Former first daughter Chelsea Clinton discussed her second children’s book, “Don’t Let Them Disappear: 12 Endangered Species Across the Globe,” at the Los Angeles Times Festival of Books Sunday.
The book was released earlier this month and follows Clinton’s No. 1 New York Times bestselling picture book “She Persisted: 13 American Women Who Changed the World.” In conversation with LA Times columnist and culture critic Mary McNamara, Clinton discussed her journey becoming an author.
“Being a parent … one of the things I realized was how many children’s books are told from a male perspective,” Clinton said. “Like how many of even the animal-based children’s books are told from like a male cow’s perspective, or a male frog’s perspective, or like a male duck’s perspective. [That] started to really bother me.”
While writing her most recent book, Clinton said she asked multiple children for their input. As an animal lover herself, Clinton found that children felt similarly and wanted for that sentiment to be reflected in her book.
“In writing books for slightly older audiences, for teenagers and preeteens and really young activists, I’ve interviewed lots and lots of kids and young people,” Clinton said. “… Two of the things I kept really hearing was how much kids are concerned about climate change and also how much kids are concerned about animals.”
Even though the book is aimed at school-age children readers, the book is also intended to be accessible to older audiences, Clinton said.
McNamara asked Clinton how she was able to solidify a mature yet engaging tone in the book.
“I’m a big believer in not talking down to kids,” Clinton said. “I rely on kid readers throughout the process to give me their candid feedback.”
Sarah Aikman, a writer and a long-time attendee of the LA Times Book Festival praised Clinton for using her platform in a positive way and inspiring people of all ages to use their voice.
“There’s a child in all of us and … [Clinton’s books] are so accessible not just to children but to adults too,” Aikman said. “So I think there’s just something that every individual can find in them.”
When asked about her opinion of zoos, Clinton emphasized their positive influence on society, but she also cited the specific elements that ensure zoos provide humane and safe care to create a healthy space for animals to thrive, like whether or not zoos are involved in conservation efforts in the wild and if these efforts are applied in the zoos themselves.
“I do believe that zoos and aquariums are hugely important as educational tools and also as conservation [environments],” Clinton said. “I also think … not all zoos and aquariums are created equally.”
McNamara then turned the conversation to children’s efforts in tackling issues often relegated to adults, asking Clinton about the role of social media in promoting youth activism. Clinton cited the use of social media in the spread of the Global Climate Strike, which was started by a young girl in Sweden and primarily led by youth protesters around the world.
“I do think we’re seeing really powerful examples of how social media is part of mobilizing young people and young people really mobilizing one another,” Clinton said. “Yet the systemic sustainable change comes from when that translates into real sustained action in the real world.”
When asked about the world she envisions for her children, Clinton said she hopes to see a future of engaged citizens.
“I want us to take decisive action about how we produce and consume energy,” Clinton said. “I want to live in a world where there is more dignity and respect and awareness about how we treat each other.”