Middle Grade Novel Tackles Challenges of Climate Change
An interview with Tanni Haas
While Tanni Haas, a professor of Communication Arts, Sciences and Disorders at Brooklyn College – CUNY, has written several books for adults as well as poetry and short stories, Journey to Justice: The Adventures of Spider and Ruby is his first middle grade novel, aimed for kids aged 9-12.
Spider and Ruby, the main characters in Journey to Justice, embark on a dangerous journey to find and free Spider’s twin brother Luke. Along the way, the friends must overcome many challenges to rescue Luke. The book is set in the future; however, Hass hesitates to call it science fiction since the flooded world depicted in the novel is a real possibility in the face of climate change.
“The idea for this book came from reading widely about the dangers of global warming,” Hass said. “One day I asked myself what the world would look like if the worst possible effects of global warming came to pass.”
Haas imagined a planet where people were living on houseboats or in underwater greenhouses.
“I also imagined that a small elite would control everyone else from an artificial island,” he said. “A bit speculative, perhaps, but not that far-fetched.”
In the book, Spider’s family lives on a houseboat, and Ruby’s family lives in an underwater greenhouse. Luke has been arrested by powerful people on the artificial island. Spider and Ruby become friends and set out to save Luke.
“They both undergo profound transformations,” Haas said. “I created the characters of Spider and Ruby to show kids that it takes both careful thought and courageous action to make a real difference in the world.”
Middle grade youth will enjoy the action-packed, fast-paced adventure, and most can relate to the characters as they grow and change throughout their journey. Haas said his own teenage son liked the book. “He said it’s very suspenseful.”
Haas also leaves young readers with hope for the future.
“The main theme in the book is that everything isn’t lost yet,” Haas said. “I hope one of the main take-aways is that it’s not too late to make the one planet that we all share an inhabitable place for generations to come. I also want kids to understand that they’ll need to do their share to make that a reality. They shouldn’t look the other way and tell themselves that taking corrective action is someone else’s responsibility. I want kids to realize that the fight for a better future isn’t necessarily going to be easy.”
Haas says Journey to Justice is the first installment of a planned trilogy. In book two, Spider and Ruby learn that the whole planet is not flooded, and in the third installment, they make a long journey to Mars, but discover that it has already been colonized by a group of evil people.
As Haas puts it, “There’ll be many obstacles standing in their way, but those obstacles can be overcome if only they put their hearts and minds to it.”