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Jewish Journal

Let kids rule the land

by Shoshana Lewin-Fischer

January 3, 2008 | 7:00 pm

Kids get a bum rap. They can't vote, they can't drive, they can't call up and order things off the TV without a parent's permission and they have no say in the way their schools are run. But all is not lost. They can influence how their families handle the growing global warming issue, at least according to Laurie David and Cambria Gordon, co-authors of "The Down-to-Earth Guide to Global Warming" (Scholastic, $15.99).

The friends decided to write the guide two years ago, when Gordon, a former advertising copywriter, was writing fiction books for children, and David, producer of the Oscar-winning film, "An Inconvenient Truth," was writing about global warming, but for adult readers.

"We knew there was something needed for younger kids," Gordon said. "The nonfiction format was inspired by an old book I had seen called, 'EarthSearch.' It was like a children's museum in a book, with all sorts of tactile parts, like a spinner to show which way the Earth rotates and a real bag of rice to show world hunger."

In the end, Gordon said, the publisher opted for a more traditional, less expensive format -- printed on recycled paper, of course.

The illustrated, easy-to-read book is divided into four sections: the science of global warming, the effects of global warming on weather, how plants and animals are affected and, finally, ways and resources to help reverse the problem -- all in a way kids can understand.

"In speaking to kids on their level and trying to relate the science to their everyday life, we tried to strike a balance between truth and hope," Gordon explained.

However, Gordon said even she was shocked by some of the things she learned while writing the guide.

"What surprised me the most was the fact that the polar ice cap, the Greenland ice sheet and our many glaciers are melting at a rate faster than scientists had predicted," she said. "And the fact that everything is related. Someone driving an inefficient car in California can contribute to someone else's drought in India."

The book seems to be working on its young readers, who are helping to get their families involved with repairing the world.

"I think some parents are already on the bandwagon about this issue, but others are slower to change," Gordon said. "For them, a nagging child can be an effective motivator. One mother told me that after I spoke at her daughter's school, her daughter wouldn't let her cut the tree down in the backyard to put in the pool."

And Gordon, a mother of three, does practice what she preaches.

"We've installed solar thermal panels and about 90 percent of our lightbulbs are compact fluorescents," Gordon said. "[My kids] are also very good about unplugging their chargers and taking shorter showers."

The guide takes dull facts and figures and turns them into fun pictures and kid-friendly information (one section is called "Extinction Stinks"), complete with a handy glossary, Web sites and awesome photos.

"Our book empowers kids," she said. "This is the message for the adult world, as well. We can solve this problem."

Cambria Gordon will speak at University Synagogue about "How to Speak to Your Kids About Global Warming," on Friday, Feb. 1, at 7:30 p.m. during Shabbat services. 11960 Sunset Blvd., Los Angeles. (310) 472-1255. For more information on "The Down-to-Earth Guide to Global Warming," visit www.scholastic.com/downtoearth/index.htm and www.unisyn.org/

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