I had the honor of interviewing Mel Hammond, the author of American Girl's new advice book, Love the Earth! This book is a nonfiction companion to Girl of the Year 2021 Kira Bailey's book series and is all about the Earth, climate change, and the ways girls can be part of the solution to climate change. I read the copy American Girl sent me for this interview last week, and I enjoyed it a lot.
Here's my questions and Mel's answers:
How did you find out about American Girl?
When I was a kid in the 90’s, I had a babysitter who loved knitting sweaters for American Girl dolls, which she sold at craft fairs. Whenever she finished a sweater, she would borrow a Samantha doll from a girl in the neighborhood to make sure it fit correctly. The fitting always seemed like a big ceremony, as if Samantha were a celebrity strutting down a red carpet. I never had an American Girl doll of my own, but I knew from a young age how special they were.
The very first craft in this book is a DIY notebook to record thoughts and ideas from this book. How did you think of this?
I wanted to give readers a fun way to organize their thoughts, fears, and ideas about climate change, since it’s such a big topic. The first idea that came to mind was a cardboard notebook I’d made as a kid, inspired by a PBS show called Zoom. I made some improvements to the craft, plus added an earth-friendly spin with the recycled paper and decorations. It was a lot of fun to make, so I hoped readers would have fun with it, too!
I liked how you added stories of real, diverse girls who are doing things to help fight climate change. With so many girls out there doing stuff for this cause, how did you pick them?
Overall, I wanted to showcase the huge variety of ways real girls are making a difference. There were so many amazing girls to pick from! I chose some girls who were already well-known leaders in the youth climate movement, like Havana C.E., who has given speeches in front of huge crowds. I looked for inventors who had competed in youth scientist competitions, like Caroline C., who invented a super-fast train that runs without fossil fuels. I searched for stories in local papers about kids doing work for the planet, like friends Jocelyn, Danny, and Sofia helping their school cafeteria switch from disposable utensils to reusable ones. And I sought out voices from girls helping change environmental laws through lawsuits, like Lexine D. There are so many ways to make a difference, and I hoped these real stories would inspire other kids to take action.
I remembered a lot of stuff in this book from my science class. How did you do the research for this book and make it so accurate?
I started at the library, reading books and scientific articles about climate change and taking lots of notes. Then I sat down with a climate change expert, Professor Daniel J. Vimont, who does research at the University of Wisconsin—Madison. He helped me focus on the most important topics, shared some of the latest science on climate change, and gave me excellent resources for further research. He and another expert, Bridget Edmonds from the Nature Conservancy, reviewed the book multiple times to make sure we got every fact correct. I also met with a social studies teacher to learn what kinds of things kids were learning about climate change in the classroom. The learning never stopped—even today, I’m still learning lots of new things about the topic!
What’s your favorite thing to do to help the environment and fight climate change? I love educating people about the climate crisis, which is why this book was so much fun to write. I enjoy talking about climate change issues and sharing this book with neighbors, friends, and family. I think it’s important to advocate for new legislation that can make a difference, so I send emails to my state representatives when there’s a new environmental law up for consideration.
As for everyday actions, I love riding my bike instead of driving whenever I can. It’s so much fun, and I’m lucky to live in a city with plenty of great bike paths. I also like to compost. My neighbors and I collect our food waste in a common area, where it eventually turns into new soil. I don’t like gardening, but I’m so glad that they do! They use the soil to grow delicious veggies, which they share with me.
If you could write for American Girl again, what topic would you write about and why?
I would love to write a book about outdoor adventure, like camping and hiking. Or an ice cream recipe book…as long as I get to taste test!
Thank you so much, Mel! Also, I would like to thank Susan Jevens at American Girl for coordinating this interview and American Girl as a whole for being awesome like usual!