Despite the rise of e-books, most children’s books are still made from trees. One new picture book is designed as a simple reminder of that fact: When kids finish reading a story about an adventure in the rainforest, they can plant the book in the ground. Eventually, the paper will sprout back into a mini-forest of jacaranda saplings.
The book, Mi Papá Estuvo en la Selva (My Father Was In the Jungle), from a Buenos Aires publisher, had been around for a while in a standard format. But the publisher wanted to redesign it.
“It has an endearing message regarding the respect we owe to all living beings,” says Raquel Franco, editorial director of Pequeno Editor. “But we were wondering how to take this message even deeper. We wanted to develop a powerful communication action with a metaphorical weight.”
Each page is printed with nontoxic inks and sown with seeds from the jacaranda, a tree native to Argentina. “It’s a tree that provides excellent shade and offers a lot of oxygen to the environment,” says Franco. Before planting the book, kids water the cover to help the seeds germinate, and leave it in a sunny spot indoors. Once the seeds have sprouted, the book can go in a garden or in the dirt next to a road or sidewalk.
It’s probably not a design that would work for most books, since people tend to want to keep them. But the small run of the picture book, which the publisher made as a non-commercial project, is just meant to make a point. The editors also hope that the book will be read and re-read several times before it ends up in the ground.
“We especially encourage re-reading it,” says Franco. “We think this book must be planted after it has been read many times, in such a way that every time a kid looks at that growing tree he will perfectly remember the story that gave birth to it. It’s also a metaphor–everything we read also takes root in us and is part of our mental library, our culture, of who we are as people.”