We are living at an unprecedented crossroads in history, says Paul Fleischman, who is the author of Eyes Wide Open: Going Behind the Environmental Headlines.
“We’ve recently learned a lot about the effect we’re having on climate and the environment as a whole,” he says “Suddenly everything needs rethinking: cars, suburbs, fast food, cheap prices. It’s an exciting, high-stakes moment. What better time to have our eyes wide open?”
Fleischman is the recipient of the Sigurd F. Olson Nature Writing Award for young adult literature. He will speak at the Northland College Sigurd Olson Environmental Institute Tuesday, September 15 at 7 p.m. This event is free and open to the public. Teens are encouraged to attend.
Fleischman grew up in Santa Monica, California. When he was nineteen years old, he rode a bicycle from Los Angeles to Vancouver, took the train across Canada, and ended up house-sitting in the New Hampshire woods. “I’d never been out of the west, never seen snow falling, never lived in the country,” he said.
He bought a paperback guide to birds, and gradually he began to notice the barn swallows swooping over his field and black-capped chickadees in the maples. The same was true of trees and wildflowers, weather and geology. “They’d been hiding in plain sight all around me my whole life. Suddenly my eyes were open to them all,” he says.
“I tried to give readers of Eyes Wide Open that same experience of noticing the unnoticed—in this case the environmental turning point they’re part of,” he says. “Instead of goldfinches and kingbirds, I’d teach them to spot vested interests and regression. Instead of being able to read the forest, I’d show how to read the newspaper.”
SONWA committee member Jan Penn believes Eyes Wide Open leads young readers “to explore human motivations, influences and barriers in the decision making process and matters of societal and cultural bias impacting environmental headlines.”
Eyes Wide Open was named a finalist for the 2015 Los Angeles Book Prize, the 2014 AAAS/SubaruSB&F Prize for Excellence in Science Books in the Middle Grades category and is the winner of The Nature Generation’s young adult nonfiction Green Earth Book Award.
Fleischman has also received the Newbery Medal in 1989 for Joyful Noise: Poems for Two Voices, a Newbery Honor Award for Graven Images, the Scott O’Dell Award for Historical Fiction for Bull Run, and was a National Book Award finalist for Breakout.
Fleischman’s visit is made possible by the donation of a Northland graduate. He lives in Santa Cruz, California. For more information on the book and how to best use it as an educational tool visit http://www.eyeswideopenupdates.com.