For the average school kid, weighty, wonky topics like conservation, climate change and the circular economy might sound off-putting, if not downright dull. Yet Christiane Dorion has sold millions of children's books about these very concepts.
The trick? She never mentions them. "You can teach anything to children if you pitch it at the right level and use the right words, " said the U.K.-based author.
Dorion distills hefty environmental concepts into bite-sized, kid-friendly explanations. Along the way, whimsical pop-up spreads — complete with pull-tabs, flaps and booklets — engage even the shortest attention spans. Her books, written for 7- to 12-year-olds, tackle a variety of environmental and earth science topics, like how the weather works and how we make and discard everyday products from T-shirts to cheeseburgers.
Christiane Dorion's latest children's book, How Animals Live, is shortlisted for the Royal Society 2014 Young People's Book. hide captiontoggle caption
Christiane Dorion's latest children's book, How Animals Live, is shortlisted for the Royal Society 2014 Young People's Book.
The rich content keeps Dorion from sounding preachy. "If you answer children's questions and inspire them, you don't need to tell them ... what action they need to take, " she said.
Dorion's latest book, How Animals Live — shortlisted for the prestigious Royal Society 2014 Young People's Book Prize — looks at how animals have adapted to life all over the planet. Each pop-up spread opens with a question: "What's in a grassland apart from grass? What makes the rainforest so popular?"
Unlike many kids' books about animals that describe species individually, Dorion's books portray habitats as interdependent systems. For example, the rain forest spread shows how bacteria make soil from animal droppings, which also help disperse seeds.
Kids "get" that habitats are living systems right away, Dorion said. Whenever she asks students which animals live in cities, they respond, "Us!"