Friday, December 18, 2015

Gregg Kleiner's unique cli-fi kids picture book titled ''PLEASE DON'T PAINT OUR PLANET PINK!''

Full photo of cover here:
An interview with Oregon author Gregg Kleiner, whose unique and powerful cli-fi kids book, a picture book that is gaining a following in both North America and Europe -- titled  ''PLEASE DON'T PAINT OUR PLANET PINK!''

The Cli-Fi Report asked Gregg a few questions about the genesis and making of the book. His replies, slightly edited for this blog:

I'd been thinking and worrying and wondering how one can address such a vast global problem as climate change when the cause can't be seen, smelled, touched, etc. The problem when trying to motivate people to fight climate change is that there is no boogie man, and no visible or tactile trace we can rally against, like the roadside litter of the 1970s. This makes inspiring people to take action very challenging. So I was wondering what I could do to help. Then one night, I woke up and idea was blooming in my brain, in full color: what if we COULD see CO2?

Question: In this PC world of political correctness, have any readers or reviewers or feminists complained about using the color pink, which in our gendered culture is seen as girly and for girls' bedrooms as kids? And were you aware there might be some such complaints ? Could other colors have worked like purple or turquoise or orange? Why pink?

I get this question a lot, and some people also mention the connection of pink to cancer research. I chose pink for the alliteration in the title, although I could have just as well used purple to attain that. But I also wanted to weave in the subtle sub-story about gender stereotyping, which I think helps the book work on more than one level, and puts an exclamation point on the ending. It wasn't so long ago that pink was actually considered a 'boys' color, because it was seen as 'strong,' while blue was considered a more 'dainty' color for 'girls.' (This is a snippet from a 2011 Smithsonian magazine story on the topic: "… a June 1918 article from the trade publication Earnshaw's Infants' Department said, 'The generally accepted rule is pink for the boys, and blue for the girls. The reason is that pink, being a more decided and stronger color, is more suitable for the boy, while blue, which is more delicate and dainty, is prettier for the girl.' " LINK:  So I think pink works just fine. We need both genders engaged, and we need to fight climate change in the same all-hands-on-deck way that we fight cancer.

QUESTION: Was the book self-published, or who is publisher? Ebook or paperback? What kind of PR have done for book such as NPR radio in Portland or interviews for Oregonian newspaper features? Any book signings?

I shopped the book to a number of publishers, and received positive feedback on the story, but there was hesitation to publish it, for a couple of reasons, I believe. First: it doesn't fit well into the pigeon holes of children's book publishing in this country (picture books, easy reader, chapter, young adult, etc.). I wanted to use illustrations, but the book isn't for toddlers. I wanted the story to resonate across a wider age range than publishers prefer. I also didn't want to limit the vocabulary used (I believe kids are smarter than we give them credit for), and I wanted to use humor as well as a dash of climate science. I also didn't want the book to frighten, and I wanted it to work well as a read-aloud that a child and an adult could share and discuss. Second: it deals with a subject that publishers have been wary of in the U.S., especially a book on climate change aimed at KIDS (gasp!). And third: traditional publishing routes have long lead times between acceptance and publication, and because climate change is descending faster and faster, I didn't want to wait. Given the evolution of self-publishing, the dire need for immediate action on climate change, and the fact I was doing a very different book, I decided to publish it and get out as soon as possible, which went well.
Reviews have been good, and we've gotten some great publicity, including kudos from Bill McKibben, Michael Mann, Kathleen Dean Moore, and others. But it is a challenge to get word out about the book.
The book is available only in paperback for now, but there will be an Ebook. And maybe a coloring book.

QUESTION: What was your motivation to do this book for kids?

Started thinking about this in 2013 and published it in October 2014. My motivation was that the world is warming way too fast, and the more I read up on that, the more I knew I needed to do something. I didn't want my kids asking me in a decade or two, "So, Dad, what were you doing back when you all KNEW climate change was real?" I want to be able to tell them that I was focusing my storytelling skills on the world's greatest need: climate change.
I chose to aim the book at kids (and their adults), because they're going to inherit the climate that we've impacted through our emissions and excesses. If we can get kids to start acting, their adults will come along. All great movements start with youth, in seems, so I'm planting seeds in the next generation, in hopes they will rally…or at least start imagining what it might look like if CO2 were visible.

QUESTION: Who is the artist and how did you find her? She is brilliant! Who is the book designer?

Laurel Thompson, the illustrator, is a young woman who had never illustrated a book before, but wanted to. She knocked the illustrations out of the ballpark. And they're all watercolor. . . no computers involved. We also worked with an Oregon State University graphic design student, Alisha Lorentz, on the layout, and she did a great job, too.

QUESTION: Any letters from kids to you? Are you doing visits to Oregon classrooms to meet with kids? Any anecdotes?

A 12-year old boy in Ireland read the book, and he and his mum sent me a video clip of them discussing it afterward. He liked the cow farts and says he's going to ride the train to school more. It was lovely.
School teachers like the book, and it works well on a science section on climate. We continue working to get word out to teachers.
When I do readings and read the book aloud, kids lean in and listen and laugh. It works really well out loud. And it's ideal for a discussion afterward. Again, you don't want to frighten kids with doom and gloom or bore them with scientific facts (that approach isn't working well with adults, either). So my goal was to inspire kids, get them tapping their imaginations…kids have incredible power to visualize and ask the right questions. The power of fiction – of telling a story – can move people. Like all art, it can hit people when other means fail. So I think we need good stories, now more than ever. Because stories can save lives, and maybe even save our planet. Who knows, maybe this is the very first cli-fi book for kids. I hope there will be many more. It's a hard subject, but one that is vital to the survival of our species and many others, too.

QUESTION: Are you isng social media to promote book? Are Oregon libraries buying it?

I've used Facebook and Twitter to promote the book, and some libraries carry it. It's gotten a larger reception in Europe than in the U.S. so far, perhaps because there is far less climate denial over there than in this country, and the Europeans are taking action.
Bookstores can order it from the book distributor Partners West in Seattle, WA:
And the book's website is:, where there is a link to purchase it directly.

LAST QUESTION: Anything else you want to say?


Now that the Paris climate talks have ended, I hope people everywhere will focus on keeping fossil fuels in the ground and figuring out ways to bring renewables online fast. If I were Bill Gates, I'd pass out free copies of this book to schools everywhere. Imagine the power of kids everywhere "getting" climate change, and then taking action. . . !


Written by Gregg Kleiner
Illustrated by Laurel Thompson
Book Design by Alisha Lorentz

What might happen if we could SEE carbon dioxide in the atmosphere? What if CO2 were, say, pink? In this engaging, funny, and highly timely book, a young boy whose parents named him Wilbur "in honor of that pig in Charlotte's Web" discovers the power of the human imagination and how he can tap that power to see a shade of pink he has never encountered before. 

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