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My 4 year old and I discovered this book, by Nathan Bryon and illustrated by Dapo Adeola, earlier this year.  She loves it and so do I, and it is easily my favourite pro-environmental kid’s book of 2020.  Here’s why:


  • The main character is not white. The serious lack of diversity in children’s books, and in particular those about the outdoors, is explored in this article, and one reason why the newly launched Oxford-based Oxford Poetry Library and The Children’s Allotment ‘Many Voices Collection’ is so important.  If kids’ books on the environment don’t feature black characters, the environmental movement will continue to struggle with diversity.  Rocket is passionate, empowered and loveable – a great role model for all.
  • It features several positive female black role models, including Imani Wilmot, creator of the first female surf competition in Jamaica. When it’s time to go for a surf, it’s Rocket’s Grammy who is the star surfer.  When the team need to find a uses for the rubbish they collect, it’s Theresa and her artist mum who have the answer.
Surfs up: Rocket and Grammy ride some waves
  • It gently delivers some really important environmental education. For example, Rocket’s grandparents run a wildlife sanctuary.  And Rocket shares some awesome facts with others on the beach.
    Rocket’s facts on the beach – my daughter makes me repeat these every time
  • Rocket expresses her emotions. This gives readers the message that it’s ok to feel sad about what is happening to our world, and ok to tell others how you feel.
  • After allowing herself to feel, Rocket moves to action. She goes around the beach sharing her concerns about the beach rubbish with other users and quickly forms a CLEAN-UP CREW.  Even big brother Jamal helps 😊
  • When they have taken effective action, the characters celebrate. A step so often missed by activists, here’s why celebration is important.
Make time to celebrate
  • It shows girls bigging each other up, when Rocket crowdsources the solution to an emerging problem and another girl helps make the collected plastic waste into something positive. Theresa, one of the Clean-Up Crew, has an artist mum who turns the waste into funky bins, which in themselves will provide a reminder for the need to use bins, at the same time as making doing the right thing easier for all.

  • Rocket uses facts and clear statements of benefit no-one can disagree with to engage others.
Who can argue with these outcomes?!
  • It is funny and light-hearted, whilst tackling a serious issue. See big brother Jamal, always glued to his phone.

You can buy a copy of ‘Clean Up!’ via bookshop.org here, avoiding Amazon and supporting independent bookshops at the same time.

And find out about the Many Voices Collection here and browse the lending library here.  It doesn’t currently have ‘Clean Up!’, but does have other Rocket stories by the same author.

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