Tikkun olam, repairing the world, is a central tenet of Jewish life, but sometimes the task can seem overwhelming. The climate crisis looms large for all of us, but especially for younger folks, who will bear the brunt of its effects. A new graphic novel for 6-to-12-year-old readers offers an optimistic, fun story about the power of kindness – towards ourselves, other people, animals, the environment – to energize and inspire us to action, to at least try and fix things.
I Can Hear Your Heart Beep, published by Planet Hero Kids in Vancouver, is the first book of the children’s graphic novel series Steve and Eve Save the Planet. Written by Paul Shore and Deborah Katz Henriquez, with imaginative and colourful illustrations by Prashant Miranda, the book is being released on Feb. 25, in recognition of International Day of the Polar Bear, which takes place Feb. 27. One of the book’s two main characters is a polar bear, Steve, who lives in the Arctic. Steve, Eve (an electric vehicle) and their friends come to realize that it is up to them to do whatever they can to clean up the environment and try to stem the global warming that is, among other things, reducing the animals’ food supply.
Eve ends up in the Arctic accidentally. Bullied and ostracized by her “gassy car cousins,” who tell her, “You’re just a heartless machine, sister – like us – you’ll never make a difference in this world!” she takes off (she has wings) to find her “pack,” other electric vehicles. On her way to Norway, she experiences a malfunction that lands her in the Arctic, where she is found by Steve, who’s having problems of his own – driven to stealing food because he’s so hungry, and missing his parents, who went away to find food and haven’t returned.
I Can Hear Your Heart Beep is the genesis story of the two likely-to-become environment heroes, Steve and Eve. We find out their motivations and meet their first sidekicks/allies, the other Arctic animals, and Burger the Booger, their first nemesis of, no doubt, more to come.
For readers wondering about the choice of an electric car as a heroine, Shore writes on the book’s website: “The spark that started our Planet Hero Kids journey first became visible when my pyjama-wearing 8-year-old daughter spontaneously hugged an electric car! That day of our first EV test drive, my daughter laid her little body on the car’s hood with arms outstretched across it, and with one ear against the smooth metal she said, ‘she has a heartbeat.’ The fact that the car seemed calm, gentle and fun … seemed to tell her that the machine was as friendly as a family pet.
“The realization that young children intuitively understand what is healthier for them and the planet sent me in search of partners to help create an uplifting climate action kids book that would cultivate hope and a sense of opportunity during the challenging era in which our children find themselves growing up.”
Shore took the idea to Henriquez, who, he told the Independent, he “first met at an author’s reception at the JCC book festival several years ago!” The pair began their collaboration, eventually connecting with Miranda.
I Can Hear Your Heart Beep can be ordered from Amazon. For more information on the series, visit savetheplanetbook.com.