “kneeled and pulled out a soggy plastic bag that had wound its way into my shallow waters. ‘Garbage,’ she said and carried it to a trash can. When she came back, I said: Thank you”.
Annalise’s experiences of care as an adoptee connects with the need for humans to have careful entanglements with nature, including bodies of water. When the algal bloom is confirmed, the County Health Department representative tells the Renn Lake community that they need to be patient and hope for the problem to be solved by itself over time. The Health Department has no money to spend on other solutions. Annalise and her friends are not satisfied with this, and they start looking for other possibilities. They find that floating plant islands with roots dangling into the water can eat up the bad algae. Hence, they decide to make and set afloat such plant islands themselves. For Annalise the work is almost a personal matter: “The more I explain how plant islands work, the more I feel like roots are growing right out of my toes and anchoring me”.
Hello from Renn Lake addresses the negative effects on ecosystems caused by freshwater pollution, a problem clearly connected to the slow violence of global warming which causes floods and stormwater runoff.
Although there are some challenges with parents and authorities related to the children’s environmental commitment, they are solved and the whole community starts helping and supporting the project (see collective action). By letting both Annalise and Renn voice the environmental problem, the book may also encourage readers to sense, entangle with, and care for various vibrant matter in their surrounding world. And perhaps also take action to change the attitude of others if needed.
©2022 ClimateLit (Nina Goga)
Author’s webpage about the book including discussion questions related to the book: https://micheleweberhurwitz.com/books/hello-from-renn-lake/
Audience: Questers (8-13)