Before there was an official worldwide Earth Day, my little hometown of Jasper, Tn. held its own version of this important day: Sparkle Day. Already surly and disagreeable as a pre-preteen, I did not willingly don plastic gloves and troll the neighborhood picking up tin cans and plastic wrappers and soggy unidentifiable things that were possibly dirty diapers: My mother made me. She also made my brother and sister do the same, arming us with big plastic bags for gathering refuse. Akin to an Easter egg hunt (her inaccurate description), Sparkle Day offered a few instructions, but the only one I remember with a perverse fascination was not to pickup Kleenex. I wanted to know why, and my mother’s explanation that they were full of revolting, vile germs made them extremely appealing.
Decades later, the impression my mother made on me on the importance of being a good steward of our planet is intact. An artist, my mother agreed to illustrate a series of children’s books on the importance of insects, “If Bugs Are Banished.” When I was a child at summer camp (another example of an activity I was forced into kicking and screaming), she sent letters every few days, all illustrated with hilarious drawings of my father scowling behind a newspaper and herself in the throes of all manner of raucous activities, inaccurately portrayed as a disshelveled witch.
Despite all of her magnificent works of art, these little sketches were always some of my favorites, and my mother brought the funny, quirky little character back to life in this series of children’s books. “The Queen Who Banished Bugs” is a rhyming tale about the consequences of banishing bugs, especially the effect on our food supply. Suffice to say, the drawing of the queen with no coffee is sobering. “The Queen Who Banished BIRDS,” unfortunately not illustrated my mother, Mary Ferris Kelly, explains in verse what happens when there are no bugs for the birds to eat; they vanish! The third book in the series, “Call Me Arthropod,” is a humorous rhyme that explains the ins and outs of insects and why they are important. All of these books in the series are entertaining as well as educational. And the earlier our youngest stewards understand the importance of protecting our Earth, the better.
In the meantime, I don’t pass a Kleenex without wondering what danger it is harboring, and will freak out if my granddaughter ever gets within a few feet of one. I know this will guarantee her same fascination with the forbidden used tissue, but if the environmental attitude my mother instilled in me carries on, fine.
In honor of Earth Day, “The Queen Who Banished Bugs” is free until Friday, April 23, on Kindle if you’d like to download it.
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Ferris Robinson is the author of three children’s books, “The Queen Who Banished Bugs,” “The Queen Who Accidentally Banished Birds,” and “Call Me Arthropod” in her pollinator serie, “If Bugs Are Banished.” “Making Arrangements” is her first novel. “Dogs and Love - Stories of Fidelity” is a collection of true tales about man’s best friend. Her website is ferrisrobinson.com and you can download a free pollinator poster there. She is the editor of The Lookout Mountain Mirror and The Signal Mountain Mirror.