Hawaii is the reason these things are on my mind more than ever before. I wonder what the world will be like in 20 years, when my kids are adults and possibly starting their own families. Where will they live? In a city or in the countryside, in a seasonal climate like the northeast United States or a year-round temperate climate like Hawaii? Will the seasons in these places look the same in 20 years as they do now?
I've also been thinking a lot about books. When my husband and I went on our first date, we jumped right in with the deep questions that revealed how much (or little) we might have in common, revealing the answers that could indicate how compatible we might be as a long-term couple. And what did we talk about more than anything else? Books. Our favorite books as children and teenagers, the ones that changed the course of our lives. We talked about how many books we'd read and whether they came from the public library (in my case) or a grand home library (in my husband's). We agreed that one day, together or apart, each of us would have a home library so that our own children would never lack good reading material.
Here we are, 15 years later, living in Hawaii. Our house is small and the humidity here is treacherous for books. Still, I cannot resist the urge to buy new ones. It's partly because of the feeling I get when a package arrives from the mainland. I also buy books because, as a writer, I feel obligated to support others in my profession.
That said, I cannot afford to buy every book I would like to own, and we just don't have the space on our shelves. So we also visit the library once a week. I aim for the Newberry Award shelf for my son; the Caldecott shelf for my daughter. And we read every night. Every night, for at least 30 minutes, we read with each child, separately.
Two of the best ones that we've read recently are The Lorax, by Dr. Seuss, and 365 Penguins, by Jean-Luc Fromental. Both books prompt readers to think about responsibility toward plants and animals that share the resources in our environment. Amazon does a nice job summarizing the plot details, so I won't bother writing another summary. The main point I can contribute is that both books are worth reading. If you don't have the money or the space (and space is an issue with 365 Penguins, because it's an oversized book, about twice the height of a usual book), then look for them at your local library. And try to read these books with a child, either your own or one that you've borrowed. Because kids ask questions sometimes that prompt us to see connections in a story we might otherwise miss.
I thought of 365 Penguins as I worked on my recent Backchannel story, "Cracking the Butterfly Code," which is about species habitat changes. Could we really move penguins to the North Pole if Antarctica if Antarctica melts away? And as I read The Lorax with my daughter, I thought about consumerism and how much I'm a part of that problem. It would be hard for me to stop buying books. But maybe I can buy less of other things, things that I don't really need or things that won't last. Things that aren't worth the consequences of shipping, despite how much I might enjoy getting another package in the mail.