Available in both Arabic and English, Colette Barr’s environmental book series, The Eco-Heroes, follows the adventures of five children of different nationalities each of whom have a unique eco-power: recycling, food waste, plastic pollution, water conservation and clean energy.
Based in the UAE, the books empower children to make a difference and to look after the country they call home.
It had been brewing over several months.
I was getting home from work and writing at night, but I eventually decided to take time out of corporate life to align my actions with my values and throw myself into something different. I wanted to do something meaningful that would have a positive impact, plus be fun and creative at the same time. Having always been passionate about the environment, I want to inspire as many people as possible to make the best choices for our planet. Using books to promote reading, art, culture and environmental awareness for children just made sense.
The characters are UAE-based school children of different nationalities – two Emiratis, an Indian girl, a South African boy and a boy from Scotland. Sundos was inspired by my Emirati friend. We used to have many heated debates and lots of laughs when we worked together and she has taught me many things about UAE culture. Finlay was inspired by a mixture of my son and and my Creative Director and business partner, Leona Collins’ son, who are quite naughty, testing and funny. The others were inspired by kids we see every day. It was important for me to reflect the cultural diversity of the country and make the stories relevant to children living here so the environmental messages have more impact.
The books are written by me first with lots of character descriptions and terribly drawn stick men and then illustrated by Leona Collins. Although we discuss the illustrations and the writing together, these two pieces of work are done separately and then edited and re-edited as one until we are happy with the outcome. While the stories are humorous, the subject matter is serious, so the illustrations really bring fun to the books and keep them light-hearted and intriguing for kids. We are self-published meaning that there are certain aspects of creating a book that we need to address. For example, Leona does the layout and prepress for the books and that can take a lot of time on top of the illustrations, which are all hand drawn. It’s been a fantastic journey for both of us and it’s great to see the stories come alive with pictures.
The books have been created, written, illustrated, edited, translated and printed here on recycled paper using vegetable inks and local suppliers. We practice what we preach in order to promote sustainability with integrity.
The local problem
Many schools highlight a variety of environmental topics and teach the students all about clean energy. Some schools even go as far as to have parent eco-councils and committees to push sustainability on the school agendas, while others compost their own leftover food, which is excellent. However, I strongly believe that school leadership could go a lot further. There is a lot of noise around being environmental, but when you scratch the surface you discover that it’s actually quite superficial. What I mean by that is, as an example, there might be plastic bottles in staff rooms or plastic cutlery in the school canteens. To really make a difference schools have to be brave and show their pupils and parents how it’s done.
I have certain places in my house where I sit to complete certain tasks. For example, if I’m doing invoices, I’ll sit in my office, but if I’m writing a blog, I’ll sit in the living room. I think it relates to the different energy I get from different spaces. For being creative, I need to be out of the house and ideally sitting near the beach, particularly when writer’s block strikes. Failing the beach being on hand, a forest or a mountain will do. It’s amazing how your brain clicks back into action when you take some time out in nature.
The next steps
Recycling Trip Trouble, Fight For Food and The Plastic Planet have all been published in the last year in English and Arabic, the books on clean energy and water conservation will be launched in 2020 and we are looking forward to appearing at The Emirates Airline Festival of Literature again in February. We have several exciting projects coming up next year that we can’t announce just yet, but we will be carrying on with our school visits and workshops in the meantime.
Dhs50 (per book). Available at Magrudy’s, Jumeirah Beach Road, Dubai and www.saveourworld.me.
The Eco-heroes and The Plastic Planet – The Eco-heroes and The Plastic Planet is the third book in the series and launched last month.
Childhood favourites Enid Blyton is such an inspiration. I loved her Famous Five and Secret Seven books growing up, but one of the first books I remember is The Very Hungry Caterpillar.