Energy Island by Allan Drummond
Posted by: Cindy Dobrez and Lynn Rutan
Lynn: Energy is a topic on everyone’s minds these days and finding a way to talk about this complex issue with children is more important than ever. So I am especially happy to write about Energy Island: How One Community Harnessed the Wind and Changed Their World (Farrar/Frances Foster 2011) which is the first of a planned picture book series about innovative green projects around the world.
This is an extraordinary story about an ordinary island in the middle of Denmark where ordinary people live much like everyone else – except for one really interesting difference. In just ten years Samso found a way to make all their own energy and reduced their carbon emissions by 140%. Pretty remarkable! It all began when Samso won an unusual competition. The island was chosen by the Danish government to become independent of nonrenewable energy. Led by a grade school teacher, Soren Hermansen, the people of the island began making small and then big changes that all of us can learn from.
Drummond’s accessible approach makes this a terrific book for young readers. First he firmly plants the story in the lives of ordinary people and the story is simple, straightforward and encouraging. Sidebars explain more about terms like renewable energy and the problems and issues involved. Samso is an unusually windy place and Drummond’s charming illustrations feel as if they’re being blown across the pages. It’s an inspiring story and as Drummond concludes:
“We’re all islanders on the biggest island of them all – planet Earth. So it’s up to us to figure out how to save it.”
Cindy: I like that the resistance to making change is included in the book. There was not an immediate buy-in to exchanging autos for bicycles, growing crops that could be converted into fuel, putting up wind turbines, or converting to solar power. But even small changes and slow progress toward a goal can be beneficial and then eventually momentum builds and positive results follow. I’m sure that the process was even tougher than this book suggests, but the struggles are at least hinted at, and the statistics show that the effort was worth any pain or deprivation. This would be a great book to share with younger students, but it could also be used to spark discussion among older students who could follow up with research about the island and the progress they’ve made …and perhaps they could set some personal goals for energy saving.. This 2009 New York Times article about Samso highlights some of the energy-saving changes and inventions the islanders have incorporated and how the residents feel about their role in setting this example. And, in preparation for the upcoming Earth Day, April 22nd, check out Gillian Engberg’s Top Ten Books on the Environment for Youth: 2011.