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When the Animals Saved Earth: An Eco-Fable Hardcover – April 22, 2015
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From School Library Journal
"A pointed fable" ~Kirkus
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But from an adult perspective, I have a bit of a different point of view. I too liked the story, but it left me chewing on some issues. The book is basically a fall from grace story. There is a beautiful island inhabited by animals who all live in peace and harmony, under the supervision of King Bersaf, a god of light and fire. The animals have never seen humans before, so when a boat of them washes ashore, the animals are eager and curious. But the humans are takers who take over the island, acquire wealth, tear down the trees and build buidings and, eventually, capture, enslave and brutalize the animals. All except one, that is. Adam is a young child who sides with the animals and can’t bear to hear their cries of pain.
The animals, along with Adam, call on King Bersaf to come to their aid. The king calls a tribunal of the animals vs. the humans. The animals plead their case, the humans defend and deflect, the animals protest. King Bersaf takes the obvious side and decrees his judgment on the humans. But, like most fall stories, this story offers hope for redemption – in this case, if humans can learn to live in harmony with the animals.
As a simple good vs. evil tale, this is a pretty thrilling story. But as with all good vs. evil stories, it’s not really that simple. In this story it is very much animals good, people bad. But for one thing, animals are not necessarily harmonious when left to their own devices. Nature is cruel. And for another, people are not necessarily bad, even as depicted in this story. Yes, farming takes a lot of land and requires trees to be cut down. Yes, we use animals for labor and for livestock (food). But that’s how the vast majority of the world survives – most of us wouldn’t last long without modern agriculture. Does that make it right? Maybe not, but the alternative is mass elimination of the human species.
If the message of this book is simply that humans should, as much as possible, reduce cruelty in the ways they use and treat animals, and that they should consider nature’s needs when the develop and build on the land, then it’s hard to disagree. But if the message is that we shouldn’t use animals for our purposes at all, then I think that’s a bit of a problem. After all, I for one am not a vegetarian, and I don’t pretend that the meat I eat originates in the grocery store where I purchase it.
If this book helps kids stop and consider the world from the animals’ point of view, that is definitely a good thing. If it gives kids some food for thought, that too is a good thing. But kids may need some adult help to understand that there are nuances that this story doesn’t delve into and that it’s not so simple as it may seem.
As with all Wisdom Press books, this book is well illustrated with engaging pictures. The book itself is quality made with thick, glossy pages, sturdy binding and a nice new book smell.
Children absorb information at a phenomenal rate, much faster than adults do - and they miss NOTHING! I found the text of this particular book surprising and frankly disturbing. Other than "Adam" who doesn't follow the customs of his fellow humans, as presented in this book humanity has virtually no redeeming value. Every bad thing in the world is all the fault of those evil humans.
As the animals testify to the "spirit king" matters become worse. Ants testify "Hear! Hear! cheered the ant. My people are also great builders, creating miles of tunnels. We do this for ourselves but we also give. We care for our young and old. We turn the soil. We spread the seeds. We are givers. But not the humans. From what we can see, all you do is take. And hurt. Have you no shame?" Whoever wrote this drivel knows nothing whatever about ants, which have actual wars and been known to devour every last thing in their paths. This is absolutely the last message that I would want to give an impressionable young child about humanity.
The pictures are worse. Two in particular I find particularly objectionable. One two page spread shows the "bustling market" where all the people gathered. Every single stall in that market shows meat dripping with blood or chickens and ducks hung by their necks. Those market stalls dripping blood and slaughter are center page - the very first thing even adult eyes are drawn to. Another shows a man whipping a bloody donkey while the "spirit king" looks on.
And then there is that "spirit king." Strongly reminiscent of medieval Islamic illustrations of Mohammed, the "spirit king" is dressed in Middle Eastern clothes and wears a turban. He sports a pair of white wings, rides a throne resembling a pulpit, carries a spear and is surrounded by a large golden halo! There is nothing "spirit" about this "king." This is nothing more or less than a god.
Grandma's $0.02 - Illustrations of bloody whippings, meat dripping with blood and supposed "spirits" nothing short of a god have no place whatever in a children's book. My daughter's comment about When the Animals Saved Earth: An Eco-Fable was "It sounds like it was written by PETA." I agree. This is sheer propaganda - and not very good propaganda at that - with a pseudo-religious guise. Not a book that I would give to any child under any circumstances. What on earth were they thinking?
Definitely NOT recommended.