First there were the Wombles cleaning up Wimbledon Common and generally making the world a nicer place to be. Then came Captain Planet, who used the power of water, fire and (rather naffly) heart to dispatch an array of scary-faced, planet polluting baddies. The Wombles tended to unleash your inner tree-hugger while Captain Planet inspired more direct action but either way, both were great at raising awareness of the environment among children. Now there’s a newcomer on the scene: Rio Rocket.
Rio Rocket, not surprisingly, is a sprig of rocket albeit one sporting some rather natty threads and boasting an army of friends from the vegetable patch. Rio might be the star of A Frisbee to Fly but Babs Beetroot is entertaining foil for his antics along with the oddly named Albon Asparagus, Desiree Potato, Carlos Cauliflower and Stella Strawberry. There’s also a PC Peapod to bring law and order to ‘Seed City’ and its ‘seedizens’ plus a bête (or should that be bird) noire in the shape of a frisbee thieving magpie. The story itself is simple: evil magpie pinches frisbee, Rio Rocket goes on a mission with Babs Beetroot to get it back with amusing consequences.
Getting environmental messages across to small children is never the easiest of tasks but David Thomas and Amy Cooper have performed a minor miracle and turned gardening into something kids can understand. A Frisbee to Fly is beautifully illustrated too, courtesy of Valentina Cavallini, and just to be extra green, is printed on post-consumer recycled paper using vegetable inks. It also comes complete with a pack of organic Rio Rocket seeds and two little lollipop sticks so kids can measure Rio’s growing prowess. They quite possibly won’t eat it – ‘but Mum! That’s Rio…’ – but they will at least learn something about how food is grown.
Just to ram home the grow your own message, the last four pages of the book are dedicated to ‘Mission Grow’, which explains exactly how, where and when to plant your rocket seeds and offers some interesting little factoids such as (from Albon Asparagus) ‘did you know it takes asparagus two years to grow from seed?’ Well no, actually, I didn’t, so thanks for that Albon Asparagus. I also didn’t know that rocket grows so fast - it’s ready in less than two weeks. That proved real food for thought, as did the yummy (and healthy) sounding ‘Rocking Potato Pizza’ recipe. Clearly, parents have as much to learn from Rio Rocket and co as kids do.
It’s not all good news for Rio though. Children over the age of eight probably won’t be impressed; the story and the language are both too simple. It will, however, delight younger kids - especially ones who like their heroes to have a bit of get up and go. Anyone remember the poor sucker in Captain Planet who got lumbered with the ‘Heart’ power? It didn’t do anything apart from help to conjure up the Captain. Much cooler was ‘Water’ who could soak bad guys to death and ‘Earth’ who could bury them under a ton of rubble. Rio Rocket is definitely in the latter category (if a bit more gentle) and as a result, offers kids an eco hero who stands up for what he believes in. He might be a vegetable but he’s one with a wholesome message to impart and some delicious dinners to serve up. If you’re looking for Easter entertainment for your brood, Rio Rocket could well be your man. Sorry, salad.
Rio Rocket Stars in A Frisbee to Fly by David Thomas and Amy Cooper (£5, Secret Seed Society) is available from Amazon
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