The Tantrum that Saved the World
Illustrated by Megan Herbert
“I’m just a kid. What can I do? / Someone must help us. It’s now up to you.”
Told in rhyming couplets, The Tantrum introduces a girl called Sophia, whose home suddenly becomes a refuge for a number of climate migrants and refugees: from a polar bear, pink flamingo, a turtle, and a swarm of bees to the I-Kiribati family, Syrian farmers, and a New England fisherman. Climate change has ruined their lives and they have nowhere else to go unless she helps them. At first Sophia is angry that others’ problems are dumped on her. But then she understands that they all need support. “Now that she’d realized compassion was key, / Sophia would call on the powers that be.” She leads a march to City Hall, hoping that adults would sort out the mess. The gray-suited adults tell her to wait and then offer condescending excuses. Nothing happens until Sophia throws a tantrum that wakes up the world: “Cooperative action could turn this high tide. / They had strength in numbers and right on their side.” The book ends with examples of collective action: education for climate literacy, rising climate awareness, new legislation, and “doing the hard work that had to be done.” All these action create change (see ecological civilization), and Sophia’s guests leave for their new homes.
The Tantrum excels at connecting three large themes central to climate literacy: a wide variety of accelerating climate change impacts, including climate migrations and biodiversity loss (“Suddenly she saw how each tale was connected, / That everyone loses when one part’s neglected”); the inability or unwillingness of government and corporate leadership within our fossil-fuel driven civilization to meaningfully address the climate emergency (“She did understand what this was about. / It was her future they planned to sell out”); and the need for youth climate activism to mobilize societies everywhere to transition to an ecological civilization (“They all told more people, who told more folks still. / They won hearts with kindness and minds with good will”). The Tantrum is a hopeful, activism-oriented book (see planetarianism), stressing that we can still turn this around. The sadder, dirtier, muted color palette in the early part of the story helps name the threats and drivers of climate change (see slow violence); the vibrant, exploding colors in the second part communicate hope and change. The picturebook story (39 pages) is followed by the non-fiction module (22 pages) which describes global warming, climate change, and characters used in the story, and ends with a glossary of terms. Against the rising tide of climate guilt and climate anxiety (or ecoanxiety), The Tantrum affirms that it’s time to get angry. Really, really, really angry. And with the intensity that only young people can muster (see school strike for climate). ©2021 ClimateLit (Marek Oziewicz)
An early (2017) review of The Tantrum by Steward Dredge.
Kottie Christie-Blick’s review from Reports of the National Center for Science Education (vol. 38, No. 3, August 17, 2018)
Topics: Activism, Biodiversity, Climate Anxiety, Climate Change, Climate Guilt, Climate Literacy, Climate Migration, Climate Refugees, Collective Action, Ecoanxiety, Ecological Civilization, Kiribati, Planetarianism, School Strike for Climate, Slow Violence, Solutions, Youth Climate Activism