Drops of Life, by Esko-Pekka Tiitinen, illustrated by Nikolai Tiitinen

Drops of Life“The strong give the weak the power to do more when the wind is behind them!”

This is a story cooperation, collaboration, and love of life on Earth.

The Book

This picture book is intended for children ages 5-8. It comes from Finland, adapted from a play created by Esko-Pekka Tiitinen for the Environment Online (ENO) Programme, which is a “global virtual school and network for sustainable development”. The play has been performed in over 70 different countries and publisher Cuento de Luz has made this picture book adaptation available in English and Spanish (titled Gotas de Vida).

The Story

A lonely owl reminisces about the seemingly care-free days of his youth. A dove, desperate to reach Africa, asks him for help. The two embark on a journey where they face death but are rescued by an unlikely new friend: a whale. From then on they reach a home different from what the dove remembers. What was once a dense forest is now desert. It is up to them, along with the sun, a gust of wind, and other animals from around the world, to plant the seed of life back into the desert. It is not easy and it takes a lot of help, including help from the humans.

This book is appealing for those who enjoy the theater arts and animal stories. It can also appeal to those who enjoy a good mystery. The story never clearly explains how the dove’s home got destroyed, nor why the owl is bogged down by the memories of his youth. Readers are free to fill in these empty spaces by looking for clues in the dialogue-rich narrative, where they can make connections between the desert landscape and humanity’s progress coupled with indifference for others and the environment. The book, however, never points a finger of blame. Instead, the focus is on how we can all cooperate and collaborate to bring back the rich forests to now sandy terrain.

The Art

Nikolai Tiitinen combines bright and vibrant colors with rich, earthy tones. The blended backgrounds emphasize the fantastic nature of the characters and plot. The illustrator pays careful attention to each animal’s face, casting them in brighter colors, which helps draw the eye to them and encourages the reader to acknowledge them and empathize with their plight.

What questions might you ask to get kids talking about the book?

  1. If you were the dove, would you have asked the owl for help? Why?
  2. Why do you think the whale’s brothers and sisters risked their lives to deliver a message?
  3. How does planting trees help everyone who lives on this planet?

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