Laura Ogana’s Saving The Beautiful Forest and Other Short Stories: A Children’s Book with A Global Environmental Agenda
Laura Ogana, a children’s book author in Nairobi, Kenya, believes educating children about the effects of climate will have a long and lasting impact on future generations. Her newly published children’s story and coloring book, “Saving the Beautiful Forest and Other Stories,” contributes to raising awareness on climate action but focusing on tiny humans.
“My journey of awareness on social and environmental issues began back in Primary School. I was a Girl Guide, and I’d take part in tree planting activities,” Ms. Ogana said.
The children’s book comes when there’s been a desperate global call for climate action. In August, IPCC released a shocking report, and the message was clear, “climate change is widespread, rapid, and intensifying.” The UK Government echoed the same calling for a “Greater Global Ambition “ahead of the COP26 Summit in November.
Three in One, Story and Color Book
The children’s story and color book has three short stories; Kobi Travels To Nairobi, Saving the Beautiful Forest, and What a Christmas. There’s also a question section at the end to encourage reflection.
While people feel social, environmental, and conservation issues are not for children, Ms. Ogana feels, “It is the best time to plant a seed.”
The featured story of the children’s book, Saving the Beautiful Forest is a tale of human and wildlife conflict. In the story, the protagonist King Simba and the antagonist Chief Mtu come to a peaceful resolution to save the forest after a lengthy dispute leading to forest degradation.
Her story isn’t too farfetched from our realities. The SPM (Summary of Policy Makers) on the IPCC report reads, “It’s unequivocal that human influence has warmed the atmosphere, ocean, and land. As a result, widespread and rapid changes in the atmosphere, ocean, cryosphere, and biosphere have occurred.” According to the report, land and ocean have taken up a near-constant proportion of 56% globally per year of CO2 emissions from human activities over the past six decades.
What do the Children Think of the Book and Deforestation?
According to Ms. Ogana, the reception from parents who’ve bought the book is positive. The attendant at the bookstore revealed that most parents were motivated to get the book because of its environmental intention.
“Mum, is the air cleaner in the forest than it is at home?” Leon, a 9-year old boy, asked his mother after reading the book. Cindy, an 8-year-old, was also curious to know if the number of trees affected the amount of rainfall.
On the global scale, there’s an ongoing discussion about how authors can talk to children about climate change in a way that empowers them to act rather than paralyze them with fear. An article by the Guardian also talks about “Tears at Bedtime,” circling over the question, “are children’s books causing climate anxiety?”
Ms. Ogana’s book is quite relatable, in my opinion. The storyline has a conflict and resolution, and best of all, it’s informational.
“I wish humans and animals could live happily ever after like in the storybook,” Lilian an 8-year old confided in her mother.
Her choice of illustration on the cover page is also spot on. A boy and girl are planting trees with the help of an older man. Behind them, there are trees and wildlife. Her strategy is geared towards motivating them to make a change.
“The stories are good. I was inspired to show unity on the cover, just like the story does. The whole concept is about how when we go against nature, we lose,” Mel Ogana, the book’s Cover Illustrator, said.
Saving the Beautiful Forest and Other Stories is Printed on Repurposed Paper
Apart from publishing, Ms. Ogana is also an environmental crusader. Her first edition of Saving the Beautiful Forest and Other Stories, was printed on repurposed paper. She’s also challenged herself to plant as many trees as books she’s published now and in the future.
Though her second edition was not printed on repurposed paper, she’s still looking to work with printers who use 100% repurposed materials on her next project to help save the trees and create awareness on climate action.
“Getting the books published digitally would be perfect, but it would deny children in the village who are close to degradation of forests from gaining awareness on climate change through my stories,” she said.
Sadhguru said, “trees are our closest relatives. What they exhale, we inhale, what we exhale, they inhale.”
There’s a storm brewing politically, socially, and economically. And while it’s possible to veer away from some of these issues, it’s impossible to prevent the after-effects of climate change at a certain threshold. “The one thing that God gave us that animals don’t is the power of choice. It can be a blessing or curse,” unnamed environmentalist.
Change is possible and responsibility is a value we should own. We shouldn’t underestimate the power of one. Plant a tree, don’t litter, teach your child about environmental conservation, the planet needs it now, more than ever.
Saving the Beautiful Forest and Other Stories is available at Nuria Store, Kenya, Moi Avenue, The One Building, Nairobi. You can also order it online here.