Photo courtesy of K. Woodward Photography
Sylvia Liu grew up with books and daydreams in Caracas, Venezuela. Once an environmental attorney protecting the oceans, she now spins stories for children, inspired by high tech, ghost crabs, and strong girls. Sylvia lives in Virginia with her family and a fluffy cat.
1. Why is it important to teach children to respect nature?
I believe children are naturally curious and love being outdoors, so we don’t really to teach them to respect nature, so much as nurture their innate love of nature. As parents or educators, sharing our own love and respect of nature and having fun outdoors is the best way to instill these values in children. It’s important, of course, because our planet faces so many environmental threats, and our children are the ones who will both live with the consequences and who will be the ones to help solve our problems. Instilling a love and deep respect for nature will create a generation of environmental stewards.
2. What are some strategies for teaching children to respect nature?
Giving children the opportunity to explore and learn about nature is the best way to teach them to love nature. This can be through experience (hiking, camping, swimming) or through books and media.
3. What role can fiction and non‐fiction children’s books play in teaching children to respect nature?
Books, both fiction and nonfiction, allow children to explore worlds they might not otherwise be exposed to. For example, not everyone lives in Florida or the southeastern United States where they might encounter manatees, so a book like Manatee’s Best Friend can give children a glimpse of what these wonderful gentle creatures are like.
4. Please name some specific books that are helpful in this regard, including your own.
Manatee’s Best Friend is about a 12‐year‐old girl who must overcome her shyness and the fall out of a viral video to help protect her manatee friends. Some other wonderful middle grade novels that raise environmental awareness are Coo by Kaela Noel (plight of urban pigeons); The Line Tender by Kate Allen (shark conservation); Everywhere Blue, by Joanne Rossmassler Fritz (climate crisis); and Hoot by Carl Hiassan (development’s impact on endangered species).
Cover art by Scott Dorman. Cover design by Stephanie Yang
5. Briefly describe some other books you have written.
I’m also the author of the picture book, A Morning with Grandpa, illustrated by Christina Forshay (Lee & Low Books 2016), about a Chinese grandfather and his granddaughter sharing their tai chi and yoga skills with each other.
My next book to come out will be Hana Hsu and the Ghost Crab Nation, a middle grade science fiction novel set in a high‐tech dystopian future where teens get their brains connected to the multiweb, and my 12‐year‐old protagonists uncovers a corporate plot against her classmates. It will be published in June 2022 from Razorbill/Penguin Random House.
6. Do you intentionally write books about nature? If yes, tell us why you do.
I don’t write exclusively about nature and the environment, but my books tend to include environmental themes, whether overt or subtle. Before I wrote for children, I was a public interest environmental attorney for over a decade, working for the Department of Justice and a nonprofit marine conservation group. In many ways, my different careers have all been about helping build a better world for the future.
7. How can people purchase your books? Any other comments?
Manatee’s Best Friend is available everywhere books are sold. I recommend that your readers buy it from their local independent bookstores. My book is on Indiebound. Signed copies can be purchased at my local indie bookstore, Prince Books in Norfolk, Virginia.
To find out more about me, check out my website (http://www.enjoyingplanetearth.com) or follow me on Twitter (@artsylliu) or Instagram (@sylliu).