Carla Gunn's novel about a child worried about the environment is from 2009. It's even more relevant in 2020
Amphibian is a novel about Phineas Walsh, a nine-year-old with a love of animals and an encyclopedic knowledge of the natural world. As he grapples with the damage that humanity is doing to the planet, a White's tree frog ends up in his Grade 4 class aquarium. He and his best friend Bird decide something must be done.
In 2009, Gunn talked to CBC about Amphibian shortly after the book was published.
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"Amphibian had a number of sources of inspiration. The idea came in a flash of insight one day when I was cycling with my younger son. He was ahead of me and he saw a plastic bag float across the bike path. He jumped off his bike, picked up the plastic bag and screamed, 'Don't people know the tortoise could choke on this!'
I wondered what it would be like to be a child overwhelmed with all of this knowledge about the natural world and about the state of the environment.- Carla Gunn
"I wondered what it would be like to be a child overwhelmed with all of this knowledge about the natural world and about the state of the environment. Maybe they had parents who were a little unsympathetic to their knowledge and to their desire to do something about it. That's basically how the book started."
Making sense of the world
"Phin uses lists as a way of dealing with his anxiety. It gives him a little bit of control over some of the things that he's dealing with. It also allows him to reframe threatening things in humorous or less threatening ways. It's his way of trying to make sense of the world.
There are a lot of kids out there who are quite disturbed by what they're seeing happen to the planet — and frustrated by the inaction of us adults all around them.- Carla Gunn
"You can't turn on the TV or the radio without hearing something about environmental degradation, pollution, resource depletion, all those sorts of things.
"Kids are like sponges, they learn everything that's coming their way. There are a lot of kids out there who are quite disturbed by what they're seeing happen to the planet — and frustrated by the inaction of us adults all around them."
We're all animals
"We're all creatures. We're human animals. When I would read nonfiction books with my sons, they would tend to focus a lot on animals. I amassed this amazing wealth of animal knowledge. What always struck me, as somebody who practices psychology, is there really isn't a distinction between animals and us. We're animals too."
"I think that a lot of people who are concerned about environmental issues have experienced feelings like Phin at some point or another.
I think that a lot of people who are really concerned about environmental issues have experienced feelings like Phin at some point or another.- Carla Gunn
"Recently a woman who does work as a conservationist said to me, 'You know, you've captured how I have felt in my late teens and in my early 20s when I was struggling trying to make sense out of everything that was happening.'"
Carla Gunn's comments have been edited for length and clarity. You can read more interviews in the How I Wrote It series here.