Essay contest winner examines themes of colonialism and climate change in her favourite children’s book

Essay contest winner examines themes of colonialism and climate change in her favourite children's book

Norah DeWolfe

Grade 12 student Norah DeWolfe won King’s Essay Writing Contest by writing about The Wump World by Bill Peet.

Each year, the King’s Essay Writing Contest for High School Students invites grade 12 students to explore a question through a 1,000-word essay written on a text of their choice. This year the question was, what book written before you were born should Canadians read, and why?

The initial spark for Norah DeWolfe’s prize-winning essay “The Wump World: A World For None, A Book For All” proves that inspiration comes from the strangest places.

“My friend had actually inspired this creative outlook,” says DeWolfe, explaining that while her friend didn’t enter the contest, her idea to write the essay about the driver’s manual got DeWolfe thinking.

DeWolfe wanted a text that “wasn’t just a classic book.” She wanted her choice to be both creative and accessible to all Canadians—especially children. Her choice? Bill Peet’s The Wump World. Her parents said The Wump World was one of her favourite books when she was a child, so she decided to write about it.

In DeWolfe’s essay she argues that Bill Peet’s The Wump World is a book about the consequences of colonization, climate change, and consumerism. DeWolfe writes that Peet “demonstrates the versatility of [the children’s book] in its ability to transmit important messages to all readers.” In The Wump World, the Wump’s planet is invaded by the Pollutians, who were forced to leave their own planet because it became uninhabitable. The Pollutians demand for more of everything, buildings, smokestacks, freeways and cars. This creates more pollution and waste going into rivers and lakes, resulting in so much damage that the Pollutians decide to leave and find a new planet to colonize.

Workshop and Contest held annually

This is the second year of the King’s Essay Writing Contest for High School Students. Before the contest deadline, students have the opportunity to attend a writing workshop led by Foundation Year Program faculty who explain how to write an academic essay, from writing a thesis to editing their paper.

When DeWolfe reread the book, she found that its core messages resonated. The effects of climate change, colonization, and consumerism have “become a broader conversation,” DeWolfe says, and that across all of her classes, she and her fellow students have been discussing these social issues.

“I think part of the [reason] I liked The Wump World is because it touches on [those issues], but in a way that can be digested at different levels and can be interpreted by different groups of people.”

DeWolfe said it was important for a book addressing social issues to have an optimistic ending.

“The end of the book, where there’s that little glimpse of hope, I think that’s really important, because that shows that it’s not over yet,” she says. At the end of the story, after the Pollutians leave to find another planet, the Wumps come out of hiding and discover a grassy meadow, and a shoot of grass coming up through the concrete, symbols of hope for the future of their planet.

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