Someone a lot wiser than me, once told me many years ago: when you are facing a really different problem, why don’t you see if you can step back a few paces and put it in a form that you can discuss with children and hear what they may have to say.
I recalled this in the early nineties when in the face of the many mind-bending complications of sustainability and mobility — such as we are facing here today — I decided to write a little scenario for a children’s story on the topic, which eventually became, with the great shaping inputs of two of my friends (Wolfgang Zuckermann for the words, and Roget Tweet for the music), Family Mouse behind the Wheel. Want to have a look?
The Story behind the Family Mouse
The children’s book, the Family Mouse, was born of a creative process that involved three people working together over a period of several months in the winter of 1992. The process was set in motion by Eric Britton, who had been pondering for some time of ways to engage children in the work that he and a number of international colleagues were engaging to advance the difficult cause of sustainable mobility, sustainable cities and sustainable lives.
This led to a conversation with his old friend Wolfgang Zuckerman who had been working with us at EcoPlan in Paris on these issues as writer/editor for several years, and between the two of us we gradually began to sort out a plan and theme. In a next lucky step we managed to bring in another friend, the illustrator Roget Tweedt who had already created a series of successful children’s books based on very big figures and bright colors , and the three started a regular brainstorming process.
Gradually the concept of a family of mice, facing what are after all rather typical challenges of modern society, challenges met and unmet, started to take shape — and a few months later Family Mouse was ready for the presses.
The book turned out to be a surprising success. It went through two editions in English and was quite widely distributed with the help of collaborating public interest groups and individuals around the world, and eventually procured by people in more than thirty countries.
A German language version was developed in collaboration with Professor A-E Bongard and published and distributed in seven thousand copies to schools across Germany and Austria (setting a model which we hope to build on with new editions in the various language areas). And since it has been translated into Italian and Japanese, and we are hoping for a Chinese version.
And now, more than two decades later, that first generation of our original readers is coming out of university, though sadly as you know, the situation of our planet has steadily worsened year by year. This younger generation has a hard job ahead of them, but at least they had an early start.
So we thought it was time to see if we could bring the Mouse Family back into the picture to train up a new generation of future leaders and more responsible citizens. Here in Penang.
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Who wrote Family Mouse:
Family Mouse has no author. It has a troika.
Eric Britton is a sustainability activist, mediator, teacher, and managing director of EcoPlan International in Paris. In addition to serving as project leader for what eventually because the Family Mouse book, also developed the original concept, assembled the team, financed, wrote the scenario and did what he could to manage the creative and at times obstinate troika behind the final happy printed pages. More on Eric at – http://wp.me/PsKUY-2p7
Wolfgang Zuckermann, at the time a senior researcher and writer at EcoPlan, started as the original “talking partner” for the eventual concept that Britton was pushing around and then imposed himself as the lyricist (a decision which I never regretted). He also took responsibility for finding and coordinating with our eventual publisher, Lutterworth Press. (More on the remarkable Wolfgang at http://goo.gl/aqxhty and https://goo.gl/VnW0O2 )
Roger Tweedt, illustrator and sparring partner, found his way to the soul of the simple little tale we all three had at the back of our minds. Roger is a professional artist and illustrator and has been an American in Paris since 1976. He proposed that the images for each page be large, colorful and calm, to engage the curiosity and eye of the children, both those who can read it themselves but also so that smaller children can savor the images when a parent reads the book. You can contact Roger at email@example.com.
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