Solar City: How One Community Lives Alongside the World's Biggest Solar Plant by Allan Drummon

Solar Story: How One Community Lives Alongside the World's Biggest Solar Plant
Review Copy from Macmillan Kid's Books
 
The work of Allan Drummond is new to me and I am so excited to read more of his pictures books, as well as explore his work as an illustrator and muralist. Drummond's illustrations are energetic and bright and he is as good at capturing on the page the emotions of children as he is scientific works. His illustrations are bolstered by his talent for creating a narrative that draws readers, immersing them in the non-fiction aspects of his subjects. Drummond's focus over the course of his last four picture books on communities from all over the world working to find renewable sources of energy is one that I hope continues.

On the endpapers of Solar City: How One Community Lives Alongside the World's Biggest Solar Plant we meet Jasmine and Nadia, who wears a hijab, as they are walking to school. Jasmine goes on to narrate the story, sharing that she lives in Ghassate, next to the Noor Solar Plant in Morocco's Sahara desert.  Ahead of a field trip to the solar plant, their teacher, Miss Abdellam, asks her class what "sustainability" means and Jasmine answers, "Peace?" As Drummond, through the eyes of school children, shows readers how the plant was built and how this, and the presence of the plant, impact the community around it, he shares scientific facts in occasional panels that give readers further information about  Morocco, the Noor Solar power plant and sustainability, while wonderfully bringing his story back to Jasmine's response - that sustainability means peace. Every page shows community members at work, the text expanding on the image, letting readers know how these new jobs lead to new schools, education, training, skills and, ultimately, even more jobs. While the school that Jasmine and Nadia attend does not have internet yet, and their families still cook on open fires and rely on mules for transport, their filed trip opens their eyes to the many ways that the plant is improving and growing their community. In surprising examples, examples that illustrate that the existence of new jobs and job growth need to be integral to the community once the plant is completed, Drummond shows readers a young man who learned how to weld metal while helping to build the plant who now has his own workshop ("That's sustainability right there!") and how the solar plant started a new college in a nearby city teaches students new skills like woodworking, tailoring and ceramics. And, while the communities near the solar plant are remote, its presence has resulted in better roads, better water management, better farms and more people with new skills, allowing the area to grow and thrive. 

I was so engaged by the story of the communities around the solar plant, I almost forgot to be in awe of the plant itself and all that it does. Drummond includes a few photographs of the plant in his author's note, along with pictures of his visit there, but readers will definitely be inspired to research the Noor Solar Plant more and see the enormity and uniformity for themselves. Drummond returns to the idea that sustainability means peace at the close of the book with Jasmine reflecting on her field trip,

Living alongside the world's largest solar plant means we've all started thinking about the future . . . not just the future of our community. Or the future of Morocco. Or the future of Africa. Sustainability is a way of thinking about the future of the whole world! Maybe, because so many wars are about oils and other resources, sustainability will lead to a more peaceful world.


Also by Allan Drummond:
Energy Island; How One Community Harnessed 
the Wind and Changed Their World
In this 2011 book, Drummond tells the story of the Danish island of Samsø and the transformation to energy self-sufficiency the community took on and their success in reducing carbon emissions by 140% in just ten years!
Green City: How One Community Survived 
a Tornado and Rebuilt for a Sustainable Future
After a supercell tornado destroyed the town in 2007, the people of Greensburg, KS decided to rebuild a sustainable and stormproof town. Through the voice of an unnamed child, Drummond shows readers the massive destruction and coming together of the community that resulted in the Greensburg Green Town Project.

Pedal Power: How One Community 
Became the Bicycle Capital of the World
Drummond focuses on the protests and activism that turned Amsterdam from a crowded, car-packed city to the cycling capital of the world.

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