One Kid’s Book Takes on the Climate Challenge

By Rainforest Action Network
The Magic School Bus and the Climate Challenge: Illustration by Bruce Degen

These days climate change is definitely a buzz phrase that you can hear all types of people talking about around town. But between phrases like fossil fuels and renewable energy being thrown around, not to mention media coverage of constantly changing weather patterns, it can get pretty hard to keep the facts straight. Especially as a kid. It is this challenge that author Joanna Cole & Bruce Degen triumphantly take on in their newest installment of the ever-popular Magic School Bus series.

The Arctic in 1932: Illustration by Bruce Degen

In The Magic School Bus and the Climate Challenge, science enthusiast and wacky elementary school teacher, Ms. Frizzle, wrangles her class together for a wild adventure through the atmosphere and around the world to investigate what’s really going on with climate change. Throughout the story Ms. Frizzle’s students and young readers experience the worldwide effects, contributing factors, and potential solutions involved in the climate change issue. Adventures span from an in-depth look at the cycling process of heat-trapping gases using microscopic goggles, to a round-the-world flight on the infamous “bus-plane” to better understand the impacts that climate change is having on flora, fauna, and people.

I think the power of this story comes from the respect Cole & Degen give to young readers. Children are trusted to be able to handle a beyond the surface look at the entire issue of climate change and simultaneously challenged to take small eco-friendly actions and be part of a global solution. Between the progressive subject matter and the fact that every copy is printed on 100% recovered fiber, 50% of which is post-consumer, The Magic School Bus and the Climate Challenge gives us hope for the future of children’s books and the environment.

The Arctic Today: Illustration by Bruce Degen

However, an important aspect of climate change that wasn’t covered in the book is how deforestation contributes to CO2 emissions. Trees, plants, forest biomass, and soil play a crucial role in maintaining a stable climate by helping to remove CO2 from the air and storing it in their leaves, wood, and roots. When forests are destroyed, their sequestered carbon is released into the atmosphere, thus making a significant contribution to climate change. In fact, deforestation activities account for at least 15% of the carbon emissions worldwide!

Even though The Magic School Bus and the Climate Challenge didn’t focus on the impact of deforestation on climate change, it luckily was not a contributor either as it was printed on 100% recycled paper. If only the use of recycled paper for kids books would become an industry trend! Unfortunately, paper originating from Indonesian rainforest destruction is increasingly slipping into the pages of many children’s books. Thus it is ever-crucial that more books be printed on post-consumer recycled paper; and not just environmentally-themed children’s stories. We need to challenge all major publishers to print children’s books on paper that doesn’t endanger rainforests in Indonesia, so that kids can learn about issues like deforestation and climate change without contributingto them.

To read more about Indonesian forest fiber in children’s books check out RAN’s latest report: Turning the Page on Rainforest Destruction and to take action, sign the “I Love Books and Rainforests” petition to the book industry.