HELPING THE PLANET, ONE REUSABLE BAG AT A TIME by JoAnn Early Macken, the author of more than 130 books for young readers

Many people know that producing plastic bags requires petroleum—a nonrenewable resource—as well as water and energy. While researching an educational book I wrote about plastic, I found some other disturbing facts:

  • Most plastic bags are not biodegradable. If they are exposed to sunlight rather than buried in landfills, they can break into smaller pieces. But they never completely decompose.
  • Although plastic bags can be recycled, most are thrown away after one use. Many end up blowing down streets, caught in trees, or washed into waterways.
  • Countless birds and animals die after becoming tangled in plastic bags or mistaking them for prey.

Because I knew that many people already relied on reusable shopping bags, reducing and eventually eliminating disposable shopping bags seemed like a practical goal. Through our village’s Conservation Committee, I met several women who agreed. Together, we formed Bring Your Bag Shorewood.

Wisconsin state law prohibits local ordinances that restrict packaging, so we decided to focus on education first. We posted reminders in stores, gave away reusable bags and stickers, and connected with our neighbors through a Facebook group.

Then we discovered Boomerang Bags, a brilliant idea that started in Australia and is spreading around the world. Boomerang Bags are reusable shopping bags, handmade from donated fabric and displayed in stores. People who forget their reusable bags can borrow one and bring it back for someone else to use.

When we first checked the Boomerang Bags Communities map, we found only one group in the United States. Now ours is one of at least 25. More than 300 groups around the world have already made nearly 100,000 reusable shopping bags! Following the Boomerang Bags model, we’re collecting slightly used and leftover fabric, silk screening the boomerang logo on patches, and making reusable shopping bags.

More than 40 people took part in our first Sewing Bee. Some of them brought portable sewing machines, some brought ironing boards and irons, and some brought fabric, scissors, or thread. We set up cutting, ironing, pinning, and sewing stations around the large room we reserved in our Community Center. For a few hours on a Sunday afternoon, we stitched up a storm—and had so much fun! Several of us brought unfinished bags home to finish. Since then, we’ve held three more Sewing Bees and stocked more than 100 Boomerang Bags in a local grocery store. Most of them disappeared within a few weeks.

We need a larger inventory, and we hope to expand to more stores, so we’ll keep sewing. Every reusable bag we make can help reduce the number of single-use shopping bags on the planet. At the same time, we’re keeping leftover and unwanted fabric (including gently used tablecloths, sheets, pillow cases, and even clothing) out of landfills. And we’re raising awareness of a serious environmental problem that we all can pitch in to help solve.

JoAnn Early Macken is the author of Baby Says “Moo!” and other picture books, the poetry instruction guide Write a Poem Step by Step, and more than 125 educational books for young readers. Her poems appear in numerous children’s magazines and anthologies. JoAnn contributes to the Teaching Authors blog, and she speaks about poetry and writing at schools, libraries, and conferences. Visit her at And learn more about Boomerang Bags.

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BATS ARE NOT SCARY! by (very) creative nonfiction author Conrad J. Storad

conrad-with-story-monsterI’ve been blessed during my career as a science journalist. I’ve had the chance to write and edit thousands of articles for newspapers and magazines. Best of all, I’ve had the opportunity to write and edit more than 50 books about science and nature topics, mostly for young readers.

Every new story is a new learning experience. One of the best things about being a science writer is getting the chance to share what I learn. Best of all is sharing directly with readers, some young, some not so young, during my visits to schools and libraries across the United States. Sometime during a 2017 school visit I will reach my long time goal of reading stories for 1 million kids. It’s humbling and gratifying all at once.

I learned a lot while writing my newest book, The Bat Book (Afraid of a bat? What’s up with that?). I was privileged to get great information from scientists working at Bat Conservation International, based in Austin, Texas. The most important message I learned is conveyed in one simple sentence. And it is very easy to remember. Are you ready?

Bats are NOT scary!

bat-bookAnswering questions. That was an important reason to write about these amazing but very misunderstood creatures. But the real inspiration for The Bat Book came from the illustrator, Nathan Jensen, an Austin-area native and University of Texas graduate.

Nathan and I have worked together for many years on lots of books. He brings my words to life on the page with brilliant, vivid, and witty illustrations. This time, he wanted to illustrate AND write the story himself. He asked me to be his editor. I agreed.

Why bats? Location, location, location, of course. At the time, Nathan lived in Austin, home to one of the world’s most famous bat colonies. More than 1.5 million Mexican free-tailed bats live under the Congress Avenue Bridge in downtown Austin. The bats are part of Austin’s culture. Visitors from around the world love to stand on the “Bat Bridge” at sunset. The tornado of bats exiting from under the bridge for a night of insect eating is always spectacular to witness.

After almost a full year of effort, Nathan called me again. He had the skeleton of a story and some great ideas. But the writing was just not his thing. “Let’s go back to the regular way,” he said. “You write the story. I’ll illustrate.”

Nathan’s superb idea was to tell the story from the perspective of one small bat who lives under the bridge. The bat overhears human kids saying nasty, mean things about his kind. What to do? A teaching moment is born.

The solution: On suggestion from Mama, the young bat will create a book about bats and leave it for humans to find so that they might learn the facts.

Little Boy Bat does part of the writing and illustrating within our book. Nathan put his 8-year-old son, Tristan, to work to render Little Boy’s artwork.

Little Boy teaches us that bats do NOT build nests in your hair.

brookes bat shot 2All bats are not infected with rabies.

Bats are not flying vampires just waiting for the opportunity to suck your blood. Scrape those myths out of your brain right now.

The truth is that bats are mammals, just like us. Only, bats can fly, and lots more. That’s very cool.

For teachers, we added a story within the story that explains the process of creating a book for young readers — from idea to first draft to rewriting to final illustrated copy. We think the final product is our best work to date.

Still afraid of bats? If so, what’s up with that?

Conrad J. Storad has authored dozens of books for young readers, including a USA Book News Best Book Winner Fang and Stinger (An Arachnid Story). He also writes a monthly science/nature column called “Conrad’s Classroom” in Story Monsters Ink, a national-award-winning magazine launched in 2014. Learn more at

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CHEERS and CONGRATULATIONS to our 2017 Authors for Earth Day Participants, who brought us to nearly $75K

The enthusiastic applause of hundreds of young readers roaring through the school! That’s what our A4ED authors & illustrators hear every year as we announce the conservation organizations that win our students’ votes. It’s quite a thrill!

This year we supported 34 events across the United States and in Canada, a couple of which were in the news. Along the way, we celebrated 16 new participants and 11 participants who have joined us for at least 3 years. And with an average donation of $700, our annual total reached $22,560!

That brings our grand total to nearly $75K!!

Such a feat could never be accomplished without the extraordinary generosity of our 2017 Team. And what a prestigious line-up it was: KUDOS & THANKS to Stuart Gibbs (who actually did two events this year), David Lubar, Joann Early Macken, Peter Catalanotto, Lili DeBarbieri, Jeramey Kraatz, Darcy Pattison, Ken Keffer, Alyssa Satin Capucilli, Linda Crotta Brennan, Sandy Asher, Miranda Paul, Rebecca Stead, Yolanda Ridge, Debbie Dadey, Elissa Brent Weissman, Kim Norman, Deborah Lee Rose, Kate McMullan (who also enjoyed two events), Jeff Kinney, Wendy Mass, Andrew Clements, Nancy Castaldo, Sarah Mlynowski, Barbara Gowan, Jody Feldman, Steve Swinburne, Dan Gutman, Brooke Bessesen, Linda Bozzo, Heather Alexander and Peter Lourie.

Dozens of organizations received our financial support. From cleaning up waterways, to replanting forests, from protecting endangered species and preserving wild spaces, to instituting ingenious advances in human sustainability, every beneficiary plays a role in the global conservation effort. A full list of donation recipients, now totaling more than 80 organizations, can be found here.

While our participants are grateful to be able to contribute to so many important charities through the voices of our readers, Authors for Earth Day is exponentially greater than the sum of our donations.

We engage today’s youth with encouraging words, empower them with fact-based knowledge, and cultivate social responsibility and environmental stewardship. After students research the most pressing environmental problems, every educated vote they cast is a vote for solutions. Most importantly, their experience is shared with parents and peers. Knowledge gained grows and spreads—seeding new soil, nourishing new minds.

We love that our program is a win-win-win for everyone involved. And in this time of political unrest, we love bringing hope for a brighter tomorrow.

Please help us celebrate on Facebook. And share our links with all the authors and teachers you know to help us grow.

2018… here we come!

Brooke Bessesen, A4ED Executive Director

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TREES WE TREASURE by Andrea Alban, children’s author and writing coach

andrea-alban-blogKeep a green tree in your heart and perhaps the singing bird will come.  Chinese proverb

The flatbed truck loaded with tree trunks passed my car in Golden Gate Park. I was struck by the contrast of an evergreen-lined boulevard and the dozen redwoods felled by chainsaws, lying in a sad heap on their journey to a lumber yard.

My chest tightened and I tried, but was unable, to hold back tears. In my imagination, the tree sprites whispered their wish for a tree guardian to stop the clear-cutting of land. I pondered how trees provide beauty, shelter, fuel, food, and clean air. Trees inspire art and poetry, by arousing emotions and filling our senses. Trees stand for our best qualities such as peace, courage, compassion, generosity and happiness.

That moment, the seed of a tree poem sprouted into a little sapling. These lines poured from my mind without a single edit:

Everything good begins with me,

the acorn told its mother tree,

and drifted on the dancing breeze.

to find a cloak of golden leaves.

I worked at my writer’s desk for months on my ode to the forest. On the wall above me, was a bulletin board tacked with photos of trees I grew up with. There was the Ponderosa pine at our summer lake home that I measured my height by, the cherry tree I climbed which provided enough sweet fruit to fill a pail (and my belly), and the white pom-pom tree I lay beneath as it shed in the wind and sprinkled me with fairy petals. (My father preferred a pristine lawn so he vacuumed up the “mess” with a Hoover upright every Sunday.)

HTcoverEighteen months later, Feiwel & Friends, an imprint of Macmillan, published The Happiness Tree on recycled paper using soy ink. We included in the back matter an index of state trees and information about how to plant trees through the Arbor Day Foundation. I visited schools with my puppet, TREEna and taught the students—the next generation’s tree guardians—this pledge:

I promise to care for the birds, chipmunks, squirrels, and wildlife nestled in the branches of trees.

I will protect the trees in my community.

I will water my trees.

I will sit beside my trees.

I will start with my heart and my own little patch of earth.

From seed of hope to forest of happiness, I invite tree-huggers of all ages to celebrate Earth Day every day. Adopt a tree in your neighborhood and watch it thrive through the seasons.

Andrea Alban (a.k.a. Andrea Gosline) is the author of three picture books, including The Happiness Tree, currently traveling with the OUT ON A LIMB exhibit through children’s discovery museums in the U.S. and Canada. Her debut novel, Anya’s War, is an A.L.A. honor book. Visit her at


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THREE POEMS FOR EARTH DAY by April Halprin Wayland (April is National Poetry Month and Earth Day is the 22nd)

I love this photo of my dad by the Feather River that ran beside our farm

I love this photo of my dad by the Feather River that ran beside our farm

My father was a farmer. He worked and wrote all his life to protect the people,  animals, land and waters of our world.

He farmed acres and acres of walnut trees, but Daddy also planted experimental rows of peanuts, to see if they would grow in our sandy soil. When rabbits began eating the young plants, Daddy wouldn’t poison the rabbits. He figured out another way to protect those peanuts.


“The rabbits,” my dad said,

“are eating the peanut plants

in our garden.”


He puzzled over this on the hot tractor,

dragging the disk up and back

thinking about jack rabbits.


“One thing we know,”

he said, chewing a peanut butter sandwich,

“is rabbits are afraid of people.”


So, he made a scarecrow—

a scarerabbit.

Even gave it his old straw hat.


But the next morning

he wrinkled his brow.

“Those darn rabbits,” is all he said.


He pondered all morning on the tractor.

“One thing we know,” he said, sipping ice cold ginger ale,

“is rabbits are afraid of the smell of people.”


So, he ripped up pieces of his old khaki shirt,

tied them to sticks, and stuck those sticks between the rows of peanut plants.

Looked like a little parade.


Who cares,

said the rabbits that night.

We’re not scared.


Back disking those long rows in the morning,

Dad deliberated, contemplated, meditated,  ruminated, and speculated.

About rabbits.


Then, he took a

big aluminum bucket

and peed in it.


Added some water

and dribbled a line of demarcation

around the peanuts.


The rabbits


the picture.


“One thing we know,” he said with a wide smile,

“is that people can be as smart as rabbits.

Just give us time.”

Copyright © 2017 April Halprin Wayland. Used by permission of the author, who controls all rights.


When he was a boy, Daddy said he stood in awe each fall as a massive wave of birds migrated over our farm.


My father says

that every fall when he was a boy

the sky blackened like some huge dark tongue

sticking out over our farm

as hundreds


no thousands of wood ducks or terns

flew overhead

in one great flock

hour after hour

all day long.


On the haystack, I am between my mother and my sister

On the haystack, I am between my mother and my sister

I am standing in this field searching the sky

waiting for that huge dark tongue.

I haven’t seen thousands

I haven’t seen hundreds

I haven’t seen


one bird.

Copyright © 2017 April Halprin Wayland. Used by permission of the author, who controls all rights.


Like my father, I love this earth and work to protect it. Sometimes all it takes to begin is one small action.


Do you flip your paper over

when you draw or make a list?

I do—our oak tree tells me to—

she’s gentle but insists.
“See this twig?” she asks me.

“A teensy weensy limb.

If you use the back of every page,

you’re saving one of him.
And his sister and her sister

and another limb until

one day you’ll save a grove of trees!

You’ll do it if you will
just use each paper’s blank side

april-waylandso saplings live for years.

You’ll grow up and you’ll change the world;

they’ll have long tree careers.”

Copyright © 2017 April Halprin Wayland. Used by permission of the author, who controls all rights.


April Halprin Wayland is the author of seven books, including More Than Enough—a Passover Story, which has been praised by the New York Times, Kirkus, and Publishers Weekly, the gold medal-winning picture book, New Year at the Pier, and the award-winning novel in poems, Girl Coming in for a Landing. When she is not writing, April plays the fiddle, hikes with her dog, and advocates for world peace. Learn more at

Her father’s name was Leahn J. Halprin.


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BREATHING WITH THE SEA by Bruce Balan, award-winning children’s author and sailor of the seven seas

bruce-balanThere was a moment—an exact moment—when the docklines were cast off.

Twelve and a half years ago I wrote those words when I left Long Beach, CA aboard my 46-foot sailboat Migration to sail “around” the world. The quotes are there because the intention wasn’t to circumnavigate the earth, but to meander about, visit different cultures, share, and learn.

So far, across 40,000 nautical miles and 26 countries, I’ve done just that… and also discovered facets of my own country, the USA.

There are times when Migration is coasting over the swells, her sails drawing silently, her bow wave singing—the sky is blue, the wind ideal, and I marvel at the immense beauty of the world, and that my home can travel across the sea in such harmonious concert with nature. My heart expands.

There are times when storms rage and life is uncomfortable and wet, and I cower away from the sea and the wind, longing for calm, and my heart contracts to wait for better days.

trash defaces a remote beach in Malaysia

trash mars a beautiful beach in Malaysia

And there are the times when what could be joyful is blighted by scenes all too real: fishermen dynamiting reefs, tour boats casting anchors on pristine coral, bloated bodies of dead seabirds…, and trash. Trash of all kinds: flip-flops are popular, fishing nets and floats, light bulbs (how do they survive?), styrofoam boxes. But the king and queen of trash are plastic bags and water bottles. We find them everywhere: on remote islands, lonely reefs, floating a thousand miles from nowhere. My heart withers.

I fly to the USA every so often to visit family. Because I have been away for a spell, I notice changes. One year, every time I went into a restaurant, my glass of water was served with a straw. This was new. I found that Americans had decided a glass washed in a high-temperature dishwasher might still have germs. That false perception creates a demand for 500 million plastic drinking straws every day. Yes, day. Because we think we might get sick. The same way we mistakenly think drinking water bought in a plastic bottle is somehow healthier.

Our bodies are remarkable. Take care of them and they last a long time and keep all sorts of harmful substances on the outside.

Our planet is remarkable, too. But hardly any of our world is on the outside of our planet. What we seem to have forgotten is that protecting our bodies (or cars, homes, phones, toys, etc.) at the expense of our earth, achieves the opposite. When our mother earth gets sick, so do we. Plastic—including micro-plastic—permeates the sea. It is in turtles, birds, sharks, whales, fish… the fish we eat.

Migration at anchor in the teal waters of Indonesia

Migration at anchor in the teal waters of Indonesia

My heart shrinks at the thought.

Then… I sail, dive, snorkel, meet fascinating people from other lands. My heart expands. Plastic bottles slide along Migration’s hull. My heart shrinks. The wind and sea carry my home gently forward. My heart expands.

We must breathe. The sea must breathe. The earth must breathe.

The immensity of the Big Blue is as overwhelming as the size of the environmental problems we face. But we breathe, ask the waiter to hold the straw, don’t buy plastic bottles, avoid plastic bags, breathe again. Learn. Share. Breathe again. Expand our efforts. And when we are ready, cast off the docklines and venture out into the blue.

Bruce Balan is the author of many books for young readers including The Magic Hippo and Buoy, Home at Sea—a Parents Choice Gold Medal book. You can learn more about his books at and follow his voyage on the occasionally updated site:

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THE POWER OF NATURE BOOKS by children’s author and professional development guru Barbara Gowan

barb-gowan-desertI heard it on a Levi’s jeans commercial when I was in high school and it has become my motto ever since—Do not be afraid to touch the earth and let it touch you.Following those words has been a guiding force in my life offering me respite from a busy world, bringing comfort and rejuvenation. It’s as if my body clock tells me it’s time to take a walk in the desert, to listen to the songs of the birds, to marvel at the beauty of a cactus flower— to let the earth touch me.

Several years ago I attended the Highlights Foundation workshop, Writing from Nature. We waded through Calkins Creek catching aquatic creatures, walked the woods with a forester, and photographed spring wildflowers peeking through the leaf litter. It rekindled childhood memories of making mud pies and watching clouds float by. Richard Louv, author of Last Child in the Woods, claims that “children need nature for the healthy development of their senses, and therefore, for learning and creativity.” Current research demonstrates that unstructured, outdoor play in nature is fundamental to childhood and that it is as important as food and sleep. But, look at children today. They are spending half as much time outdoors as children did twenty years ago. Louv feels that many are suffering from nature-deficit disorder.

I wondered what I could do to change this? How could I help children learn to love the natural world enough to protect it? In my career as a naturalist with the Cleveland Metroparks, I learned that the first step to conservation of our natural resources is awareness; followed by understanding, appreciation and ultimately, conservation. desert-digitsAs an author, I want not only to inspire and inform young readers but to give teachers the tools to bring nature awareness into their daily routine. Writing books like Desert Digits allows me to contribute to education in a powerful way.

In my professional development workshops, I suggest simple activities. Is there space in the classroom for a Wonder Table displaying an assortment of shells, flowers, seeds or feathers with hand lenses for a close-up view? The Looking Closely book series by Frank Serafini and Look Once/Look Again by David M. Schwartz complement this investigation. Could the class adopt a tree on school property, photograph it every week and write diary entries in its voice? Is there an opportunity to watch clouds drift by changing shapes and igniting the imagination?

As literacy lovers, we all know the power of a picture book. Exploration of the natural world can begin in the classroom with lushly illustrated books and good read-alouds. Can a child learn empathy from a book? The Just for a Day series by Joanne Ryder allows the reader to become a chipmunk, Canada goose, or even a humpback whale experiencing their life for a day. Author Jim Arnosky suggests that after reading his book Arnosky’s Ark, children select an animal to put in the classroom ark and explain why it needs to be cared for. When I asked my adult daughter why she chose to specialize in environmental law, she immediately responded, “Because of The Great Kapok Tree.” Reading Lynn Cherry’s book as a child moved her to action as an adult.

I challenge you to be moved into action, to share nature books and activities with the children in your life and to let the earth touch you.

Barbara Gowan lives in the Sonoran desert and is the author of G is for Grand Canyon, Desert Digits and D is for Desert – a World Desert Alphabet recognized as an Outstanding Science Trade Book. As a teaching artist with the Arizona Commission of the Arts, Barb is known for her outstanding professional development workshops for educators. Look on her website for more nature activities and a Sharing Nature through Picture Books bibliography:

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A4ED Announces 2016 GREEN AUTHORs

green-author-blogMany of our authors & illustrators have become multi-year participants in our mission to education and empower young readers. To honor the achievements of those who exhibit an enduring commitment to mentorship through Authors for Earth Day, we hereby designate them GREEN AUTHORs.

Our GREEN AUTHOR icon, created by beloved American illustrator Jim Paillot, symbolizes each recipient as a true environmental steward.

Please help celebrate our very first GREEN AUTHORs: Dan Gutman and Barb Rosenstock. As steadfast members of our Author for Earth Day coalition, both have donated to conservation through at least five annual A4ED school visits. We applaud their advocacy for children’s literacy—and their unabashed compassion for the natural world.

barb-gaBarb Rosenstock ( has been with Authors for Earth Day since 2012. Every year, based on the enthusiastic vote of students, she has donated her entire speaking fee to an charity dedicated to forest preservation. The beneficiaries of her generous outreach have ranged from national organizations, including Sierra Club, The National Park Foundation and Save America’s Forests to the locally focused Forest Preserve District of Lake County Illinois. Barb is the author of several award-winning biographies for young readers, including The Noisy Paintbox, which earned a 2015 Caldecott Honor. In Barb’s A4ED blog, she shares the backstory to her book The Camping Trip That Changed America about the history of the American National Park system—a book that speaks directly to the importance of nature.

ga-dan-gutmanDan Gutman
( has authored over 120 books, including the popular My Weird School series and The Genius Files series. In addition to supporting reluctant readers and promoting laughter in the library, Dan pushes kids to use their noggins—especially when it comes to solving problems of ecological sustainability. Since 2011, he has contributed a whopping $12,000 to conservation organizations, as directed by student research at his A4ED events. As our coalition’s greatest champion and ally, he has brought many prestigious members into our ranks and rallied us to protect our planet. He’s written several A4ED blogs, too, including a compelling  5-part series for kids on climate change.

We all owe thanks to these 2016 GREEN AUTHORS for their inspiration and generosity as eco-minded role models: For speaking on behalf of our earth and its inhabitants and for giving youth the opportunity to cast their vote for a brighter tomorrow. Learn more about Authors for Earth Day at


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BIRDS vs. BLADES by scientist and multi-book author Rebecca Hirsch

rebeccaA conversation with a seabird biologist launched me into a book on marine birds and wind farms. During an interview with Iain Stenhouse from the Biodiversity Research Institute, I learned about a group of scientists doing an ambitious study of Atlantic seabirds. The group was trying to learn where birds lived and traveled in the wide blue waters off the U.S. Atlantic coast. Finding answers was urgent. These same waters were being eyed for offshore wind farms. Keeping the ocean safe for birds means constructing wind farms away from the places birds use. The more I learned, the more I knew I wanted to tell this story.

Rebecca (right) wears a survival suit as she and the team get ready for a bird-capture mission.

Rebecca (right) wears a survival suit as she and the team get ready for a bird-capture mission.

The scientists were studying the birds and their habitat in different ways. I chose to focus on their efforts to track birds using satellite tags. The scientists were generous with their time, granting me repeated interviews, inviting me aboard night-time capture missions, and letting me observe surgery while they implanted tags. Although several birds were under study, the star of the book became a daredevil known as the northern gannet. I’m very proud of the book that resulted.

I think it is important to inspire kids with solutions. We hear a lot of bad news about big environmental problems. Sometimes, solving these problems can feel like a lost cause. But that simply isn’t true. And that is why I love writing about scientists and conservationists who are hard at work solving big problems. I love to inspire readers and show them that with hard work, dedication, and cutting-edge science, we can find solutions.


Rebecca E. Hirsch is a scientist and the award-winning author of over four dozen nonfiction books for young readers. Birds vs. Blades? Offshore Wind Power and the Race to Protect Seabirds is a Junior Library Guild Selection. For more details, visit

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THE CREATION OF AUTHORS FOR EARTH DAY by Brooke Bessesen, A4ED founder and director

tree-huggerAs the author of several children’s books about wildlife, I strive to educate and inspire young (and not-so-young) readers to protect natural habitats, and the great and small creatures who call those habitats home. That’s why I created Authors for Earth Day—A4ED .

It took a lot of work. But with the generosity of our members and participants, A4ED is now an international coalition of over 120 award-winning children’s authors and illustrators. Through our special school visits, students are empowered to research organizations and direct their author’s speaking fee to fund conservation. Our amazing team has already mentored young readers in the United States, Australia, Canada and Israel. And contributed nearly $52,000 to environmental causes!

Like all grassroots efforts, Authors for Earth Day began simply:

In spring 2008, I decided to donate my April 22nd (Earth Day) school visit fee to a conservation organization. I got to thinking, what if the students voted to determine the donation recipient? I was excited to demonstrate the power of voice in such a straight-forward manner—excited for each child to see how they could impact the environment as a voter. And maybe as a writer too. [wink]

I coordinated with my school contact, Reading Specialist Patt Walker. After sending a list of five conservation organizations, classrooms researched my “nominees.” They discussed the democratic process and the importance of Nature. Then, during my author-illustrator visit, we held a paperless vote.

The event was so much fun! The teachers and kids really got into it—they made tons of posters and even wore Earth Day pins and t-shirts. Based on student ballots, the winning organization was The Humane Society of the United States. I wrote a check in honor of Encanto School in Phoenix, Arizona, and was touched when Patt wrote, “Thanks, Brooke, for making this possible with your generous gift.”

logoInspired and motivated, I became determined to see the concept grow to a larger scale. And began working toward that goal.

My 2009 Earth Day school visit was hosted by Kyrene de los Cerritos Elementary, where the kids and I celebrated making the world a wee bit better. By then, I had talked with some author friends and launched the A4ED website. But there remained an abundance of work ahead to make my dream a reality.

I spent the remainder of the year emailing authors, expanding our website and building support materials. I spoke with dozens of renowned authors and illustrators and everyone showed definite interested, but with the economy crumbling, it was a challenging time for charity. I became convinced that the whole idea was kaput, finished, a complete waste of time and energy.

My lack of faith proved short-sighted.

In January 2010, authors started confirming events. First Bruce Hale, then Debbie Dadey. Nancy Castaldo and Barbara Gowan. Our small but mighty inaugural team was on the way to success! That spring, I spent the day at Rhodes Junior High in Arizona, while my teammates held similar school visits from California to New York. Together we contributed over $5500 to conservation.


Now our school visit program now runs year-round. Thanks to my friend and ally Dan Gutman, our coalition has supported more than 45 popular kidlit participants. Through 94 events in 4 countries (22 U.S. states), we’ve contributed nearly $52,000 to over 60 organizations worldwide. Dedicated members, Yolanda Ridge and Nancy Castaldo, post an Eco-Book of the Month list on Facebook. And this blog offers yet another avenue for readers to connect with their favorite authors in a meaningful way.

We’ve come a long way.

So, was it worth all the work to create Authors for Earth Day? When I get letters from students like Zach, who wrote, “You showed us that every day should be Earth Day. And you showed us all ways to protect the planet,” it’s worth every minute.

Brooke Bessesen is a research naturalist and the award-winning author of several books. She is also the founder and director of Authors for Earth Day. Take a trip around her world of words and wildlife at

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