Only One

Illustrated by Chuck Groenink

“Earth is our one and only planet to care for, love, and preserve”

Only One follows a young girl as she explains the story of the universe. Her narrative starts with the Big Bang, which she explains to her brother at home. As they walk outside, she describes the emergence of trillions of galaxies, the solar system, and what makes the Earth special: its biodiversity, millions of plant and animal species, including humans. As the girl continues her tale, more and more kids join the group. She eventually leads them to a community event, where people of diverse identities are engaged in reforestation. The children join in the tree-planting activity, assisting the community’s effort to restore what looks like a degraded patch of land. “Together,” she says, “we are part of one human family and the great diversity of life.” The book concludes with a resource page highlighting organizations where children can learn more about forests, conservation, and youth climate activism.

Through gorgeous imagery and compelling story told in rhythmic text, Hopkinson’s picturebook showcases the beauty and uniqueness of our planet to encourage earth stewardship and youth climate action. Only One celebrates Earth as our only place in the universe, asserts our kinship with other forms of life, and empowers children with a vocabulary with which to explore our world, from microscopic species to galaxies far away. The story’s theme of “only one” has a twofold meaning. The first is that Earth is the only home we have. By taking a zoomed-out, deep time perspective on the universe, the book highlights how extraordinary our planet is. Including how it took Earth billions of years to develop extremely complex biosphere and ecosystems that sustain the lives of millions of species of plants and animals, of which humans are only one (see biodiversity). The book connects the Earth’s biodiversity to a rich diversity within the human species (see cultural diversity), sending a message how anybody can do their part to help our Mother Planet, no matter their background. “Our Earth holds all this life—along with us”.

This brings up the second meaning of the title phrase, which is that every single one of us—“each unique, with bodies, brains, fingerprints, and feelings all our own”—must do our part to make a difference. Though she is young, the protagonist is able to communicate her passion and knowledge of Earth’s history and complexity to her friends. The story of life on Earth is a journey and we are part of the great community of life (see interconnectedness). This message is amplified by the journey the girl and her friends make from the house to the communal event in the forest. While the story does not directly address any of the challenges of a climate changing world, its focus on stressing the uniqueness of Earth which supports myriads forms of life communicates a hopeful yet urgent call to action that young audiences can relate to. The protagonist’s narrative illustrates the power of words to inspire change in others, and instills a sense of wonder in our everyday interactions with nature. In the final opening, she is shown doing one small act, planting a tree. None of the girl’s actions are grand, but the message of hope, personal responsibility, and collective action for the planet is clear and will resonate with the book’s intended audience.

©2022 ClimateLit (Alexandra Delacruz with later edits by and Marek Oziewicz and Neela Nandyal)  

Publisher: Anne Shwartz Books, 2022

Pages: 40

ISBN: 978-0399557033

Audience: Ages 4-7

Format: Nonfiction, Picturebooks

Topics: Activism, Biodiversity, Biosphere, Collective Action, Conservation, Cultural Diversity, Deep Time, Degraded Land, Earth Care, Earth Stewardship, Ecosystems, Forests, Hope, Interconnectedness, Mother Earth, Natural History, Nature, Nearby Nature, Reforestation, Wonder, Youth Climate Activism