I think we set ourselves a mighty challenge with creating ‘Wild Summer: Life in the Heat’. How to make a book that spotlights a daunting and somewhat apocalyptic topic – climate change – and examples of what a warming planet is doing to wildlife, into a friendly and appealing book for young readers?!
Summer can feel wonderful and celebratory, and be brimming with joyful wildlife, but we know the truth is that heat is bringing dangers too. However, we need environmental communication to be engaging, gentle, not depressing or scary, whilst also being honest with curious young minds about key issues. So we have walked a tightrope.
And so our story asks: Would wildlife want it to be Summer forever? A naturalist grandfather helps his inquisitive little girl to find the answers she seeks, as they go on a nature adventure through beautiful and changing scenery, on a mystery quest. We enjoy witnessing their sweet relationship – the chemistry of young curiosity and old wisdom – as the book gently introduces and explores the science and scenery of Summer and the effects of a warming climate on a whole range of plants and animals. We find winners and losers, and begin to learn why.
Asking questions about the environment, as the young girl does in our story – noticing and then acting – are the first steps to good science and problem solving and ultimately this is what brings empowerment and hope, and action for a better world. The best discoveries and solutions begin with just noticing. And so does the little girl’s journey, enlightened by Grandpa.
The duo find vibrant wild Summer habitats and they also see the results of heat, a fire, evidence of prehistoric climate change and they consider how nature has evolved some adaptations, but how it cannot cope with all extremes.
The reader learns about fossils and what they reveal about the past, as well as some of the effects of drought, heat, storms, sunlight, migration, aestivation, fire ecology, ocean carbon cycling, coral reefs, kelp forests, sea meadows, plant and animal adaptations.
There are stunning and accurate natural history illustrations throughout by Cinyee Chiu. She is the same artist who created the visual wonders in the last two books in this seasonal ecology series – ‘Winter Sleep: A Hibernation Story’ and ‘Busy Spring: Nature Wakes Up.’ All three titles follow the same format. Again, we include a non-fiction section and ideas for ways children and families can take action.
And as with the last two books, we wanted all of the species and scenes to represent real ecology, including authentic wild flowers shown in their natural habitats, so I hope many readers will enjoy spotting and identifying lots of lovely British wild Summer flowers, butterflies and other animals too.
Wild Summer is for a young audience so it’s only a conversation starter on this huge topic, but it’s crammed with plenty of information for curious minds. Children are ready to be wowed by how amazing nature is, and stories about wild things help to make an environmental message more interesting and memorable. When we equip children with awareness, knowledge and understanding, we can also show them what they and their families can do to help and be the difference the world needs.
Wild Summer: Life in the Heat, Authors: Sean Taylor & Alex Morss. Illustrator: Cinyee Chiu. Published by Quarto.