What One Book Can Teach Children About Solving World’s Problems

By Sonia Toledo, Founder, Dignity of Children


Last week, Ladderworks Publishing launched the picture book, Spiffy’s Space Chronicles: The Flood on Fanoolu.


At the launch, I had the honor of moderating a panel that included Spiffy’s writer, Shaun Sim, Spiffy’s illustrator, Shreyas Navare, Klo’e Ng, Co-Founder of Project Cube, and Jonathan Hamilt, Global Programming Director of Drag Queen Story Hour.


We talked about their experience collaborating, using creativity to tell an impactful and moving story, and what they learned from the process—and what children can learn from it, too.


Read on to hear what they had to say.



Who is Spiffy?


Spiffy is a gender non-conforming interplanetary space journalist. This edition of their space chronicles is reported from the planet Fanoolu, where disaster has struck! While investigating the flood, they encounter Lolo, Rondi, and Mak: space aliens who must learn to understand their differences, work together, and solve the problem plaguing their planet.


Why does Spiffy’s story matter?


Klo’e, Shuan, and Shreyas collaborated to bring about this book, which tells the story of three very different characters who learn about inclusivity and problem-solving through collaboration.


Does it sound like make-believe? Parts of the story are. But others are inspired by real-life events, like the development of Project Cube. Klo’e and the other founders of Project Cube developed modular classrooms in response to the real estate shortage in Singapore. Afterwards, they found that these modular classrooms could be installed in other areas and nations, and as a consequence preserve the integrity of education in disaster areas. By interviewing Klo’e and the other two co-founders of Project Cube, Shuan was inspired to create the characters of Lolo, Rondi, and Mak.


In the making of the characters, Shuan relied on his background in linguistics to invent names that represent the characters’ unique personalities—characteristics that Shreyas used in the development of the illustrations that bring Spiffy and the crew to life on the page.


The result? A lot of teamwork, and a beautiful book.


What did they learn?


I won’t give away the ending, but—like Klo’e, Shuan, and Shreyas—Lolo, Rondi, and Mak learn a lot about how to work together to solve problems that don’t have obvious answers: a lesson that many of us need when disaster occurs, or when we are in crisis—to work as a team and use the resources around us to create solutions.


The Flood on Fanoolu has several important messages for kids. Messages about teamwork, inclusivity, courage, resilience, and thinking differently.


Here’s some advice to kids from the book’s creators and members of the panel:


Sometimes the best solutions are at hands around us. Observe and learn. Observe how different people solve problems and become a better educated, better problem-solver.


Shuan Sim, Creative Writer


For everyone person that sees that your idea is great, there will be another person that sees your idea as not great. But you will always have to remember that whatever you’re doing has meaning, it has potential, and just hold onto that because there will always be detractors.


Klo’e Ng, Co-Founder of Project Cube


If you use your creativity and ingenuity, you can problem-solve. And the great thing about creativity is that there’s no boundaries, so you can kind of step out of the binary and find a unique solution to any problem.


Jonathan Hamilt, Executive Director of Drag Queen Story Hour.


What’s next?


Ladderworks publishes children’s picture books created by diverse storytellers for diverse readers. Each edition of Spiffy’s Space Chronicles tells the story of a startup that is working to counterbalance a contemporary issue. Get your copy of Spiffy’s Space Chronicles: The Flood on Fanoolu or learn about Spiffy’s next adventure here.


And, if you’re looking for ways to inspire your kids to work together and think differently, check out DOC’s PBL projects. These programs develop a range of 21st century skills in kids, focusing on creativity, collaboration, problem-solving, and other key skills that prepare kids to face—and solve! —the world’s problems.