New Children’s Book Aims to Help Kids Understand the Gulf Oil Spill (and Giveaway)

patti pelican and the gulf oil spill book cover
Patti Pelican & the Gulf Oil Spill

Author’s note: Publisher HIS Publishing Co. sent me a free review copy of Patti Pelican and the Gulf Oil Spill.

Unless you went on a media fast yesterday, you likely came across acknowledgements of the one-year anniversary of the BP oil spill. Many online outlets — among them Crisp Green and HuffPo Green — ran photo galleries from the disaster in the Gulf; many of these images are still hard to look at even a year later.

If you’ve got young children at home, you may find that they have extra difficulty with photos from the event… especially those portraying animals. No doubt pictures of oil-soaked pelicans and sea turtles hit them hard, even if they can’t necessarily wrap their heads around the totality of a disaster like this (and, of course, we adults have issues with this, also).

Louisiana author Lynda Deniger already had one children’s book about coastal life in the Bayou State under her belt when the Deepwater Horizon blew last year, and saw the characters she’d already created — shrimp boat Salty Seas and her owner Captain Charley, Patti Pelican, and Sammy Seagull — as mediums through which she could help explain the impact of the spill on Gulf wildlife. Her newest book for little ones, Patti Pelican and the Gulf Oil Spill, aims to put the event into a perspective a child can understand, and to show kids the efforts made by shrimpers and fisherman, as well as wildlife rescue workers, to protect both humans and animals from the worst effects of the spill.

Though the book doesn’t go into the deaths of rig workers, or even those of many coastal animals, Deniger does present the spill as something life-changing for its characters. Both Sammy Seagull and Patti Pelican end up coated in oil and unable to move; through the efforts of Captain Charley and animal rescue workers, the two birds are saved. Deniger details the process of taking care of the animals in a manner a child could comprehend… and lets her young audience know that good people are at work trying to help them. She achieves a very appropriate balance between conveying the horror of the event (without making it horrific for a child), and also demonstrating that people are working to control the damage, and return the area to some sense of normalcy.

Like any good children’s book, Patti Pelican and the Gulf Oil Spill pairs the story with plenty of visual elements. Illustrator Paulette Vinyard Ferguson creates vivid images that show the damage done to the birds… but, like the story, in a manner that children should be able to handle. She also captures the beauty of the region, even at one of its ugliest moments.

If you have young children, you’ve no doubt tried to shield them from the more brutal elements of this tragedy… but, no doubt, kids have heard and seen about the oil spill, and (just like the rest of us) tried to make sense of it.  Deniger’s book helps them understand elements of the spill that probably resonate the most with them… and gives them a sense of hope that there are adults out there ready to protect them, and the animals they love, from such threats. A two-page epilogue discusses some of the efforts kids themselves have made to help with the effects of the spill, such as four-year old New Orleanian Jonathan Bush’s “Pelican Aid Lemonade” stand, or a Baton Rouge eleven-year-old’s work to raise money by designing and selling t-shirts. Kids may not only feel safe after this story, but even empowered to help.

Adults are still grappling with the oil spill and its aftermath… no doubt, kids are, too, in their own way. Lynda Deniger’s book provides a meaningful tool for helping them cope with this disaster.

Read this book to your kids, or others like it that address environmental challenges in a manner that educates them without scaring them? Let us know about them…

Update: Want to Win a Free Copy of Pelican Patti and the Gulf Oil Spill?

I don’t have young children at home, or know anyone who does (or, at least, anybody who’s kids are at the right age for this book… late pre-school to early elementary school), so I’m going to give away the review copy the publishing company sent me. Want to enter? Go to our sustainablog community, and write a review, or offer a quick tip on any work of children’s literature with an environmental theme (yep, that includes The Lorax… or even Pelican Patti). Once you’ve written your content, tag it with pelicanpatti (along with other relevant tags). Get your review or tip in by midnight (CST) on Friday, April 29th, 2011 to enter the drawing.

Got questions? Let me know…

Get your kids ready for Summer with our collection of organic clothing just for them… including shorts, t-shirts, and jeans.

Image credit: Salty Seas and Friends Facebook page

  1. Sandra Lester

    I highly recommend books written by my friend and author, Rochelle Strauss. Rochelle is an award-winning author, freelance writer and education consultant based in Toronto, Canada. Her books, ‘One Well’ and ‘Tree of Life’ have each won numerous awards and have been endorsed by several environmental agencies. Enjoy! http://www.rochellestrauss.com/books.htm or @rochellestrauss.

  2. Bobby B.


    Thanks for at least mentioning that human beings died in this accident. It is sad that the book’s author and most of the major media have chosen to ignore the topic. If you or anyone in your audience eats cooked food, uses electricity, enjoys air conditioning and heat, or drives a car, there is a pretty good chance that s/he has a rig worker to thank for supplying the energy that makes “the easy life” possible. Come to think of it, it is probably worth mentioning that the people working in the industrial sectors provide many of the products that are often taken for granted but truly needed to make everyone’s life better. It never ceases to amaze me how callous many environmentalists can be about the loss of human life in the wake of a manmade or natural disaster, and wearing a hard hat to work should not render a person less valuable than his fellow man.

  3. Jeff McIntire-Strasburg


    I think the book author did that simply because of the age range for which she was writing… and I’m not sure where you get this idea that environmentalists in general devalue industrial work, or that the major media ignored those killed. If anything, many of us are out there pushing for more work for people in hard hats… that’s the idea behind the Apollo Alliance and Green for All, among others.


  4. Bobby

    If you use any popular search engine to search for “bp oil spill deaths” or some similar phrase, you will find many more stories about dolphins, shrimp and fish than you will about the eleven dead human beings. The same held true for most of the coverage of the one-year remembrance of the disaster. The green blogosphere and the MSM have saturated the available content to the point that one must dig to find out the names of the dead. When you do find their names, it is usually in a local news outlet exempt from any national attention. So, I made my claim of callousness based upon a few simple observations.

    Regarding the future of hard hats, Van Jones (a self-avowed communist) appears to be at the center of both of the Apollo Alliance and Green For All. I think we are all smart enough to read between the lines when he describes the Apollo Alliance’s mission as “sort of a grand unified field theory for progressive left causes.” Even though he and his minions are well within their rights to push for such things, they are being a bit subversive when they fail to advertise that they believe that creating a new, green economy first requires the utter destruction of the existing economy and the industries that support it. Consequently, a lot of hard hats – and nearly everyone else – will suffer during the transition period.

    Not to beat the proverbial dead horse, but shouldn’t working people be a bit offended when intellectual progressives who have never held or created what most would call a “real job” start preaching about how they are going to “fix” or “tranform” the economy?

  5. Jeff McIntire-Strasburg

    Bobby– You really can’t use a specific Google search as proof of unbalanced coverage here… some changes in terms may bring up difference results, and Google’s results are (likely) based on things like links in, keywords in the pages listed, social media shares… they definitely wouldn’t underscore your argument.

    Van Jones renounced socialism ages ago… if you spend some time on those sites, you’ll see that they’re very much about working within a capitalistic economic structure. It’s a progressive vision of such a structure, but you’d have a hard time arguing (based on the facts, anyway) that there’s anything there advocating “utter destruction of the existing economy.”

    Should “intellectual progressives” be insulted that you assume they’ve never “held or created what most would call a real job.” Speaking for myself, I’ve worked an assembly line, unloaded trucks, cleaned floors, and waited tables… all to pay the bills. Jerome Ringo, one of the founders of the Apollo Alliance, is from Lake Charles and worked in the plants for decades (one of Dad’s best friends knows him well). Sorry, bud… we haven’t all spent our whole lives in the ivory tower… and, even if we have, does that mean we don’t have practical, workable ideas to contribute? Does that mean we can now argue about the ideas… 😉

  6. Bobby

    I don’t know Mr. Ringo, but I presume that he is a decent fellow with strong convictions. A brief review of his Wiki page and his resume at the Apollo Alliance (AA) suggests that his environmental interests grew out of the perceived problems in Mossville. Ironically, the independent as well as the state and federally sponsored testing has revealed that – health wise – Mossville is not really any worse off than other areas. The claim has long been that there are a disproportionate number of individuals with certain health issues and that those issues can be directly attributed to the local petrochemical industries. However, testing has revealed that Lafayette, which is practically free of industry, and other areas around the country have neighborhoods with even higher rates of the same suspect toxins and diseases. I do not know why Mossville claims to have bigger problems than other areas that border the plants, but to use progressive buzz words, the issue appears to center on social and economic justice. Here is a link to the EPA report that addresses those concerns:


    When you read the resumes of the board, the list of endorsers and the list of funders at the AA website, you find lots of people and entities associated with unions, mainstream environmental groups and left-wing PAC’s. And again, it is okay with me if people of like minds want to congregate to discuss their goals and shuffle monies. However, when you read the “Accomplishments” page, you only see the word “jobs” preceded by a phrase in some form of the future tense (i.e. “will create”, “to create”, etc.). There are no references to jobs in the past (i.e. “did create”) or present (i.e. “have created”) tenses. There are some past and present tense references to legislative victories, but again the jobs directly attributed to those successes are still in the “will someday” category. Strangely enough, the AA currently has no job opportunities posted on its own web page:


    I haven’t had time to dig into Green for All, but I suspect the names and associations to be similar.

    Now, since you want to argue about ideas, I do have a novel one. It’s probably not an original, but it did just pop into my mind so I am claiming it as my own. Seeing as how the AA is well funded and sold on the viability of green technology, why don’t they set themselves up as a Corporation or an LLC, buy a plot of land in an area in need of economic renewal, hire some crafts people, and start building the green future? It is nice that they can dream – and lobby – about tomorrow, but why not put their own money to work, instead of sponsoring attacks on the status quo and supporting legislation that forces others to fund the future? Heck, the top twelve listed donors gave them over $1 million in 2010. Although there is nothing wrong with publishing press releases and sponsoring research to produce “what the future could be” reports, it seems that if green tech is the way of the future and promises to turn a profit, they’d be one of the firsts to invest in the future and to enjoy an unparalleled windfall.

  7. Jeff McIntire-Strasburg

    I’ll dig into the information you’ve presented. The Apollo Alliance is primarily an advocacy group (and fairly young at that — found middle of last decade), so what you’re telling me doesn’t surprise me completely… but there’s also nothing essentially wrong with advocacy. I tend to agree that more happens “on the ground” vs. in the legislative halls, but policy is a part of the puzzle.

    And, yes, your idea (a good one) has been put in place in a number of places, both publicly and privately. There was a real push to do that here with the Chrysler plant that shut down. Chicago’s Center for Green Technology is a good example of a public-private endeavor on this front: http://www.cityofchicago.org/city/en/depts/doe/provdrs/ccgt.html And there are numerous green business incubators out there, which invest in and then provide support to start-ups… almost all of these are private.

  8. Bobby

    I generally believe that too much money gets spent on advocacy. While I agree there is nothing wrong with it and spending one’s money as one wishes is a matter of free speech, it tends to look more like a money laundering scheme than anything of any real use. In the last two decades, since the silent majority joined the party, we have seen the rise of the counter-advocacy groups. Today, when one side advocates its biased point of view, the other responds in complete opposition. Sadly, this model applies to not only advocacy groups but to the entire news media. The only differences between Fox News and everyone else is that Fox doesn’t try to make everyone believe that they are truly unbiased. This paradigm leaves Joe Consumer basing his beliefs about what is best for himself and his household on skewed data, while the power players shuffle monies in and out of each others’ pockets.

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