Special thanks to Paul Fleischman for answering 5 questions about his recently featured book – Eyes Wide Open: Going Behind the Environmental Headlines
Paul Fleischman is an American writer of children’s books. For his contribution as a children’s writer he was one of five finalists for the biennial, international Hans Christian Andersen Award in 2012. He and his father Sid Fleischman have both won the Newbery Medal from the American Library Association recognizing the year’s “most distinguished contribution to American literature for children.” – Wikipedia
#1 – What was the impetus for Eyes Wide Open?
Finding dead bees on my driveway. Then realizing that when my wife and I moved into our house ten years earlier there’d been swallows in the sky by day and bats by night. Both had vanished. I had the sense of a holocaust that was silent and unreported. Thus the book’s central theme of noticing, looking behind the taken-for-granted, seeing the big picture in local details. When you follow the thread from a tiny dead bee you quickly arrive at big-time issues: agriculture, pesticides, population, development.
#2 – You provide advice to readers as to how to read critically. Are people in Western society not being critical? What has led to this situation?
Our default setting seems to be to believe what we hear unless it’s clearly outrageous. Believing is easy. Questioning takes time and effort and can bring our previously decided-upon beliefs into doubt. For most of us, doubt is an unwelcome guest. I’m not sure Westerners are more prey to this than others, but our materialist society certainly encourages us to be passive consumers, not active questioners. The term “veg out in front of the TV” says it all.
#3 – Have you received feedback from young people or teachers who have read your book?
I haven’t yet heard from many teens but have had lots of positive feedback from teachers, perhaps because there aren’t many book that try to show young adults how the world really works. Teachers see the book as a means to teaching critical thinking as much as environmental science. The process is already underway to adopt Eyes Wide Open into the curriculum in several major cities’ school districts.
#4 – Is this book a warning about the truths of climate change?
Most definitely. Daily life seems to going just fine. It’s like a car in which the engine is purring, the sound system’s fabulous, the temperature control perfect–but then you zoom out and see that it’s heading for a cliff. That’s not obvious from inside the car. Eyes Wide Open gives readers altitude on the situation, including why it’s so hard to change direction.
#5 – Are you working on any new books/projects you can tell us about?
I’m still putting most of my time into Eyes Wide Open–encouraging writers of Field Reports for the website, EyesWideOpenUpdates.com, writing blog posts, speaking. But I’m hoping to start a new book in January. Since variety is one of the writing career’s great advantages, the new project will probably be short, fictional, and maybe even comic. Or not. I’m still sifting through possibilities.
[Image Credit: http://www.paulfleischman.net/events.htm ]