Dubai: Dubai-based Colette Barr, who has authored five books in the Eco-Heroes series, is quite the hero herself.
Ahead of her fully sold out session at the Emirates Literature Festival on February 5, the Dubai-based Scottish expat and her latest release, The Eco-heroes Exhausts Some Energy, the fifth and last book in the Eco-heroes series, have become the talk of the town — with reason.
Barr, who works for a start-up in Dubai that does mangrove restoration projects and sits on the board of a UAE ocean conservation organisation, is also known for her two-decades work in the corporate sector, management consultancy and oil and gas. But now, it’s her role as a children’s books author that is winning her precious hearts.
Children as eco-influencers
So why would someone with a background like hers become a children’s book author?
“I have a few reasons,” she says. “I wanted to do something fun as well as meaningful, so writing children’s books seemed like a great way to capture important messages in a humorous way. Children have huge kindness in their hearts and are eager to change if it helps to save animals and our planet, so they can be great eco-influencers for the older generations. Hopefully, they will be inspired by The Eco-heroes and help spread their messages.”
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Barr, who has written five books in both English and Arabic in The Eco-heroes series, with Leona ??, Creative Director, illustrating them, has been to more than 50 schools reading the stories to thousands of children. Throwing light on her latest release, she said, “The Eco-heroes Exhausts Some Energy’s hero is Ahmed from the UAE, who understands why moving towards clean renewable energy is so important for the planet. He is excited when his class is given an urgent quest to find eco-friendly transport for the future, but will his uncle help him after ‘the incident’ at the stables? You have to read it to find out about where clean renewable energy comes from and why nature has the answers.”
Barr says “anyone and everyone” can champion the cause for the environment. “There’s a climate emergency and everyone needs to act. Writing and illustrating stories with local characters relevant to the region is our way of raising awareness and encouraging others to take climate action.”
A familiar face at the annual Litfests in Dubai, Barr said, “The LitFest is a great event, bringing like-minded readers and book lovers together. It’s a fantastic opportunity for authors and creatives to celebrate their work, network and stay up to date with what’s going on in the world of books. It’s a much-loved escapism.”
She said this year’s festival is particularly significant for her. “We first appeared in 2019 with our first two books, then in 2020 for Voices of Future Generations and now again for our last book in The Eco-heroes series. It’s been great to meet other authors, both self-published and traditional.”
“We saw on the Lit Fest website that our session is sold out, but there’s a book signing afterwards. It’s always a great source of energy (excuse the pun) for us to meet our readers. We get more excited than the kids,” she added.
Ask Barr if her efforts towards protecting the environment through the Eco Heroes series is more relevant now than ever before, given the UAE’s goal to completely ban single-use plastics, she says: Yes, well, certainly addressing single-use plastics is one angle of being environmentally aware. Right now, there is a huge focus on addressing ways to achieve the UN Sustainable Development Goals and work towards the National Climate Change Plan, so the books are very timely.”
She says there are lots of ways to reduce plastic consumption at home, including refusal and reusing. “Saying no to straws and single-use items are really important in the fight against plastic, but we also need to put pressure on supermarkets, shops and restaurants (and other businesses) to stop using it. If we stop accepting it, they will hopefully stop using it too.”