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An Eco Mystery
Red Flag Warning





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YA Eco Mysteries, Memoirs, Novels & Travel

Eco and Environmetal Fiction

YA/teen Eco Fiction


Cover Reveal Climate Change Eco Fiction

Interview by Teresa K. Thorne with Kristina Handler, Illustrator, and Claire Datnow, Author


Red Flag Warning Cover Reveal


Teresa: Red Flag Warning: An Eco Adventure tells the dramatic story of three special young people from across the world, the amazing animals that are part of their lives, and the terrible threats they face—threats that affect the entire world. The three teens, all scarred by fire, struggle with the deeper wounds to their self-image and dreams. They must learn to respect the wildness of the animals they love and find their own voices, along with the power of community, in their mission to heal the Earth.

The Story Behind The Cover (Video Interview)


Kristina, could you walk us through the early sketches you made of ideas for the cover.
Kristina: Claire and I discussed the idea of her book's characters circling around a tree, similar to the Christmas card, but the image of Aiysha's eye and her half face was already in my mind before Claire suggested the tree circled with the three characters. I quickly scribbled what was in my head made a rough sketch of Aisyah with flames reflected in her eyes. I was a bit worried it was too rough and after discussing the idea, we decided to try to show all three characters on the front cover with their animal guides. Here's the first sketch, I liked it, but wanted to check with Claire to be sure this was what she wanted. I intended to put the flames in all the eyes and put the 4th character on the back cover. Claire didn't connect with this drawing, so I never completed it. Claire decided that she really liked the first sketch of Aisyah’s face best. I drew several sketches before Claire selected the one that matched the image of Aisyah she had in her head. And here is the beginning of the final drawing for the cover.

Teresa: That was fascinating, Kristina. So what inspired this final image?
Kristina: I have always loved clues in art, literature, and music. Hidden meanings that add depth to a creation delight me. I find when a small hint of information is packed with a huge story, it is more powerful and stimulating to the imagination. I often see worlds in things like a keyhole, a dew drop, the surface of a puddle, or in a window pane. So a reflection of fiery flames, the main point to the story, held in an eye seemed perfect to me. At first, I was thinking of an up close eye. But then I decided that image was too "in your face". After thinking about it, the idea of half the face came to mind. I like that better, because it's half the story and that's better for intrigue. Initially, I cringed to draw the burns and scars until I realized if that side of her face could be on the back cover, then it could be very enticing to a curious reader. I find too much information dilutes interest. My goal was to tantalize one into opening and reading the book.

Teresa: Claire, what ran through your mind and heart the first time you saw Kristina’s cover for Red Flag Warning?
Claire: So much of my journey with this story was like hiking through a dense forest and discovering untravelled paths to explore and intriguing characters to get know. The very first “scribble” for the cover Kristina sent made my heart leap with the thrill of recognition. Her rendering of Aisyah with flames in her eyes captured her calm beauty, but also the terror of a being trapped in a wildfire. I don’t want to give away too much of the story, but like the black figures racing through the palm oil plantation, the three protagonists Aisyah, Hector, and Kirri are trapped in a wildfire. The wildfire changes their lives and launches them into a quest to heal themselves, and save the animals they love, and forests that they live in.

Teresa: Claire, finish this sentence: I was
inspired to write Red Flag Warning by . . .
Claire: by the unprecedented wildfires exploding around the world are real and their devastating consequences, which will continue to be felt for decades to come. Aisyah, Kirri, and Hector’s world is thrown into chaos when thy barely escape wildfires. I decided to add a touch of magical realism to the story with the animals because I wanted to bring home the way in which animals and people are connected to one another and to the earth on which all life depends. Also, when I was kid growing up in that magical land of Johannesburg, South Africa, I loved imagining and dreaming about the adventures I’d have traveling around the world— and, eventually, I did—so, my experiences of different people and their cultures on my travels are reflected in this. And I was also inspired by the determination of real life young Eco heroes who are making a difference and urging the grown up to save our planet.


Teresa: Claire, so that’s another reason is you chose three characters living in different countries to tell their stories?

Claire: That’s right, Teresa. Aisyah is Sumatran, Kirri is an Aboriginal of Australia, and Hector is Hispanic and traces his lineage to the Native American Otomi people of Mexico. I love they way they three bond and become good friends as a result of injuries from a wildfire.
Teresa: Claire, please finish the following sentence starter: Pongo and Aisyah, Kirri and Bultarro, and Hector and Swain save one another because ….
Claire: . . . because of their deep love and compassion for one another.
Teresa: That is so beautiful Claire.

Teresa: Kristina, Climate change is a serious reality. How did you handle this difficult theme and yet leave the reader with a sense of hope?
Response Kristina: I was worried that my idea for the book cover was too serious for the level reader, but let me say, this is a very serious reality on our planet! If the truth is sugarcoated or ignored, we are doing a disservice to our children and the planet. This isn't just an exciting and fun book to read. With all that being said, I gave Aiysha two sides to her face, the side on the front cover is her hopeful and bright side, while the half of her face on the back cover reveals her inner struggle. I wanted her face to carry both sides of the story and show she is still a beautiful and whole person. I drew the integration of struggle and hope into her face. Slide 14
Teresa: Claire, how did you handle this difficult theme and yet leave the reader with a sense of hope?
Claire: Science-based solutions are the key to hope for the future. I weaved scientific knowledge into the story to create hopeful but realistic ending to my story rather than gloomy or magical fairytale ones.
Teresa: And I appreciate the scientific information you weaved so neatly into the story, Claire. I highly recommend this fascinating book to all—it’s entertaining and you’ll be the wiser when you close the last page.

For more information please visit:
Teresa Thorne’s website:
https://tkthorne.com
Claire Datnow’s website: https://mediamint.net
Kristina’s Facebook Page:
https://www.facebook.com/musicstoriesandart



Children’s Environmental Climate Fiction

The Winds of Change: Children’s Environmental Climate Fiction


The gale force winds of climate change are calling. They’re calling to scientists, writers, and artists to weave stories that will inspire the children of tomorrow to dream up a brighter future. Happily, many are responding to that call with a spate of new nature and environmental narratives which use science as a springboard to create powerful children’s literature. After decades of misinformation, denial, and inadequate attempts to reduce the dire impact of climate change young people around the world are troubled, angry, and frustrated. They are searching for ways to understand and to take action.
Compelling narratives interwoven with science can entertain, educate, inspire, and empower them. I am certain that young people studying the natural sciences from kindergarten to college will bloom into the next generation of environmental leaders. They will understand the science and the issues underpinning society’s challenging ecological problems. And they will apply their knowledge to create a stronger connection between what must be done and how to get things done. Still, we need something more to close that chasm between cognition and action. We need something to electrify us, move us, spur us on, to stop us in our tracks.

Crane Environmental Mysteries

Science and literature can cross-fertilize one another. Storytellers need to understand the powerful methods of science that provide solutions to pressing problems, and scientists need to apply the building blocks of powerful writing to become better communicators. For me, the books I will write will always be grounded in science. Telling a moving story about climate change does not mean making up facts—we have enough of that already—the basis of the narrative has to be the truth and reality of climate change. As storytellers we hold the keys to touching our readers' hearts, to ignite their imagination to build a bridge to tomorrow, and empower them to take action for the greater good of humanity and the wellbeing of the Earth. We need to reject narratives of division. We need storytellers from all disciplines to blur boundaries, expand empathy, and stretch our capacity for caring. The winds of change are calling loud and clear for narratives that will illuminate our vital connection to one another and to this precious blue planet on which all life depends.
Butterflies Monarch Mysteries


Author Biography: Claire Datnow was born and raised in Johannesburg, South Africa, which ignited her love for the natural world and for indigenous cultures. Her published works include a middle grade Eco mystery series. She taught gifted and talented students creative writing and ecology. Together with her students she founded a nature trail, now named in her honor, the Alabama Audubon-Datnow Forest Preserve.
Teaching Resources For Environmental Education:
National Environmental Education ResourcesTool Kit:
https://www.neefusa.org/education/resources
Lesson Plans, Teacher Guides and Online Environmental Resources for Educators: https://www.epa.gov/students/lesson-plans-teacher-guides-and-online-environmental-resources-educators
How to Write Environmental Stories:
How to Become an Eco Detective: An Interdisciplinary Unit for Writing Across the Curriculum. The lessons can easily be correlated with the Common Core State Standards for Language Arts & Literacy, History/Social Studies, and Science:
https://www.mediamint.net/styled-11/index.html#.X8KPBC2cZBw (free download and print.
How to Write Eco Mysteries:
https://alina_stefanescu.typepad.com/_patrick_and_alina_weddin/2016/08/claire-datnows-wonderful-alabama-based-eco-mysteries-for-middle-schoolers.html
Books on Environmental Literature:
The books range from mysteries to thrillers, yet they all share strong environmental themes: https://dragonfly.eco/links-and-resources/
The Adventures of the Sizzling Six Eco mystery series by Claire Datnow : https://mediamint.net/page3/page3.html
Blogs on Environmental Fiction and a list of books (upper elementary and middle grades): https://www.mediamint.net/
Environmental Novels: Juvenile and Young Adult Fiction: https://guides.library.illinois.edu/c.php?g=347864&p=2345360
Chapter Books to Inspire Young Environmental Advocates:
https://www.doinggoodtogether.org/bhf-book-lists/chapter-books-for-environmental-advocates