My Friend Earth
Illustrated by Francesca Sanna
“She guards all the creatures in all the oceans—the black manta rays sleek like shadows, the shining parrot fish, the tiny krill who swim with millions of other krill to look big. And the whales who are big.”
My Friend Earth casts Earth as a young, brown-skinned girl to show how the planet supports all forms of life. The book starts with “My friend Earth” waking up from a winter nap and concludes with Earth going into another nap to wait “to fly up again in the warm bright sun of spring!” In between, the story presents the Earth’s seasonal circle and life-nourishing activities, bringing Earth to life, as a friend that children can relate to. With the girl seen as a visual analog of the planet, Earth is shown to “see the little … and the large” creatures, guide their actions, and tend their environments. Even when she pours down too much rain and causes a flood, Earth is shown afterward lovingly wringing out the trees. “She guards all the creatures in all the oceans” and “sprinkles the snow,” performing all of her duties before settling into sleep to wait for spring.
Less a story and more a remarkably illustrated ode to Earth, this book inspires an appreciation for nature and the planet as a living, caring entity (see Gaia, vitalism, animism, Pachamama). The book’s primary use in climate literacy instruction is to communicate this aliveness and ecocentric orientation, in which humans are part of the larger web of life. MacLachlan’s gentle, thoughtful, and poetic tribute to “My Friend Earth” is matched by Sanna’s soft-colored illustrations. Pages feature clever cut-outs, flaps, and curved contours that encourage the exploration of connections celebrated by the text (see interconnectedness, kinship). By celebrating everything Earth does for us, the book reminds the reader to be a good friend in return (see CLiCK, Earth care, Land ethic). While some lines like “the black manta rays sleek like shadows” are tricky to read aloud, the sparkling diction of “sun-dappled wild horses” and admirable alliterations like “the baby black bears are born in soft darkness” create a tender and tickling biomimicry flow: imitating, in words and images, Earth’s natural flows. Each page flows into the next one, with cutouts that parallel the idea of how connected every aspect of the Earth truly is. The interactive aspect of this book fits perfectly with the intended audience. Young children will be entertained by turning the page but having that little hole that allows you to see the previous page too: highlighting the notion of connections in unexpected places. Besides sharing life science concepts, My Friend Earth invites a consideration of animism and vitalism: the belief that everything—animals, plants, rocks, rivers, weather systems, and so on—is alive, intentional, and agential (see Indigenous Worldview). Featuring the girl protagonist as a personification of Earth helps emphasize that our planet is a living, breathing, and reactive entity. By that logic, everything on the Earth is also living, breathing, and reactive. My Friend Earth makes decisions, weather patterns, and also basks in the glory of what our natural world has to offer. The light, simple, and fun tone this book offers is what helps to instill a love for nature in young readers.
©2023 ClimateLit (Katie Edmonston)
Audience: Little People (4-7)
Topics: Animism, BIPOC Protagonist, Biomimicry, CLICK Framework, Earth Care, Earth Stewardship, Earth's Aliveness, Ecocentrism, Gaia, Indigenous Worldview, Interconnectedness, Kinship with Animals, Land Care, Land Ethic, Mother Earth, Nature, Pachamama, Seasons, Vitalism, Wilderness, Youth Climate Activism