A climate change graphic novel
The Adventures of Captain Polo: Pole to Pole is the 4th book of the series, and like it’s predecessors, it explores different aspects of our era’s most critical existential crisis.
However, Pole to Pole is much more than just another children’s book about climate change: it is also a story about courage, desperation, tenacity, exploration, friendship, understanding and hope.
The story begins
After almost getting squashed by a passing oil tanker breaking through the melting ice of his Arctic home, Captain Polo realises he is hungry. The Arctic weather patterns are not what they used to be, and Captain Polo can’t hunt as easily as used to. He decides to go south to forage, and the adventure begins!
Pole to Pole behind the scenes
Book 3 in the Captain Polo series, Captain Polo in East Africa, marks the end of Polo’s epic round the world trip learning about climate change. That book ends with Polo making his way home back to the Arctic, accompanied by two friends he rescued from London Zoo.
One of these friends is a penguin who’s sole purpose is to somehow get back to his home in the Antarctic. This is what gave me inspiration for this book, and it’s title. I wanted to repeat a formula that worked well in the previous Captain Polo books and make this story not only about climate change but also about a journey: exploration and adventure. Penguin’s clear mission in life gave me the obvious idea to make this book about a voyage from the north to the south poles.
To plot the route my heroes would take I first did my research on the main climate change topics I wanted to cover and how these are relevant to the geography in the book. I knew I wanted to make this book more about solutions than problems, and I was playing with the idea of exploring the Nordic countries and their advanced climate policies. This meant I had to take Polo and Penguin into the North Sea, visiting countries like Norway, Sweden or Holland – all of which are relatively advanced with environmental policy.
This idea also provided the perfect opportunity to develop Penguin’s character, as well as that of the bumbling fisherman Conor, whose cap blows off in a storm at sea and ends up on Polo’s head (see Book 1).
The North Sea route meant the rest of the journey had to be in the Atlantic Ocean. I continued doing my research, and finally decided on my route: Polo was to sail south and visit Russia, Finland, Iceland and end up somewhere in West Africa. I had a bit of trouble figuring out how to get him and his boat between these places in a coherent manner that made sense.
The stop-over in Ireland was a last-minute decision, as I reflected on how to bring Conor the fisherman into it. I thought of the Looney Tunes cartoons I loved as a child (OK, I still love them!), and how characters like Wile E. Coyote would do incredible feats to get what they wanted, and always end up losing. I decided Conor would be like that too, and the one thing he wants of course, is to recover his precious captain’s cap.
This allowed me to use Conor as a parallel element in the story to enrich the sense of adventure, quicken the pace and add to the humour. The same goes for other sequences, such as the Russian sub scene, which is in there purely for fun.
Whenever I write a new Captain Polo story I need to make sure the climate change content is up to date and relevant. For Pole to Pole, that meant I somehow had to bring in the whole subject of fossil fuels, electric vehicles and renewable energy, an area I hadn’t really talked much about in previous books. Enter a new character: Tex Greedyman the oil tycoon.
Tex is definitely a villain, and I know that risks being a caricature and stereotype, but I decided to go with it regardless. I wanted Tex to be like the typical baddie in the older Bond movies: filthy rich, unscrupulous, manipulative, cunning and a touch megalomaniac. All Tex needs is a white cat to stroke (but instead I gave him a permanently lit cigar and a glass of scotch on the rocks).
Early editors of the book pointed out that Tex’s character was too risky for a children’s book; they strongly advised I ditch the booze and cigars, and make Tex less of a baddie. They also suggested I lose the references to vodka in the Russian sub scenes at the start of the book, and seeing their point this I reluctantly did. But after careful thought, I decided to leave Tex as he was. Time (and reviews and sales) will tell if I took the right decision or not!
Bottom line, I am still experimenting.
I need to test just how much I can get away with in terms of skewing the focus towards purely entertaining scenes and characters like Conor, rather than keeping the book on the straight and narrow, and talk only about technical things. The last thing I want is to create just another text book with pictures.
The Captain Polo books are all about learning while having a laugh, and turning those pages to find out what happens next.
They are about exploring the world, understanding the way human individuals, societies, cities and ecosystems work, and how all this is affected by climate change.
And crucially, they are about solutions. Captain Polo, at the end of the day, is a messenger off hope, and action for a better future.
And he also likes pistachio ice cream.
Please help me launch this book!
I won’t try to hide it: I need reader reviews. Honest reviews on Amazon and Goodreads, but especially Amazon. I would really appreciate your help with this.
That’s why I’m offering you a chance to grab your Advanced Reader Copy right now.
Thank you for reading!