Si’ahl and the Council of Animals

Illustrated by Andrea Hiotis

“Everyone needs to help make our planet healthy again. The animals are counting on us!”

Si’ahl and the Council of the Animals is a modern fable set in the Pacific Northwest. The story opens with a wildfire, following which bald eagle Si’ahl convenes the Council of Animals to discuss environmental and climate issues the animals and insects are facing. “Our Mother Earth is changing,” he says, “if this continues, we may need to find new homes.” The animals decide that they need humans to see what they are doing and help reverse the damage. The animals learn to spell a human word for “asking someone to make things better” and write HELP everywhere: butterflies, barn swallows and earthworms spell it with their bodies, other animals scratch it in dirt or spell “help” with pine cones. After a few days, a ten-year old girl Tia sees their plea. With her prompting, Tia’s parents and other folks begin to see the word HELP everywhere. Adults connect the challenges the animals are facing to climate change and recognize that “most things that have made life easier for humans are making things harder for animals.” Eventually, Tia convinces her family and the town’s mayor to make changes in their community in order to help the animals. One such change is ride sharing as the community tries to limit the amount of cars on the road by taking buses to get from palace to place. Other changes include projects that “help cut down on carbon dioxide in the air and water,” the clearing of plastic waste, planting new trees, installing solar panels, establishing vegetable gardens, and composting sites. After seeing these efforts, the animals learn to spell THANK YOU to express their gratitude to the human community. The story ends with Tia exclaiming that the animals need human help to save the planet and that there is more work to be done!

Si’ahl and the Council of Animals offers an entry-level introduction to youth climate activism that highlights connections between climate change and biodiversity loss, habitat loss, pollution, and other processes of human expansionism that destabilize and threaten local ecosystems. Named in honor of Chief Seattle—the leader of the Duwamish and Suquamish Tribes of the Pacific Northwest—Si’ahl [pronounced see-aah-Kee] the eagle represents animal elders and the role animals play in helping humans wake up to human-animal kinship, an understanding that human and animal lives are connected, and commit to environmental restoration. Because the story is told from the perspective of animals, it sheds light on the impact human actions have on animal habitats. Because the first to notice the animals’ pleas is a little girl, the story highlights youth activism as a necessary catalyst for collective community action. By showing a range of actions—from fighting plastic pollution to reforestation and electrification initiatives, composting, gardening, and climate education in schools—the story communicates hope: showing how everyone can be part of the change. This call to action begs readers to ask themselves what they can do to help the animals they encounter in their own lives. This story would be a great resource for talking and teaching about empathy: it shows how animals react to the positive changes they notice in their environments.

©2023 ClimateLit (Morgan White)

Additional Resources:

Si’ahl & Friends Coloring & Activity Book and Nature’s Gifts: A Poetry & Coloring Book are two activity and coloring books written and illustrated by the same authors. The poetry activity book has ideas and tips for children and family members for how they can make a positive impact on their own environments. The back section offers several ideas, ranging from learning about plants and starting a vegetable garden to joining a roadside/creek cleanup. The activity books are full of additional information and stories about different environmentally friendly actions, like planting trees, and other relevant things related to Tia, Si’ahl, and the other animals. Although the content of these books is probably better suited for an older audience than Si’ahl and the Council of Animals, the additional books include the same hopeful tone and wonderful illustrations.

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Publisher: Jujapa Press, 2020

Pages: 74

ISBN: 978-1732197688

Audience: Little People (4-7), Questers (8-13)

Format: Poetry and Short Stories, Short Stories

Topics: Animal Elders, Biodiversity Loss, Climate Change, Climate Change Education, Collective Action, Composting, Ecological Restoration, Ecosystems, Electrification, Empathy, Gardening, Gratitude, Habitat Loss, Habitats, Human Expansionism, Indigenous Environmental Practices, Indigenous Worldview, Kinship Care, Kinship with Animals, Mother Earth, Plastic Pollution, Pollution, Reforestation, Youth Climate Activism

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