How much paper goes into a tree - Bas van Lier

Review by Bas Maliepaard
Translation: Laura Watkinson

Published in Dutch newspaper Trouw, May 8th, 2010


'How Much Paper Goes Into a Tree?' is part seven of the successful “Children’s Questions” series. This time, Bas van Lier answers fifty questions about sustainability – a theme that, strangely enough, has received very little attention in children’s books. The answer to the question in the title is: “With one tree trunk of around ten metres long and thirty centimetres thick, you can make around eight thousand sheets of A4 paper. Enough to print three hundred of these books.”

Funny, concrete examples like this are very helpful, particularly when it’s a rather tricky and slightly dull subject like sustainability. Royalty expert Cor de Horde had an easier job with his book in the series: 'Does the Queen Have a Front-Door Key?' Who doesn’t want to find out whether Her Majesty makes her own sandwiches or pops out to the shops? And Christa Carbo also had a juicy subject in 'Do the Police Ever Get Speeding Tickets?'

The toughest themes in the series always seem to end up on Bas van Lier’s plate, but that’s no coincidence. For years, Van Lier has written outstanding non-fiction titles for children and in 2004 he won a Zilveren Griffel for 'The Sea Book'. In this series, he has even managed to provide an entertaining explanation of the European Union in 'Will Everyone in Europe Soon Speak European?'.

This new book is about CO2, melting ice caps and cars that run on “pee power”: apparently a hydrogen vehicle can go for 25 kilometres on seven litres of urine. We learn what the cleanest and dirtiest places on earth are: Cape Grim in Tasmania (cleanest) and the Chinese city of Linfen (dirtiest). And that there’s an island made up of 100 billion kilos of plastic floating in the Pacific.

But there are also surprising questions closer to home. What’s better for the environment: oranges from a greenhouse or from another country? Plastic or cardboard? These are interesting issues and many adults won’t immediately know the answer either.

Fortunately, Van Lier doesn’t wag his finger, so the book doesn’t become bogged down in doom and gloom. His answers even show a refreshing optimism. The environment might be in a miserable state, but humans are increasingly doing their best to change things for the better! And children who want to do their bit will find plenty of tips in this book.

This book is only available in Dutch. Contact for translation rights: Gottmer Publishing Group, Haarlem, The Netherlands.

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