Children's Book Publishing in the New Millennium: Compassionate Capitalism

A monthly spotlight on Children's Book Publishers who enrich their readers, their communities, and our World. This month: Mindfull Publishing and Trickle Creek Books.
This month we recognize two publishers whose missions are protection of the environment. They are both committed to educating children to be ecology-smart, responsible caretakers of our earth. As these publishers point out, endangered species and endangered eco-systems are alarm bells. More species are going extinct at a rate faster than any other time in history, including when the dinosaurs disappeared. Even young children should be taught that the alarms are sounding, and our world faces pressing environmental problems. The green publishers, Mindfull Publishing and Trickle Creek Books, encourage young environmentalists, thereby providing hope for the future.

These publishers' goals are to teach children to love and respect our earth today, to be pro-active, and to educate children how to effect positive change so they will be better prepared to protect the environment tomorrow. When our world is not a healthy place for animals and plants, it is not a healthy place for humans. The continuation of the stewardship to protect the environment is incumbent upon every generation, especially the next generation, committing to the cause.

Mindfull Publishing is a children's book publisher that presents the sensitive subject of endangered species to children ages seven through eleven. Its series, "Wildlife Winners," profiles species that have been protected, nurtured, and successfully recovered under the Endangered Species Act of 1973, and subsequently removed from the List of Endangered Species. The Wildlife Winners books teach children about the negative effects of human civilization on the environment, and of the numerous ways Man has altered nature which has led to the endangerment or extinction of wildlife species. As the subject of species in danger can be frightening and worrisome to children, the notion of Man's destruction is balanced with examples of Man's efforts to preserve nature.

Regarding endangered species from the position of successful recovery has been generally missing from the book market. Mindfull presents the subject from a positive perspective, pointing out instances where humans have saved species on their way to extinction. These are true stories of tremendous rescue efforts by people.

In Mindfull's first title, The Peregrine Falcon - Endangered No More, children learn that in the 1960's the peregrine falcon was on the verge of extinction. Its population had fallen from thousands to just a few hundred, mainly because of DDT which caused raptors high on the food chain to produce eggs with too thin shells. The fragile eggs would break before hatching or were non-productive. By the early 70's Canadian and U.S. governments passed laws to protect endangered species, and the poison DDT was outlawed.

In The Peregrine Falcon - Endangered No More, children learn about the efforts of mountain climbers who scaled cliffs to get to the falcons' nests to take eggs to a lab to be incubated. Children can appreciate dedicated people who fed chicks using falcon puppets to avoid human imprinting, placed the chicks in the nest of a trained foster parent falcon, and finally returned the chicks to their original parents in the wild. It took thirty years, but through these efforts 6000 chicks were helped to hatch and grow to healthy fledglings, and the peregrine falcon has been removed from the endangered species list.

One reason the peregrine falcons were chosen for the first book is due to an interesting aspect of their behavior--cliff-dwelling peregrines have adapted to cities, living on skyscrapers and feasting on pigeons. Even inner-city children can catch a glimpse of the fastest creatures on earth, soaring through the concrete jungle, and know their story through the book The Peregrine Falcon - Endangered No More.

Mindfull's second title The Bald Eagle - Endangered No More will be available this spring. From an estimated high of over 200,000 bald eagles in the lower 48 states, the number had dwindled to less than 1000 thirty years ago due to one cause--Man. On July 4, 2000 the U.S. Department of the Interior will announce the removal of the bald eagle from the federal List of Endangered Species. Upcoming titles will celebrate the American Alligator and the Gray Wolf--both "Endangered No More."

Mac Priebe is the author of all four Wildlife Winners books. He has an MA in psychology from the University of Toronto, where he studied the neurobiology of animal behavior. He has published research in scientific journals and has written for several newspapers. Jennifer Priebe is the artist of the four books. She also works in the toy industry in New York City.

Mindfull Publishing plans future projects in conjunction with libraries-- summer reading or after-school learning programs featuring falcon research. At the end of each book is a list of websites and addresses that children can contact to learn more. As part of their commitment to saving species, Mindfull provides books at cost to wildlife groups for fundraising projects. One wildlife group in Connecticut rehabilitates injured birds and speaks to 12,000 people a year, bringing birds living under its protection to meet the public.

Deborah Mathies of Mindfull Publishing states, " My partners and I decided to begin this venture without high expectations. We are all creative people and we have a deep love of children and nature and a commitment to education. We hope to be successful enough to continue producing high quality books that mean something." Toni Albert is an award-winning author, environmentalist and owner of Trickle Creek Books--books that "teach kids to care for the earth," as her logo states. Because she owns and operates a self-publishing business, Toni Albert wears many hats--writer, designer, marketer, and distributor.

Albert lives in Pennsylvania, a state that has mandated environmental education. Her books, filled with exciting educational initiatives, meet the state's environmental education requirements and many of her sales are to school accounts, teachers, and parents who home-school. Determined to produce some of the best resources available to teachers and children in the niche of environmental education, Albert is confident that her books not only meet the education requirements, but also surpass them with creative, active-learning publications.

Moving from vision to action, Albert visits at least 20 schools each year and motivates students to be better caretakers of the earth. In the last five years, she has talked to more than 40,000 children as a visiting author or environmentalist-in-residence. She gives nature workshops at teachers' conferences, bookstores and libraries, nature centers, garden centers, museums and aquariums. Giving her message about the environment directly to children helps keep her informed with children's interests and ability levels.

Because Albert believes in active learning, her books are packed with hands-on ideas and activities that help kids explore nature. "I firmly believe that if we can teach kids to love the earth, they'll take care of it. If we catch them at a young age, they'll understand that if they don't take care of it, it won't be there for the future," she says.

Trickle Creek Books currently has eight titles: The Incredible Coral Reef (grades 3-8), The Remarkable Rainforest (grades 3-8), four EcoJournals (one for each season) to inspire kids to explore and write about nature (grades 3 & up), EcoPrints, a kit for writing about nature, and I Heard the Willow Weep (ages 5-10).

Her two most popular titles for environmental education purposes, The Incredible Coral Reef and The Remarkable Rainforest, are in their second and third printings, and teach kids about two of the most threatened ecosystems on earth. These paper workbooks, illustrations by Ada Hanlon, include the author's journal about her underwater adventures on a coral reef in the Grand Caymans and her experiences in the Costa Rican rainforests. Activities bring coral reefs and rainforests alive, incorporating photos, art, glossary, bibliography, list of environmental organizations and exhibits. Children learn how to adopt a sea turtle, how to snorkel and keep a dive log. Children grow a mini rainforest that makes its own rain, and play a save the rainforest board game.

The author's four EcoJournals, specifically referenced for the wildlife in Pennsylvania, combine writing and science activities to help kids explore nature by reading, observation, and writing about their nature observations. The books include short entries from the author's nature journals where she shares personal experiences over 20 years. Albert encourages kids to write about the sweet smell of summer rain, the taste of fat, juicy blackberries, or to draw the sight of a lazy turtle on a log. "Each nature activity is a way of completing the experience," she says.

Albert's latest title, I Heard the Willow Weep, illustrated by Margaret Brandt, will be published in hardcover and paper on Earth Day, April 22, 2000. Described as "a child's primer on the state of the environment," it has two parts: "What Have We Done?" depicts a healthy environment in vibrant colors while the degraded environment is in bland sepia tones. After considering the effects of too much trash, endangered animals, threats to rainforests and coral reefs, and pollution, it ends with the optimistic message that we can restore beauty and health to our earth. The second section, "What Can We Do?" motivates children to become better caretakers of our home planet by presenting intriguing projects and hands-on activities. The author dares to place the future of our world in the hands of young children grades K-5 by gently showing them their responsibility and ability to make a difference. Trickle Creek's next title will be 2000 EcoFacts, which Albert describes as "a book of all kinds of really amazing facts about nature, something like an environmental Guinness Book of World Records."

Trickle Creek's socially responsible approach to publishing lies in its intent to create passion for green initiatives and effect positive change. This publisher also participates in outreach education and community activism. Much of Toni Albert's mission and work are in presentations to elementary and middle school students. As an environmentalist-in-residence she is often invited to take a group of students on a nature walk, help develop a school-yard habitat or nature trails, and present workshops on nature writing. She advertises this portion of her business on the Web at the Author-Illustrator Source, a national listing of authors and artists that make school visits. The Trickle Creek toll free order line is 1-800-353-2791.

Trickle Creek Books recently received a certificate of merit from the National Arbor Day Foundation "in recognition of efforts on behalf of trees and environmental stewardship." "I feel the books I publish are providing a service," says Albert. "They're helping people learn, and, above all, I feel they're helping children to become more responsible caretakers of our earth."