Discover more from Garrett Francis
Anything to Help, My Friends—a children's book
"Long ago, the earth gave birth to two sister mountains: Teya and Karima."
I’m really excited to share this one with you: the first children’s story I ever tried to write.
As a resident of Seattle, Washington, I am no stranger to the existence of wildfires. They aren’t brand new to the region, for one—of course not—but their frequency and severity continue to increase year over year.
(As the global climate continues to change, more and more people are going to be forced into a position of having to become familiar with them. I’d wager that that is happening precisely as I type this, as wildfires continue raging throughout all of Canada)
The subject material of Anything to Help, My Friends—a picture book about two sister mountains who experience a wildfire (and the animals called upon to help them heal)—is therefore very personal to me. I don’t remember the exact moment that the idea took root, but I know the general timeframe in which it was seeded: my kiddo was born in July 2020, and in late August / early September of that year, wildfires in the Pacific Northwest were rough, to the point that Seattle was covered in smoke and haze for days at a time, and sometimes weeks.
Our apartment did not have air conditioning (air conditioning in Seattle is very rare), and because an infant’s lungs are not fit for smoke and haze, I remember experiencing such a borderline-unmanageable degree of anxiety. For one, this was at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic; there were very few places we could go. Two: my employer only offered two weeks paid parental leave, so I was back to working full-time in the apartment, while being a dad for the first time.
And, when the smoke would come, as instructed, we’d shut the windows. And we’d turn the blinds, to rappel as much of the sun’s heat as we could.
So, zero airflow in the apartment. Outside—it’s orange. Air quality in the 200s. Temperatures in the low to mid 90s. Throughout every room is the hum of an air purifier.
Temperature reading in the apartment come late afternoon? 85 degrees.
“People keep babies alive in much harsher conditions, right?” I’d ask myself, but not want to research.
In the mornings, when it was coolest, even when it was smoky I’d open a window or two and point floor fans outward, to dump air in the apartment that had become stale, or, despite best efforts, had become hazy.
Let me tell you: it wasn’t fun. I’d love to go back and tell that version of myself that, “Hey, it’s all going to be okay.” But I didn’t know that then. I was terribly afraid.
And, no matter the genre, I think a lot of the time that’s how the seeds of story for me get watered. Not always. But usually. Something gnaws at me, and I need to somehow be able to calm it, to present to myself and/or to others some sort of solution.
Does that mean that what you’re about to read is full of solutions? No. But I do think it critical that possibilities be brainstormed, and that we A) stop considering the idea that colonizing human beings are the only creatures involved the answers to be impacted and that B) we not shy away from including children in the conversation.
Because look, the climate that my daughter is growing up in is not the climate I grew up in. It’s not the climate your parents grew up in, or their parents.
We adults may have more information crammed into our brains, but information can only do so much in establishing “authority.”
I strongly believe my daughter, and children everywhere, deserve a seat at the table when it comes to their present and their future.
Even if for the time being “a seat at the table” equates to what I hope is a fun and uplifting story with a band of beautiful creatures.
Enjoy, and please do feel free to share this story—with your kids, with your neighbors, with anyone you think might enjoy it, too.
(REMINDER: as I did with Otis Licks His Tiny Human, I’m attaching this children’s book as a .pdf—it’s the best way to preserve formatting while sharing with you.)