Author: Andri Snær Magnason

Illustrator: Áslaug Jónsdóttir

Publisher: Seven Stories Press

ISBN: 978 1 60980 428 2

What essentially is freedom, and how does one person’s hedonistic enjoyment of unbridled freedom impinge on the freedom of others? In a children’s book falling within the eco-lit genre, the implications of this question are stretched to their full when one group of children, who are incentivized to satisfy their own immediate desire for pleasure, mindlessly pursue a course of inflicting environmental damage through their own wilful actions, while ignoring the needs and basic human rights of others. The catalyst to their change in approach from one where “the well of youth in their hearts seemed limitless”, and where they revel in simple childhood activities and exploration, to one of self-indulgence and mindlessness is a visitor to their island realm, the only adult to invade their child-filled, apparently idyllic paradise—and a sorry specimen of mankind he surely is, being one of the generally most despised and laughable members of the human race: a travelling salesman called Jolly Goodday.

In common with the stereotypical picture of the travelling salesman worldwide, Goodday promises to make the children’s dreams come true and to bring joy into their lives. Little are they aware that they already live in such a dream-fulfilling and joyful world that Goodday’s promises are merely deceptive and beguiling, being rooted in self-interest and unthwarted materialism. From this point forth, they set out on a course that can only bring despair and deep-seated dissatisfaction, not only for themselves, but also for those who live on the other side of the planet (whom they unknowingly plunge into darkness, so that they can procure all the light). Untimately, when they have travelled a long way, both literally and metaphorically, they come to the hard-won conclusion that having everything your own way is not intrinsically rewarding, especially when your actions are unjust and cruel towards others that you exploit.

The sound ecological message that is conveyed in The Story of the Blue Planet has justifiably met with widespread international acclaim, with the book having won numerous highly sought-after prizes, and being the first chidren’s book to be awarded the Icelandic Literary Prize. Apart from being a tale with great moral value, it also manages to convey a deep-seated sense of wonder at the pleasurable aspects of the environment around one, which is extremely uplifting and enjoyable. That the book has been published in 25 different languages, in places as far afield as the Faroe Islands and South Korea, shows the remarkable universality of its themes and appeal to children far and wide.

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