Trista Hendren, author of The Girl God, has created another gorgeous, necessary book for children and adults alike: Mother Earth. This book, like The Girl God, is filled with vibrant artwork by Elisabeth Slettnes—together, the words and the art draw the reader into a story about healing, humanity, and the planet. In this story, we again meet Helani Claire, a beloved and strong girl. In the pages of The Girl God, Helani Claire realizes that she needs to discover the divine within; in Mother Earth, she realizes that she needs to honor both her human mother and our planet, the mother that sustains us all. This vital lesson is reinforced by wisdom from great writers such as Ralph Waldo Emerson, Ursula K. LeGuin, and Audre Lorde. Mother Earth is a book for the ages, one that parents should read to their children for generations—for its message of healing is one we must take to heart.
Each element of the book deserves attention:
- The story: Helani Claire is growing up with an environmentally conscious mother—they don’t have a cell phone or a car, and they don’t shop at malls. Although she doesn’t always understand her mother’s choices, Helani loves to walk everywhere, and she loves flowers. Like many children, she depends on her mother to take care of her, especially when she isn’t feeling well—but she often doesn’t realize that her mom has needs too. On a day when both Helani and her mom are sick, Helani’s mom tells her a beautiful story that draws a parallel between the way we treat our human mothers and the way we treat the earth. Both need—and deserve—our respect and care.
- The illustrations: Elisabeth Slettnes captures the essence of Mother Earth in her artwork. Here, royal blue, magenta, deep green, yellow and orange suffuse a woman’s face that is surrounded by flowers, people gather with animals in rivers and jungles, birds flock to a woman’s skirt and leaves fill her flowing hair. In these illustrations, the natural world and the human world are deeply interconnected—so much so that it is impossible to forget that this is, indeed, the truth.
- The quotations: Quotations from the world’s writers and thinkers underscore the book’s theme: we must care for our planet, for to hurt her to is hurt ourselves. I loved reading this wisdom, and advice for implementing it, as I was absorbing the story of Helani Claire and her mother. The quotations help the reader to connect the individual story of a mother and child to the global story of Mother Earth and all her children.
In essence, Mother Earth is a call to action. The book asks children to choose one way to help the planet—for example, helping parents with gardening or recycling. From there, children can expand to two actions, and so on. This is sound advice for adults as well as children—Hendren’s Mother Earth serves as a reminder that, on an elemental level, we are all children who must nurture and respect the earth that has given us life. I highly recommend this book–it can serve as both a reminder and an inspiration as we work together toward healing both the planet and ourselves.