Menlo Park resident Janelle London has made it her mission to advocate for the environment. In addition to leading a nonprofit pushing to make America gas-free and serving on Menlo Park's Environmental Quality Commission, she's now co-author of a children's book that builds on similar themes.
More specifically, she said, "Sparky's Electrifying Tale" features a magical hamster and is the first book for children that talks about the harms of gasoline.
London is co-executive director at Coltura, a nonprofit focused on helping people switch from gas to cleaner energy at a faster pace. The nonprofit works to change policies and cultural attitudes about the acceptability of gas as a fuel.
Matthew Metz, fellow co-executive director and founder of Coltura, is a co-author of the book. It's illustrated by Ilya Fortuna, a freelance illustrator.
"We need to help children to understand this, to start to have a culture with a younger generation that doesn't accept gasoline and questions why on earth we're enabling it to be used," London said in an interview. "It's killing our planet and ruining our futures, yet people are filling their cars with it every day."
She said she felt that a children's book would be one way to help that next generation make the connection between the use of gasoline and climate change and air pollution that threaten the planet.
So she developed a story that would become "Sparky's Electrifying Tale." It's about two kids, one of whom gets a pet hamster, she said. As they're looking for somewhere for the hamster to play, they consider using the tailpipe of their family car. The older sister intervenes, and the two siblings learn about all of the problematic stuff that comes out of car tailpipes, and the environmental damage that comes along with every step of the process of extracting, refining, transporting and burning gasoline. The book is targeted toward readers ages 5 to 9.
London said she got feedback on the story from her own children – now a college student and high school senior – as well as many families throughout the community.
She tested out various iterations of the book with between 10 and 20 local children and families as the story developed. "It's been a community effort," she said.
"I hope this book is impactful for people in Silicon Valley," London said. "I think there's a huge opportunity for people in Silicon Valley to make a difference. The vast majority of people have no barriers to making the switch to an electric vehicle right now. Every household that can (should) get an EV (electric vehicle) today," she said.
A majority of households have two cars already, and could swap out one for an electric vehicle and still have a gas-powered vehicle for longer-range trips, she said. More than half of the region's households live in single-family homes, where they don't need to worry about accessing home charging systems. Yet only about 3.3% of cars on the road today are electric vehicles, she said.
"We don't have time to wait for our gas cars to die – we have to do it now," she said.
The book is available online through Kepler's Books at keplers.com, directly from the publisher at mascotbooks.com or via Amazon.
Email Staff Writer Kate Bradshaw at [email protected]