Today is Earth Day and what better day to celebrate a picture book about environmental activism?
Gabi Snyder has stopped by my blog a couple of times now. She is a fan of nature walks, wildlife and patterns. Since childhood, she’s been especially fascinated by increasing patterns like numbers growing from one to a billion! She lives in the beautiful Willamette Valley region of Oregon, USA with her family. You can learn more about her on her website or follow her on Twitter.
COUNT ON US! CLIMATE ACTIVISTS FROM ONE TO A BILLION is a picture book that mashes up many different concepts: ABC, Counting, biography, and how to. I’m astonished how much was crammed into one book and it isn’t done with a ton of text. This book is phenomenal! Trust me when I say that this is one you will want to check out just to see how it was done.
Welcome back Gabi!
Me: I haven’t seen any other picture books about climate activism that incorporate both an ABC and a counting concept. What gave you the idea to combine all of those things?
Gabi: I knew I wanted COUNT ON US! to be a layered text. With my first published picture book, TWO DOGS ON A TRIKE, I don’t recall thinking about adding layers when drafting it, but it turned out that way. It’s a counting book, a dog book, a cat book, a transportation book, and an epic chase! And it turned out that those layers were a selling point, especially with such a short and simple text. So when I wrote COUNT ON US!, I think I was more intentional about adding layers because I knew that might make it more marketable.
I knew from the start that I wanted to write something about climate change and activism. As I began exploring ideas, I soon realized I wanted to capture the way a movement can grow exponentially from something small to something huge and powerful. I’ve always been fascinated by patterns, especially growing patterns, and imagining a movement starting with one person and then growing exponentially gives me chills! And looking back at early drafts, I see that the ABC concept was there from the start as well!
Me: I love how your book starts and ends in the same place, despite counting to such big numbers. Was that always part of the story? How many revisions did it take to get your manuscript to this published state?
Gabi: The early drafts ended with “33,554,432 fighting for Zero emissions and the continued buZZ of bees.” Ha! I agree that starting and ending in the same place – with “on small step” – works much better.
I see 22 versions of the manuscript in my picture book folder. Each of those named versions probably underwent multiple small revisions.
Me: The amount of back matter you include is both varied and full of wonderful suggestions for young readers. I noticed that some of it was in reference to things only shown in the pictures. Did you come up with all of these ideas yourself or did the illustrator pitch some of the back matter herself? Or was some of the back matter the publisher’s suggestion?
Gabi: Thank you! I am grateful to my publisher, Barefoot Books, and especially to editor Emma Parkin, for helping to create the extensive back matter. I had drafted some back matter (a short author’s note and “10 Tips for Combatting Climate Change”) that my agent and I included when pitching COUNT ON US! But during the editing and revision process, Barefoot Books added much more, including the day-by-day guide for making a difference, an explanation of activism and examples of environmentalists from around the world, and a description of each of the “9 inspiring ideas.”
Me: Once again, I don’t think I’ve seen anything quite like this book. It juggles a lot of different approaches to the subject. Was your book difficult to market? How did you pitch it?
Gabi: My agent, Natalie Lakosil, pitched the story to editors with the following text:
“It starts with 1 Activist, one small person taking one small step toward one BIG change. And then it grows…and grows…and GROWS! COUNTING CLIMATE ACTIVISTS uses the concepts of counting and the alphabet to explore an inspiring message about activism to protect our ecosystem….”
I think editors were hungry for books that address the issue of climate change in an honest way while also offering a message of hope and call to action for readers.
Me: The illustrations by Sarah Walsh were pitch perfect for this book. They are colorful, playful, and fun! I love how many activists she included in the illustrations (even in subtle nods). Did you have any illustration notes for her or did she create the illustrations on her own?
Gabi: I was immediately drawn to Sarah’s bold and vibrant art for COUNT ON US! Her vivid color choices and bright style have a warm and optimistic feeling and I think her art contributes to the theme of hope – the idea that there are things we can do to help our planet and combat climate change. She’s also included a diverse cast in terms of age, race, and physical difference, reinforcing that we can all make a difference. I didn’t include any illustration notes for Sarah, but I imagine she collaborated with Barefoot Books when making decisions regarding activists to include.
Me: Were there any illustrating surprises for you? Any favorite illustrations?
Gabi: It was a fun surprise to see all the powerful protest signs and banners Sarah has included throughout and also fun to recognize some of the scientists and activists on the “100 speaking up for science” page.
Regarding favorites, I especially love Sarah’s endearing illustration for the “10 joining generations” spread. I encourage everyone to check out the Etsy store Sarah shares with her husband, Colin Walsh. They describe their creations as “weird and wonderful,” and they really are!
Me: Why is climate activism an important subject for you to share with young readers?
Gabi: With COUNT ON US!, I hope that kids who may feel worried or overwhelmed by the problem of climate change will feel inspired and will see that there are things they can do to help. And I hope they’ll see that when we work to inspire others to join the fight, our actions ripple outwards. We create momentum and grow the movement. Teachers might read the book and then discuss ways individual students as well as the class as a whole might put their unique skills and interests to work to make a difference. The back matter in COUNT ON US! provides a starting point for classrooms, with information about activism, a list of inspiring ideas, and an easy day-by-day guide for taking small actions.
Also, I want kids to know that big businesses (especially the main polluters, like oil companies) and governments have a lot more power to fight climate change by creating plant-protecting rules and laws. So while actions like recycling and planting trees are important, we need to model for our kids that it’s also our job to speak out, to let our leaders know that climate change matters to us!
I love that. Thank you for stopping by my blog today Gabi.
But wait, dear Readers! There’s more! Gabi has offered to giveaway one copy of her book (US participants only). You can enter the Rafflecopter here. Good luck!
3 thoughts on “Simply 7 with Gabi Snyder & Giveaway: COUNT ON US!”
Congrats on this engaging and colorful book. I’m so excited to read it…and am interested in further exploring the layering in this and “Two Dogs on a Trike!” Great interview, Jena!
As someone who wants to do even more as a steward of Earth, I can’t wait to read this engaging picture book. Happy Earth Day!
Awesome, Gabi and Jena!