"Amy and the Tortoise" is an environmental cautionary tale for young readers. Combining vibrant images with compelling storytelling, this book shares our world's bleak future if humanity does not put a lid on global warming. It is illustrated with Leben's surrealistic imagery, tempering the message with the humorous solutions of technocrats called bald-headed suiters. Although the content is relevant for all ages, the book is aimed at mid-grade kids to raise awareness of the environmental problems that are plaguing our world. The story of "Amy and the Tortoise" was also produced as a movie by John Leben, the author and illustrator. The movie version is also published at the end of the book as a QR code for readers who would also like to watch the movie.
Amy, a twelve year old girl, lives under a glass dome and sometimes has to wear a gas mask when the elephants let her go outside. Her outside friend is Gus, a grumpy 100 year old tortoise, who barely survived the ravages of global warming in his younger days. Amy narrates Gus's story of environmental disaster when humanity almost destroyed the planet.
Gus remembers a worsening environment beset by storms, floods and unbreathable air when technocrats called Bald-Headed Suiters created habitats where people could live. But the Suiters cared little about the planet or the animals that populated it. Their solutions were short-sighted, only focused on the survival of humanity. After the forests burned in the fires of global warming, the Suiters collected the few remaining trees and preserved them under glass domes. They called them Tree Museums. The Suiters did nothing to replant the forests, but, using their Tree Museum technology, they also built villages under giant glass domes. The people survived under the domes, but they felt like prisoners, like the trees in the Tree Museums.
With humanity isolated under glass, a funny thing happened... the world began to heal. Humanity, and especially the Bald-Headed Suiters, were like a virus, sickening the planet.
The animals, including Gus the tortoise, noticed the change and went to work rebuilding the forests... their homes that were devastated by the fires of global warming. As the new forests grew, the Suiters dreamt of rebuilding their cities and reestablishing their dominance over nature, setting the stage for an epic struggle between the animals and the Suiters.
This story, although frightening, is deeply relevant for children. Addressing the climate crisis starts with education and awareness so future generations have the necessary knowledge and resources to come together and save our beautiful planet Earth.