Wednesday 29 September 2021

Let's Save Antarctica - Author blog post

Today we welcome Catherine Barr onto Picture Book Party to talk about her new book, Let's Save Antarctica, illustrated by Jean Claude. Catherine wrote this piece for and it was too good not to share with our Picture Book Party readers. 

Over to Catherine...

"I remember discovering that the great white continent of Antarctica was once lush tropical forest. It is still difficult to believe that this frozen wilderness was thick with deep green vegetation – and dinosaurs. That led to a conversation that inspired a new book. Or rather, a series of exciting new picture books with Walker Books, kickstarting with Let’s Save Antarctica. Brought to life in full, gorgeous colours by the illustrator Jean Claude.

For me, a new picture book often begins with finding an expert with whom to explore the science at the centre of the story. The opportunity to learn, explore and understand the stories of Antarctica has been fascinating. These are conversations that I value and enjoy. I visited British Antarctic Survey HQ in Cambridge to meet scientists who spend months working in this frozen landscape. Having studied ecology and travelled widely in my wildlife campaign work with Greenpeace International, I am eager to hear their adventures in cutting-edge science and ideas about conservation. And I am so grateful for their time – I have a lot of questions.

The challenge to weave complex science into a simple non-fiction narrative is one I love. In this series, we wanted to focus on WHY it is important to protect iconic habitats on our planet: within the inevitable context of climate change. So each spread begins with ‘Let’s save Antarctica because…’, exploring reasons why special places like Antarctica, the Amazon, the Great Barrier Reef and lastly the great Okavango Delta in southern Africa matter. 

I have not visited the Antarctic but, aboard a Greenpeace ship, I have sailed up the Amazon. I found my own experience of the threats to this breathtaking wilderness seeped into my thinking in writing this book. But as well as consulting Greenpeace UK CEO John Sauven; I also met (virtually) two extraordinary Brazilian scientists from the Sustainable Amazon Network. Their enthusiasm and our correspondence have been both interesting, insightful and fun. From referencing their shared family photographs for illustrating the faces of the Indigenous people to discussing toucan species and adding amphibians, it has been a journey that I can’t wait to share in schools and libraries.

More recently I have been learning about coral restoration from experts in Australia and I am in the midst of revisiting (based on my memory of a long-ago adventure) the Okavango Delta to introduce this lesser-known but critically important wetland habitat to young readers. I have been in touch with old friends and climate scientists who live and work in these swamps; while faraway, I write and edit the words to take children on a journey into this seasonal wildlife spectacle.

I am gathering a network of scientists working all over the world and as a re
sult creating a global travel itinerary. I hope, in time, to visit many of these valuable colleagues and friends in the field – to thank them – but also to find out what they are working on now and, of course, plan a new series of books based on these evolving experiences."

Let's Save Antarctica is available from all good booksellers.