Our wonderful world and its climate crisis
A journey across our breathtakingly beautiful world that is currently going up in flames narrated from the perspective of a 12-year-old. Jana Steingässer’s book, turns out to be a brilliant and informative work of non-fiction about climate change for children and teenagers.
By Victoria Engels
Paula is not a fictional character. She is the main character in the book “Paulas Reise” and the author’s eldest daughter. Like Paula, the backdrop is not fictional either – climate change is real. We consume much more than we need and as a society have developed a practice that is harmful to the environment. With Paulas Reise oder wie ein Huhn uns zu Kilmaschützern machte” (“Paula’s journey or how a chicken turned us into environmentalists”) Jana Steingässer presents an impressively complex non-fiction book for children and teenagers, which aims to question precisely those practices; not on a global scale, but on a personal, day-to-day level. The journey that starts with a chicken laying an egg in December – biologically a completely wrong time of year for this to happen – ends with the whole family, from Dad Jens to Mum Jana down to all the children, Paula, Hannah, Mio and Frieda – questioning their own habits and routines.
Enjoyable stories and impressive photographsIn between the two moments, starting the trip and changing their lifestyle, Paula’s family undertake a journey: first to Greenland, then on foot over the Alps, further to South Africa, Albania and finally back to their village in Germany. Paula’s endearing, first-person narrative is interspersed with informative inserts explaining relevant phenomena, terms and links. Impressive photographs and amusing stories add as much to the light-heartedness of the book as do the sporadic appearances of the above-mentioned chicken. Reading Paulas Reise evokes two main feelings: next to a fair amount of wanderlust, for new places and unknown people, the urge to change your own lifestyle to that of a more environmentally friendly way of living grows.
Talking about climate protection whilst travelling the world?What might seem like a legitimate question at first, easily loses its validity when considering the intention behind the book as well as the way this family choose to live their day-to-day family life. What stands as the narration of a personal story in Paulas Reise should in the end be seen as a meaningful contribution to a more global discourse, in which children (must) play a significant role as initiators and spokespeople for a drastic rethinking of our personal lifestyles. On a side note, every part of this book is completely biodegradable – you could even add it to your compost.
A stimulating readPaulas Reise was written for children from the age of ten; however, thanks to its contrasting elements – simplicity and complexity, being light-hearted and earnest, the wanderlust and the focus on personal day-to-day life – this charming travel report is a stimulating read for both youngsters and adults alike, whether they already consider themselves to be environmentalists or would like to be such in the future.
Jana Steingässer (Autorin), Jens Steingässer (Illustrator): Paulas Reise oder Wie ein Huhn uns zu Klimaschützern machte
Hamburg: Oetinger, 2019. 144 S.