John Griffith is the author of Totem Magic: Going MAD and a crew supervisor/environmental educator with the California Conservation Corps (a youth workforce development program).
Edu-taining Youth to Reconnect Them with Nature
Totem Magic: Going MAD
Hello, my name is John Griffith. I’m the author of a multicultural eco-fantasy novel for tween readers titled Totem Magic: Going MAD. Totem Magic: Going MAD weaves a fast-paced and fun story around the grim phenomena of climate change, habitat destruction, and endangered species by edu-taining you with real and imaginary environmental solutions and attitudes in a fictional world where endangered species have their own magical protectors (totem mages).
I wrote this book after noticing that many of the youth I work with in the California Conservation Corps (CCC) aren’t connected to nature in a way that promotes compassion and stewardship. This “disconnected from nature” phenomenon was given a name by a sharp observer named Richard Louv. He called it nature deficient disorder (NDD). NDD is a modern affliction caused by the indoor childhood epidemic. In other words, kids are spending more time than ever indoors—in front of electronic screens—and less time outdoors exploring and playing in nature. The more I work with the victims of an indoor childhood, the more I want to inspire them to make discoveries in nature and enjoy free-play outdoors in a way similar to my own fun and adventurous childhood. So I decided to mitigate NDD by engaging youth out in nature through my work with the CCC and by doing some creative storytelling.
Another reason I wrote Totem Magic: Going MAD was because it became obvious to me that the “wildlife conservation community” is not nearly as ethnically and economically diverse as the neighborhood that I grew up in. ALL people should have access to and be engaged with nature! ALL people should be guardians of the wild! It will take ALL of us to save our planet from the catastrophic species extinction event that we are currently experiencing. The characters in Totem Magic: Going MAD look a lot like the diverse group of youth that I work with in the CCC. That’s what makes Totem Magic: Going MAD a multicultural eco-fantasy: the character makeup looks like ALL of us. ALL types of people in my story are fighting to save ALL of nature. But…unlike us, all my characters are using pretty bizarre magic to do it.
I am donating the profits from my book to groups that help the youth in their communities get access to organic food and playtime outdoors, to wildlife care centers, and to groups that promote ethnic/racial diversity within the conservation movement. It makes me very happy to do this, and these dedicated groups need lots of donations to keep doing their great work! There are a lot of ways you can help. One way that is really fun is to buy a copy of Totem Magic: Going MAD and become a member (a totem mage) of the Totem Magic Community. To learn more and to purchase your copy, visit TotemMagic.com.
You can also check out this review from Hiking Along, Inc http://hikingalongtrails.blogspot.com/2012/08/finding-strength-as-environmental-hero.html and read the book back below.
About the Book
Enrique Salazar and Connie Ejeekwa seem like normal sixth-graders. They attend a regular public school, with the usual assortment of friends and bullies. But the two friends share a secret. They are members of Magic User families, which have been entrusted for generations to help the Earth’s endangered species without anybody else discovering their special role. These unusual “totem mages” embody the spirit of whatever animal they are born to represent and protect. Connie’s totem animal is the mountain lion, and Enrique’s is the common turkey vulture, which is not actually endangered—yet.
When Connie’s father, a leader in the Magic User community, is kidnapped by an evil witchdoctor, the two budding totem mages set out to rescue him, and possibly the entire planet. Their journey begins with a dreadlocked, high-spirited, taxi-driving witch who can be instantly summoned—at great risk—to provide a wild ride through a magical world at war.
Connie and Enrique will have to be brave and extremely clever if they hope to survive vicious attacks from the witchdoctor’s powerful gang members and the various monsters lurking in the dark corners of this supernatural world. It doesn’t help that the only two weapons they possess are Connie’s oversized, all-seeing glasses and Enrique’s magically malfunctioning flip-flops. Even worse, both are on the verge of an abrupt and mysterious preteen mental and physical change that the adult totem mages call going MAD…