Towards A Literature of Actions: Green Informational Picturebooks and Critical Engagement with Fighting Climate Change – by Krzysztof Rybak

This article investigates selected environmental informational picturebooks in which – often in both the main text and the peritext – readers find brief descriptions of actions they can take to change their habits and save the planet. The analysis focuses on lists of tasks incorporated into books and considers whether such sections (and, potentially, whole books) invite critical engagement. This ability seems crucial in times of fake news and the need for conscious action and political engagement in climate issues. In the first part, the theoretical framework on informational picturebooks is presented, and the importance of peritextual elements is stressed, as well as the critical thinking that may be fostered by a nonfiction text, referring to Joe Sutliff Sanders’ concept of “a literature of questions” (date?). Four international picturebooks are then discussed, representing both ‘traditional’ (Müll by Gerda Raidt and Śmieciogród by Ola Woldańska-Płocińska) and ‘new’ children’s nonfiction (Be a Tree! by Maria Gianferrari and Felicita Sala and Greta and the Giants by Zoë Tucker and Zoe Persico). The analysis demonstrates that green informational picturebooks may be perceived as both eco-activist books and books about eco-activism as they present certain tasks and encourage the readers to take actions; hence, the term “a literature of actions” has been proposed, as these books seem to trigger little critical thinking. The reason green informational picturebooks are unlikely to foster critical engagement may be that fighting the climate crisis is crucial to ensure humanity’s future wellbeing.


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