Meet the author taking kids to Antarctica to combat climate change

Published 04 June 2022

Image the book's cover

With World Environment Day being marked tomorrow, Deception Bay’s Damian Castellini is using his new graphic novel to mobilise kids to go green, without preaching or alarming them.

He is sharing his passion for the environment, reading and leading in Pip & Pete’s Antarctic Adventure, aimed at kids aged 8-10 years and stocked at Moreton Bay Regional Council libraries.

The novel, co-written by Martine Allars and published through Australian Geographic, follows Pip and Pete as they save wildlife through friendship, fun and heroic acts of conservation.

“Martine and I want the message to be proactive and encouraging. There’s plenty of messaging out there scaring people or appealing to their guilt. We don’t shy away from the bad stuff, but we want to focus on the good that can be done,” Mr Castellini said.

“The message of the book is to be positively engaged in events around you. Kids can be weighed down with by the current state of things, but it’s important to remind them it's not all doom and gloom.”

Mr Castellini has been borrowing from libraries since arriving from Argentina as a five-year-old and learning English by reading their comics and books.

With Pip & Pete’s Antarctic Adventure he hopes to pass the torch, helping children with reading, reasoning and communication.

 “It’s very much in the spirit of Asterix or Tintin. When we moved to Australia, I was given a battered copy of Asterix the Gaul. It had a strong influence on me over the years.

“We did not have a lot of money for things like comics so I would read Usagi Yojimbo, Tintin, Bone and Asterix from the library. They are timeless stories.

“Being able to use visual cues helped me read, learn words, develop interests - and that led to more complex books that helped me hone my critical thinking, build confidence and access opportunities around me. I developed skills in drawing, writing and story-telling that I use in my adult life.

“In some small way, I hope I can do the same with Pip and Pete - help others from modest backgrounds, both in learning and in being mindful, being involved in the community and caring about wildlife.”

Mr Castellini said he has long had an interest in wildlife, the environment and conservation, that flourished since moving to the Moreton Bay Region and seeing community groups caring and advocating for koalas.

“Nature is far greater than we are. It's vitally important, and worth trying to reconnect with, especially if you grew up in the city as I did.

“Youth can get involved and make a change. Look at people such as Greta Thunberg. She has had a strong impact and it resonates. You don’t need to be a genius or have money. Even if you make mistakes and stuff up, you can make a positive impact.”

Mr Castellini and his partner Michelle are minimising their environmental footprint, planting lots of trees at home, establishing a permaculture system, swapping produce with neighbours, and making their own jams and preserves.

“We like to get out and help with tree replanting, bushcare activities and Clean Up Australia Day.

“I enjoy being out in nature and always carry a sketchbook. It is an inspiration for my writing and drawing. I prefer not to scroll through social media for ideas.”

Mr Castellini said he has the outlines for more stories and is working on a children's book with his partner about a girl who befriends a daffy huntsman spider.

“It’s aimed at a younger audience and aspires to help readers understand that wildlife isn’t all cute and cuddly koalas, and that these creatures are equally worthy of our appreciation.

“I try to make my stories for all ages. I don’t include a lot of violence or swearing. I'm not adverse to them. They have their place, but I don’t think you need to rely on that to tell a story.”