TITLE: The Green Book
AUTHOR: Jill Paton Walsh
PUBLISHER: Farrar, Strauss and Giroux
PUB DATE: 1982
DISASTER: Unspecified climate disaster
SECONDARY THREAT: Survival on a new planet
TIME SINCE DISASTER: None
I hadn’t meant to segue into escaping to space when I started writing about Parable of the Sower, but sometimes that’s how things go. You find a thread and you follow it. And that thread lead me back to a book written for children that I read ages ago.
Father said, “We can take very little with us.”
Pattie and her family are among the last people evacuated from a dying Earth. The wealthy have already fled to more promising distant planets, while Pattie’s ship is old, small, and ill-fitted for exodus. Each family could bring only a very few things essential to survival, plus one book each.
The Green Book itself is small–only 69 pages of mid-sized text and meant for readers age 8 through 12. On the surface it’s about how Pattie and the other travelers adapt to a new planet that may or may not support life. The language is simple, the story is simple, but between the lines there is so much more:
- Nods to socio-economic inequality in the conditions of the ship and the unspoken recognition of those left behind
- References to climate change in comments about old photographs
- The impact of selfishness when trying to build a community
- How often children see more, feel more, and are willing to take more risks than the adults around them who are set in their ways
But truly, the strongest through-line is the power of story, how essential it is–for entertainment, bonding, and who we become.