Following in the vein of Nancy Drew, the Babysitters Club, and, dare I say it, Harry Potter, the Gaia Girls series is the next group to offer heroes battling modern day villains for the kid with an eco-conscience. Gaia Girls: Enter the Earth
is the first in the series and establishes Elizabeth, the first character, with the power of "earth" - the ability to work with and command soil/trees/creatures in the soil. Reminiscent of Captain Planet, the other three girls will be endowed with the power of water, air and fire. Each chapter includes great illustrations that help to color many of the scenes that take place. While the book is a light, fast read, the themes are mature for young readers, and the author does a good job to not sugar coat any of the issues. In Enter the Earth
, Elizabeth takes on the issues of factory farms and the loss inherited knowledge as small farms are pushed off of the land due to shrinking profits. Elizabeth encounters Gaia; the spirit of the earth in the body of a cute, waving otter that explains in beautiful detail how everything in the world is connected and why it’s so important to take care of the environment. Welles also explains things like organic versus conventional farming and describes the conditions in a factory pig farm.
Don't worry, the book is not just about saving the planet, as Elizabeth has regular kid issues like dealing with the loss of two best friends and not using her new powers against bullies in her school. Enter the Earth is a great read, and while some of the characters are less than endearing, they do grow on you and it’s great to see strong, brave girls from around the world as the heroines in each of these books. Does Elizabeth save her farm in time, or will her family be forced to leave the peaceful farm for the big city? To find out, you'll have to read the book.
But wait, the story doesn't end on the last page. The Gaia Girls series includes a catchy theme song, a puzzle that the reader can finish only by searching for clues throughout the book, a website for further discussion and games about environmental issues. A book with it’s own website, now is that modern or what! This series is a great toolkit for the young-Treehugger eager to get started improving their local environment. The next book Gaia Girls: Way of Water is out March 2007.
Lee Welles, the author, is currently on a 30-city radio tour and will be visiting area schools to talk about issues of sustainability. For more information, see www.gaiagirls.com. [Written by Kristin Underwood.]