The Robber Raccoon by Lou Kuenzler and Julia Woolf is a new and characterful eco-friendly picture book about upcycling.
It seems Rosie the raccoon is up to no good as she breaks into the houses of Bear, Flamingo and Snake. When Officer Skunk catches her in the act, all she has taken is junk! Rosie has a plan to recycle these treasures and make something new. With a topical environmental theme, Lou Kuenzler’s romping rhyming text and Julia Woolf’s adorable illustrations make this an irresistible picture book for younger readers, who will find plenty to enjoy in this rascally tale with a recycling twist.
Read on for a guest post from author Lou Kuenzler, all about the ecological themes behind the book, about how ideas from children during a primary school author visit inspired the story and about how the story could make a fun starting point for discussions and activities about recycling and re-using.
Guest Post – Recycling, Re-using and the Missing Rs behind The Robber Raccoon
by Lou Kuenzler, author of The Robber Raccoon
Thank you so much for welcoming me on to the BooksForTopics blog to talk about my latest story. I love thinking about how my books will work in a classroom setting and am always excited by the discussions they might inspire.
The Robber Raccoon is my third picture book to be published by Faber and all have been illustrated by the wonderful Julia Woolf. In fact, the genesis of this latest story began – in a rather charming way – with our very first collaboration. Back in 2018, Julia and I were doing an event at her local primary school. We were celebrating the publication of Not Yet, Zebra (our first title, which deals with different animals for every letter of the alphabet) and playing a game where we asked children to think of any creatures which began with the letter ‘R’. I admitted, due to my dyslexia, that when I wrote an early draft I had managed to muddle up my alphabet and entirely miss out poor ‘R’. The children were delighted by this unthinkable adult error and made many excellent suggestions including: reindeer, rhino, rat and robin. They soon became fixated, however, on the idea of a racoon and – running with the alliteration decided that her name was Rosie and she was a robber! Julia drew an enchanting early sketch of the character and the children were hooked. Before we left the school that day, Julia and I had promised that we would write and illustrate a story about their ‘Robber Raccoon.’
I knew Julia’s illustrations, complete with SWAG bag, would be wonderful – and the children had so cleverly chosen a robber for a character who already wore a wonderful natural dark ‘robber’ mask across her eyes. My problem was to write the text … and to come up with a ‘naughty’ robber story in which the moral compass would be suitable for contemporary KS1 and Early Years. Two of my favourite picture books had already done this brilliantly, with the peerless Burglar Bill by Janet and Allan Ahlberg and Slinky Malinki by Lynley Dodd. What, I wondered, could redeem our light-fingered (or perhaps that should be light-pawed) villain?
The thinking took a good while. I began to fear I would not be able to keep our promise to write this story. Then suddenly I knew. Of course … where do racoons live? In around our dustbins. What do they do? They steal rubbish! In that moment I knew I had a plot – my villain was not a baddie at all. She was an eco warrior -a recycling Robin Hood, if you will – stealing from the trash to bring back for re-use.
In the story, we see Rosie pinch craft materials casually discarded by other animals in their glamorous New York-style homes. Assuming she was after their jewels (just as the reader may have done), they scorn her a ‘hopeless thief’. Yet Rosie has the last laugh as she up-cylces all her wonderful found treasures into a magnificent piece of art.
I was keen to get across a recycling/reusing message to young readers but was determined that this should be neither depressing, onerous or worthy – as can so often be the case with this topic. I wanted the children to be kept laughing and guessing as the plot unravels and then find a quite unexpected/green message tying up the plot.
I hope the book will make a fun starting point for any discussion on why we should always think about the things that we throw away and re-use and recycle wherever possible. In particular, I hope it will lend itself to inspiring craft projects using reclaimed materials in the classroom or at home. Perhaps children could have a go at making their very own ‘loo roll’ Rosie (as demonstrated by Julia https://youtu.be/0wXIPIeypkg) or a wonderful free-form sculpture of their own?
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The Robber Raccoon by Lou Kuenzler and Julia Woolf is a new and characterful eco-friendly picture book about upcycling. It seems Rosie…