Follow the Moon Home

Following a year when momentous political decision were (badly) made, I believe I’m not alone in thinking that this year I need to be more engaged, more questioning, more thoughtful and more active. And not just me, but my children too; they are the very last people I would wish to feel powerless and disenfranchised as a result of decisions made by others.

So how do I as a parent help my kids feel like they have a say in their lives, particularly beyond the four walls of our home?

We encourage curiosity (a simple starting point is The Kid Should See This), we look for answers (with most of our reference books on shelves by the dinner table for easy access during family conversations) and books like Follow the Moon Home by Philippe Cousteau and Deborah Hopkinson, illustrated by Meilo So also really help.

A practical, inspiring and beautiful fact-filled picture book, encouraging young readers to engage in their local communities, Follow the Moon Home is all about empowering children to stand up for what they value, in the knowledge they too can make a positive difference to the world we all share.

A (diverse) class decides to work together to campaign on an environmental issue close to their hearts; the problem light pollution poses to sea turtle hatchlings on their local beach (this book couldn’t be a better pairing to David Attenborough’s recent coverage of Hawksbill turtles on Planet Earth II). The class produce posters, speak to the press and create a website to raise awareness of the problem before putting into action a plan to protect the baby turtles and ensure as many as possible get the best start on their life’s long journey.

Part activist manual, part story, Follow the Moon Home provides a how-to template for running a campaign to make a difference. Whilst is focusses on an environmental issue, its relevance is broader, highlighting the importance to any campaign of teamwork, media coverage and fundraising. The narrative element also quietly demonstrates the personal benefits of being an engaged citizen, following a child who has recently moved into the neighbourhood; campaigning brings her friendship and a new sense of belonging and home.

Never didactic, this is a book that helps is readers believe good things are possible. Meilo So’s vibrant watercolours add considerable energy and light to the upbeat narrative. They create a setting full of sunshine and colour, reinforcing the optimism of the text.

The reassuring golden glow is perhaps not an entirely accurate representation of real life campaining, which often includes anger, despair and frustration, but as starting point for encouraging the voters of the future, Follow the Moon Home is a book I’m really very pleased to be able to share with you and my family. This is a book that helps us believe that making an effort is always worthwhile and that all voices (whether young or old) have much to contribute.

Activism needs to be authentic if it is going to stand a chance of having a meaningful impact. Indeed, in Follow the Moon Home there’s a telling scene showing how going out to look for an issue to campaign on might not bring the results you’d hope for. Choosing a campaign to support isn’t like choosing new shoes to wear.

Rather, it’s often a case of an issue finding you and this is precisely what happened with our family towards the very end of October last year when we learned that our city council plans to permanently close our local public library.

As a family we use our public library most weeks. Apart from rubbish collection it’s probably the council service we use the most. By the council’s own analysis, ours is one of the best libraries in the city. But it is also one of the most expensive to run, because it is housed in a building with lots of maintenance costs and charges which other libraries don’t face (for example, the council owns the building but charges my library rent, whilst other libraries in council owned buildings across the city are not charged rent).

The council is currently running a “consultation” about its library proposals, but unless an acceptable counter-proposal can be put to the council about a different way to run the library whilst at the same time ensuring the council can still make the cuts it wants/need to (£1.8 million off the total library budget for the city) by the end of January, my local library will close forever on April 1. And that’s no joke.

And this is where Follow the Moon Home suddenly made a reappearance on our kitchen table (the book was originally published last April). Now we had a cause that really mattered to us. And Follow the Moon Home gave us a framework to talk at home about how we might fight for something we really care about.

A group of local residents has come together to form The Library Lobby (@thelibrarylobby), and we’ve been doing a lot to raise awareness of the situation and gather input from the wider community about what all of us would like to see happen to the library, how it can evolve, and what sort of counter-proposal we can put to the council. Before Christmas we held a demo on our town centre – led, appropriately enough, by children and young people:

Photo: Najm Clayton
Photo: Najm Clayton

I’ve been part of a team working with local politicians, the local paper and even talking to TV about the situation.

Photo: Najm Clayton

We’ve just a few week’s left now to save our library. I really don’t know if it will be possible, but I do know that my kids are playing their part in standing up for what they value. J has had a letter published in the paper, M spoke at a public rally in front of our MP. Both have been tremendously patient as Mum has disappeared yet again of an evening to one more library meeting.

Photo: Najm Clayton

If you would like to help us save our library, you could sign this petition. I’d be very grateful for your support.

Music which you might enjoy alongside Follow the Moon Home includes:

  • These 10 songs for social change, as selected by Amnesty Australia
  • This list of 10 songs raising environmental concerns, as pulled together by the Environmental Investigation Agency
  • We Need Libraries by One Man and His Beard

  • Other activities (in addition to those in the teacher’s guide) which would go well with Follow the Moon Home include:

  • Making turtles out of paper plates or egg cartons
  • Getting involved in Globe at Night, an international citizen-science campaign to raise public awareness of the impact of light pollution by inviting people like you and me and our families to measure & submit their night sky brightness observations
  • Following the Little Rebels Children’s Book Award. This award recognises children’s fiction (for readers aged 0-12) which promotes social justice or social equality, challenges stereotypes or is informed by anti-discriminatory concerns. Do check out the list of past winners and shortlisted books

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    Disclosure: I was sent a free review copy of this book by its publisher, Abrams&Chronicle.

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