Ele Fountain is the author of some of the best loved children’s fiction and a leading name in the fascinatingly dystopian genre of eco thriller. Her books often transport us to a not-so-distant reality in which environmental themes are explored through fast-paced adventure.
This much was certainly true of her hugely popular titles Melt, Boy 87, and Fake that dealt, respectively, with issues of climate change, the refugee crisis, and identity in the digital age. This month, Ele’s back with her latest title, Wild – a story that aims to capture the otherworldliness of the rainforest through the eyes of a wild young boy named Jack.
“I like making connections between news headlines and everyday life,” Ele told Products of Change. “I want to make sense of big topics by immersing my readers in the heart of them.
“For example, kids know that rainforests are in danger, but that danger can feel abstract – something to worry about, yet also something far away and out of sight. I try to give it a solid form, to touch and feel, and imagine experiencing for yourself.
“This allows me to create a pacey narrative. I believe a deeper sense of understanding can give hope rather than fuelling anxiety, and who doesn’t love an adventure?”
Recognising the disconnection between young people and the planet’s biodiversity, Wild sets out to present the rainforest through the eyes of young Jack who embarks on an unexpected trip with his environmental anthropologist mother. The book sets out to deal with themes such as grief, growing pains, relationships, and the realities impacting the rainforest and its biodiversity.
Ele’s latest title launches just one week after Products of Change hosted a special session exploring the relationship young people and families around the world share with issues around the environment and climate change. Conducted by Kids Industries, the Global Family Study found that environmental concerns had slipped down the league table of priorities to number 11. Superseding the issue were daily challenges being faced around education, crime, and financial worries.
Ele’s writing is often found to present the realities of the challenges being faced by young people and families and the ecosystem in which they exist alongside nature.
“Wild is set partly in the rainforest because we can replant trees and rewild farmland, but some habitats – such as the rainforest – are irreplaceable. I wanted to write a story that showed something of its uniqueness, it specialness,” said Ele.
“In Wild, jack’s problems seem unrelated to the natural world, yet ultimately this is where he finds answers. The challenges he faces there are more elemental but reflect those at home. We cannot survive without wild spaces, they are precious for practical and scientific reasons, but also because they are part of us.”
Part of her work in engaging children with the topic of environmentalism includes hosting workshops and reading sessions in schools around the UK. It is here she uses her books as a framework to discuss the kind of subjects children may read or hear about in the news headlines but don’t necessarily understand how best to approach.
“These session instantly provide a narrative with plenty of engaging elements, such as quizzes and personal experience to make it fun,” she said.