In A Planet Full of Plastic, award-winning author-illustrator Neal Layton helps explain to children why plastic is such an important issue. In his brilliantly illustrated book, he shows us where plastic comes from, why it doesn't biodegrade, and why that's dangerous for animals and humans alike. Best of all, the book is also crammed full of ideas for how everyone can help.
Read on to find out more about the inspiration behind and the creation of the book.
Living in Portsmouth I’ve always felt connected to the ocean, we go there almost daily as a family. Over the last few years on our beach, and across the city in general, I’d noticed an increase in litter, but it was when I saw David Attenborough’s documentaries on TV that I realised there was a bigger problem. I felt I wanted to do something, something to help, so when Wren and Rook approached me to write a book about ‘Plastic’ I jumped at it.
I knew a little about the plastic problem, after all I had a 'keep-cup’ (!) but making the book really was a journey for me. As I learnt more and more, I began to see our current way of life in a different way.
The first thing I did was to start keeping all the plastic packaging that came into our house. Quite quickly this became unmanageable, because of the sheer volume of bags, bottle tops, and tubs that began filling up my studio. It really did surprise me how quickly it accumulated, and sadly a lot of it was not recyclable. I also asked my daughters to tell me if they saw any plastic pollution when we were out and about. They were very helpful in this! Everything we found we photographed, and collected to dispose of properly, but quite quickly we had to limit the game because there was just SO much. And we found we were spending all our time out, photographing and collecting rubbish. We still do 2 minute beach and park cleans though. So all the bits of plastic collaged into the book are real rubbish, found on the streets, in rivers or in the sea.
Along with collecting plastic I’d also been reading as much as I could, and researching online, but I felt to write the book properly I needed to speak to people that knew about all the issues in depth.
My first contact was Clare Seek. She is an environmentalist and mum, and known locally for her work for Surfers against Sewage, and Plastic Free Portsmouth. As a family she also went plastic free many years back and kept a blog about it. Clare was really helpful in showing me how plastic affects families and how it affects our daily lives.
The other figure who helped was David Jones, who is also an environmentalist, an underwater photographer, and as the founder of Just One Ocean, one of the leading experts on Microplastics in the world. He was one of the team that worked on A Plastic Ocean (2013), which was one of the first documentaries to highlight ocean gyres. He was able to show me the larger impact of plastic pollution. Most of the photographs I used as collage were by him.
Because of their invaluable help, the book is dedicated to them. In fact one of the nicest things about making this book was the help I received from everyone I met along the way, whether they were environmentalists, scientists, mums, dads, teachers, children… I got a real sense of everyone ‘wanting to do something’ about the problem, and that is something I wanted to put into the book. That collective urge to not sit back and let our beautiful planet, and its animals and ecosystems be ruined. Writing and illustrating it really was a life changing experience for me. My hope is that people reading it might experience something similar.
Neal Layton is an award-winning illustrator and author of children's books. He has worked on more than 80 titles to date, working with authors such Cressida Cowell and Michael Rosen, and won several prizes including a Gold Award in the Nestle Children's Book Prize for That Rabbit belongs to Emily Brown. His books have also been shortlisted for the Red House Book Awards, the Blue Peter Book Awards, the Booktrust Early Years Award, Funfzig Jahre Deutcher Jugendliteraturpreis and New York Public Library's annual list of best Children's Books. He also writes his own books, The Invincible Tony Spears and the bestselling Mammoth Academy Series. His books are currently in print in more than 16 languages worldwide. He lives in Portsmouth with his wife and two daughters.