A lot or a little?
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that author-illustrator Jeanette Winter's picture book Our House Is on Fire: Greta Thunberg's Call to Save the Planet tells the story of how a 15-year-old Swedish girl learns about climate change in school, then stages a weekly protest that leads to her becoming a leader on the world stage. She was named Time magazine's Person of the Year for 2019 (although that happened three months after the book was published, so it's not mentioned here). The publisher recommends this book for kids as young as 3, but given the serious subject matter, challenging vocabulary (Parliament, the United Nations, climate change, cyberspace, on strike, economic forum), and theuse of "our house is on fire" as a metaphor for our planet warming, we think it's best for kids 6 and older. Some of the dangers shown may be disturbing to young kids, such as a forest burning and people stranded atop houses in a flood. Greta wants kids (and grown-ups and world leaders) to understand that this is an urgent problem that needs to be addressed immediately. She tells the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, "I don't want you to be hopeful. I want you to panic. I want you to feel the fear I feel every day ... I want you to act as if the house was on fire. Because it is."
What's the story?
When HOUSE ON FIRE, GRETA THUNBERG'S CALL TO SAVE THE PLANET begins, Greta is a quiet girl in Stockholm, Sweden (15 at the time, as we lean in the back matter), when she learns in class about melting ice caps and how climate change is threatening the lives of animals. She becomes obsessed with the topic and watches all the films she can about it. That inspires her to stage a protest, skipping school every Friday to sit outside the Parliament building with a sign saying, "School strike for climate." Soon she's joined by other students in Stockholm and other cities, who hear about her strike on the internet. In the end, students marched in protest in 43 other countries (listed in the back matter). She's invited to speak to the 2018 United Nations Climate Change Conference in Poland and the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, where she tells the assembled, "I want you to act as if the house was on fire. Because it is."
Is it any good?
This is an inspiring story of a Swedish teen standing up for what she believes in and becoming a world leader. Our House Is on Fire tells the story of how she became a global leader on the issue of climate change in mostly simple, brief text that kids will find relatable -- like how she felt invisible before she took up her cause and how it made her sad to see animals' habitats threatened by melting icecaps. Spare art helps makes the complex issues easy to grasp, too.
But some sophisticated vocabulary and some of the disastrous effects of climate change shown, including forest fires and floods, may be scary and disturbing for young picture book readers. Some of the messages in quotes from Greta's speeches and on protest signs on the front and back cover may sound harsh to young ears, too. Such as "You're Destroying Our Future," "Don't Burn My Future," "Coal Kills," "Stop Climate Crime," "You're Destroying Our Future," and "Help Me!"
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about Greta's protest in Our House Is on Fire. What do you think of her skipping school for a cause? Are you surprised so many kids around the world followed her example?
Do you believe one person can make a difference, even a kid? What other young activists have you heard of? What were they standing up for?
Do you understand what going on strike means? What other reasons do people go on strike?
- Author: Jeanette Winter
- Illustrator: Jeanette Winter
- Genre: Picture Book
- Topics: Activism, Great Girl Role Models, Science and Nature, Wild Animals
- Book type: Non-Fiction
- Publisher: Beach Lane Books
- Publication date: September 24, 2019
- Publisher's recommended age(s): 3 - 8
- Number of pages: 40
- Available on: Nook, Hardback, iBooks, Kindle
- Last updated: January 6, 2020
Our editors recommend
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