Alan J Hesse

Children's Books, Comics & Graphic Novels

Author Profile

Alan J Hesse

After having developed his conservation career in such exciting places as Bolivia, Mexico, Ecuador (including the Galápagos islands) and Colombia Alan decided in August 2018 to quit his job and launch himself 100% towards his first true vocation: having by now published three full-length comic books respectively about natural history, evolution and climate change Alan's dream is to become a best-selling author of comics that combine fiction, non-fiction, humour, satire and adventure in order to educate, entertain, and inspire personal engagement towards bettering our world. Website: www.alanhesse.com

Books

The Adventures of Captain Polo: Polo in East Africa

Children's Books

Travelling the world to learn about climate change is dangerous work: Captain Polo dodges bullets in East Africa, gets chased by furious, knife-wielding market sellers in the streets of Cairo, narrowly escapes getting arrested by Italian coastguards in the Mediterranean Sea, and gets captured in London Zoo!


Today's climate crisis may be the most serious environmental issue in human history.

Understanding the causes and effects of climate change can be complicated and confusing. This funny adventure comic packed with action and interesting climate change facts teaches what we can all do to fight global warming. 

If you are a kid aged 9 or above, you will LOVE Polo and his funny adventures in India, Africa and Europe! If you are a teacher, this educational graphic novel for kids will help make your lessons about global warming, environment and sustainability fun and engaging. If you are a parent or grand parent, you will find answers to your inquisitive children's questions about climate change, geography, migration, foreign cultures and green living! 

In this book, Book 3 of the ebook edition series, you can follow Polo's journey out of India, across Africa and into Europe. 


In between Polo's funny adventures you will discover:

  • How climate change is affecting tribal societies and wildlife in Africa.
  • What global warming means for the survival of the ancient Nile river system. 
  • How climate change is linked to human migration from war-torn countries.
  • How Polo meets an ex-president of the United States and other climate champions.
  • Practical, everyday tips on what we can all do to help fight global warming.

Follow Polo's epic journey all the way to the end!

Book Bubbles from The Adventures of Captain Polo: Polo in East Africa

Tips from Polo for Climate Change Day

This Sunday 21st June is World Climate Change Day. As the world continues to struggle with COVID19 and recent events in the US justifiably refocus the spotlight on racial injustice, it is also important not to forget the bigger picture. The broader crisis of global warming. On this page extracted from my educational comic, my main character, Captain Polo, gets a chance to deliver a talk to a bunch of school kids in a typical East London state school. Questions and Answers abound, but Polo has a couple of useful cards up his sleeve on exactly what kids can do at home and at school to pitch in to the fight to reduce global warming. Check it out.

Human conflict, justice and climate change

It's all connected. Fighting climate change is not only about saving polar bears and planting trees. It is also about fighting for basic human rights. Racial prejudice and social inequity, as recent events in the US have reminded us, are still part of our global society. These drive human conflict and suffering, and all of this falls into the mix of global ecosystem collapse, public health crises, and climate change. When I created my first climate change comic, I knew I had to somehow also address these broader issues. This page shows an excerpt from my comic that touches upon the link between climate change and war refugees. On his crossing from Egypt to Europe, Polo helps rescue a Syrian war refugee and an elderly man fleeing from politically oppressive, drought-ridden Eritrea. Both hope they will be accepted as legal migrants in Italy. Both are victims of war, oppression, and also climate change. I hope that as an accessible comic book character, Polo will help bring the awareness of these broad issues to children and adults alike.

Polo the Bear's cap gets stolen

This week's author insight from my educational comic, The Adventures of Polo the Bear: a Story of Climate Change, is about surprises. I am always careful to shake things up in my comics: it can't be all about education all the time: there has to be some fun too, it has to be a roller coaster ride. My favorite way of shaking up the educational facts and serious stuff is to draw a crazy slapstick scene. Like on this page, where a thief steals Polo's cap (for no particular reason) in the Cairo souk. This is exciting, fun and exotic. It is also surprising, especially for Polo: who would dare to try to steal his beloved cap?! Mixing education with entertainment is a very fine line, and I don't always get the right mix. Working on it... By the way, all those Arabic words are real... can you figure out what they say?

Maasai land loss, lions and trophy hunting

This week's Author Insight from The Adventures of Polo the Bear is about being creative. Specifically in this case, how to address, on one comic-strip page, several different but inter-related environmental and social issues, each of them serious and unacceptable, while also being funny and entertaining. This page is a good example of what I think works. In this sequence my character Polo the bear learns about the land-rights injustices faced by Maasai pastoralists, and the (related) effects of global warming and profit-greedy tourism on lions (and on Maasai). As if that were not enough, he also gets shot at by a trophy hunter - a coherent means of instantly inserting action and humour into what would otherwise be quite heavy technical content.

Using humour to address complex issues

This week's author insight is from part 3 of my first climate change comic, The Adventures of Polo the Bear. Polo's message on this page is that of restraint. In the story, he resists the temptation to accept a free 1st class air ticket, aware that he has to show the example to others. I make use of supporting characters like the mediocre civil servant and the pushy TV presenter to press the notion that solving the planet's environmental problems will require all of us to make changes in our lifestyle. Flying less is just an example. Hopefully, kids reading this page will get the general message: consume less, and always be aware of the environmental impact of your actions.

Celebrate Earth Day with climate action

As the more environmentally aware celebrate the 50th Earth Day around the world, I am inspired to share this page from my educational comic book, The Adventures of Polo the Bear. In this scene, Polo enjoys seeing an actual climate change solution: roof gardens. Using plants (rather than greenhouse gas-emitting air conditioners) Leila and her grandma not only cool down their entire apartment building, which being in Cairo, Egypt, is a big deal, but they also provide food for their family and sell the surplus to neighbors, thereby also ticking the box of empowering women and girls, a key element in achieving sustainability and social justice.

Doom and gloom is not the way to go

Whether its your reaction to a pandemic such as COVID19 or to the far more serious, underlying meltdown of natural systems as a result of global warming, despair is not the answer. There are always solutions. This week I want to draw attention to the caricature of a 'doom and gloom' person as seen in the excerpt from my book, The Adventures of Polo the Bear. This character's attitude is actually harmful, because it paralyses action to effect change. Our world needs change: we can no longer take Earth's natural resources for granted. The global lockdown is showing us that Nature is resilient: it CAN and DOES recover remarkably quickly. Here is a lesson for us all. Clear water in Venetian canals and greatly reduced air pollution over Beijing is what good looks like. COVID19 will pass, the climate emergency will not, unless we learn and inspire each other to do better.

Coronavirus is temporary, climate is not

In this time of anxiety as the world shuts down because of the COVID19, its easy to lose sight of the bigger picture. The pandemic will pass, but global warming is here to stay, with potentially catastrophic consequences for all life on Earth, unless societies all around the world rally to support the solutions that do exist. This week's author insight from Polo the Bear's adventure comic is an invitation to reflect on the fact that COVID 19 in a sense is leveling the playing field: we are ALL immediately affected, regardless of our socioeconomic circumstances. Climate Change however, is felt first and most by the millions of people living on the edge of survival. They pay the highest price yet they are the least responsible for the greenhouse gas emissions destroying us all. Let's use this lockdown time to reflect on our lifestyles and commit to engage towards a better world for all.

Fables of the Amazon: Fun Lessons in Ecology

Children's Books

Explore the secrets of the Amazon jungle creatures in this comic book of children's fables.

The funny comic strips in this book feature facts about jungle animals drawn from actual field observations made by the conservation scientist authors. 

Natural history and ecology are fascinating but complex subjects. What better way to discover them than through a comic that is both funny and scientifically accurate? A perfect learning resource for nature-loving kids and adults, as well as for science teachers! 


Fables of the Amazon  


What you will discover:

  • Eleven comic strip short fables featuring a wide array of South American jungle animals. Each fable comes with an ecology lesson.
  • An intimate look at the secret lives of wild guinea pigs, rare macaws, jaguars, leaf-cutter ants, the elusive Maned Wolf, and many others.
  • The authors' own natural history notes from the field with photos and cartoons.

Meet the quirky and unique animal characters of the mighty Amazon forest by buying this book!

A word about the authors Conservation scientists Dr Louise Emmons and Alan J. Hesse have decades of field experience in the jungles of South America. Their unique, personal knowledge of wild animals and the secrets of the tropical forest is revealed in these short stories, brought to life by the humour of cartoons.

Book Bubbles from Fables of the Amazon: Fun Lessons in Ecology

A lesson for us all: the cricket and the ants

Who is better prepared for a sudden wildfire - the cricket enjoying a martini in a hammock, or the ants slavishly carrying pieces of leaves and soil back to their nest? This comic-strip story, one of 11 in my book co-authored with wildlife ecologist Louise Emmons, was directly inspired by the timeless fables of La Fontaine, which I enjoyed reading over and over when I was a kid. I believe much of humanity is similar to the cricket, enjoying the moment with little thought for what's coming. COVID19 is an example of this: as human consumption continues to degrade natural systems, we will be exposed to more such pandemics. Its time to learn from the ants and practice restraint: prepare for the future!

How much do you know about dung beetles?

As kids all over the world are trapped indoors under Coronavirus lockdown it's a perfect time to get into the weeds about subjects we normally don't think about. Such as the daily life of a dung beetle, for example. This page is an extract from my very first educational comic book, Fables of the Amazon, which I co-authored with field ecologist Dr. Louise Emmons. The science in this book is mostly based on the authors' own field observations in the tropics of South America. That's what makes it unique. So, dung beetles. Turns out they love poo. Any poo. Do you know why, and do you know why its important? Even for you? Want to find out? Of course you do!

The Adventures of Captain Polo: The Climate Change Comic

Children's Books

Information on climate change and global warming is often overwhelming and confusing. 

This funny adventure comic will take readers aged 9 and above on a global journey of discovery that will help them understand the causes and effects of climate change around the world, what people are doing about it, and how each one of us can make a difference. 


This educational graphic novel for kids is also for attentive parents, creative teachers and anyone who is concerned about climate change and wants to learn more by reading a fiction story that is visually stimulating, fun to read and scientifically accurate. Captain Polo and the many colourful characters he meets on his journey will introduce you to interesting climate change facts and not only teach you what the main terms and concepts of climate change actually mean and how these are reflected around the world, but also several things everyone can do every day to help reduce the effects of climate change. 

Book Bubbles from The Adventures of Captain Polo: The Climate Change Comic

Such a beautiful world

Following the inspiration of Kathy Meis, founder and CEO of Bublish, this week's Author Insight from 'The Adventures of Polo the Bear: a Story of Climate Change' isn't about crises, problems and serious stuff. It's about what's still beautiful in the world. Many of us feel inspired, in this time of unprecedented quiet as the world is in Coronavirus Lockdown, by the immensity of the ocean. On this page from my book, Polo, being a bear, is naturally more concerned about finding food. As he does so, way out in the middle of the vast Pacific, he also experiences wonder at the surprises that await him in the ocean. Whales, sharks, puffer fish, and countless other fabulous sea creatures are still out there, swimming, pulsating, floating, diving in the immensity of the world's oceans. May they endure the folly of Mankind, forever.

The eccentric scientist

This week's Book Bubble is all about character study. A good story must have strongly defined characters. On this page, we meet an unnamed marine biologist researching the effects of global warming on corals. For this character, my inspiration came from two sources: the biologist looks a bit like my ex-boss, named Rafa. The character's behaviour, however, was inspired by a character in a Tintin book called 'The Calculus Affair'. I love this character. Italian, excitable and passionate, possessor of great technical knowledge, he is also emotionally driven and prone to sudden outbursts. As we see on this page with our crazy biologist!

Polo has an accident

This week's book bubble from The Adventures of Polo the Bear is not about climate change at all. It is about what makes a good story. Bublish's suggestion for this week's author insight is to show how the author is taking steps to to reach their audience. For this book, my primary audience is pre-adolescent children in the 9-12 age range. As such, throughout the book I have sought to entertain as well as educate: after all, who needs another boring text book! To achieve this I liberally sprinkled the comic book with pages of pure adventure, drama or humor. Often all three. Here is an instance of this strategy to make my comic both informative AND fun to read. Note the cliff hanger at the end. Comments welcome!

Climate refugees

This week's bubble is all about Polo's encounter with a boatload of climate refugees from the island of Kiribati. When we consider the effects of global warming, we may not easily perceive the very real, life-changing impacts affecting entire populations right now. This is the situation facing thousands of inhabitants of small island nations, such as in Oceania, where rising sea levels are already rendering people homeless in the most literal sense. The awful irony, is that by the very nature of their lifestyles, these front line victims of global warming are the people who contribute the very least to the problem. My aim in including this sequence in the book was to open up the reader's mind to this reality and hopefully stimulate them to find out more about climate refugees and other issues of climate justice.

Consumer behaviour

Greenhouse gases end up in the atmosphere and warm up the Earth ultimately because of how human consumers behave. Our industrialised populations want it all, all the time, and the Earth simply can't take it any more. In my comic I wanted to somehow address this, and I did so in various ways throughout the book. This excerpt shows a caricatural take on excessive fuel consumption to run a typical SUV in a society in which such consumption is regarded as normal. The supermarket scenes, by way of stereotype, similarly reveal excessive and irresponsible consumption habits. At this stage of the book, Polo is still just a bear who is lost and whose main concern is finding something to eat. He knows nothing of climate change or sustainability. As he continues his travels however, we begin to see his evolution. See you next week for the following Author Insight!

How Polo got his cap

Prospective readers of 'The Adventures of Polo the Bear' might wonder how the main character came to be in possession of a sailor's cap and a boat. This passage of the book explains it all. It was important to establish Polo as a strongly identifiable character, and I feel satisfied that his cap helps achieve this. A strong main character is fundamental to build a good story, and to uphold future books in the series. Think of Tintin for example. Or the Asterix and Obelix duo. It is also important for copyright reasons: from what I have gleaned from my research, a book character that satisfies the criteria for being strongly recognisable and unique is automatically protected under international copyright law. As authors, we need to think of these things early on in the process.

Polo's journey begins

When I decided to create a comic about climate change it was pretty obvious to me that my main character needed to be a polar bear. The Arctic is one of the most seriously impacted regions on the planet because of human-accelerated global warming. This has many broader implications that are already affecting the whole planet, but of course polar bears and the entire food chain upon which these magnificent predators depend are being immediately affected. Page 2 of my comic, seen in this excerpt, develops the context of how Polo the bear, isolated from the melting Arctic sea icepack, gets involved with North Atlantic fishermen and starts his epic global odyssey.

The Adventures of Captain Polo Polo and the Yeti

Children's Books

Captain Polo is devastated. His precious boat is in pieces, lying at the bottom of the Pacific Ocean, and he is locked in the hold of a fishing vessel, destined to be sold to a zoo in China... How will he get out of this?!

In this sequel to Part 1 of the ebook version of this educational graphic novel for kids, Captain Polo continues his epic journey around the world. He faces countless dangers and obstacles on a path that will take him across China, up the mighty Himalaya mountains into the forbidden monasteries of Tibet, through the swampy delta of Bangladesh, and into India. On his voyage Polo meets many colourful, informative, heroic, kind, mischievous and also dangerous characters, ranging from an enlightened Chinese farmer to a jealous Fakir, a disgruntled Bengal Tiger to the Dalai Lama himself. On his way Polo also meets and learns from a character drawn from legend...

Every step of the way Polo hones his understanding of the causes and effects of climate change, the true meaning of global warming and how it is affecting all living creatures and human societies. Polo also witnesses the heroic efforts of individuals, human groups and governments who are learning to adapt to a changing world, reduce their carbon footprints by innovating in the use of cutting edge technology and becoming leaders in the adoption of clean energy. 

Book 2 of this comic series makes a broad but accurate summary of scientific information documenting real actions and government policies from some of the world's largest players in the global fight against the climate disaster. Presented through the eyes and travels of Captain Polo, this funny adventure comic will immerse readers aged 9 and above in interesting climate change facts, in a manner that is engaging, fun and easy to understand.

Book Bubbles from The Adventures of Captain Polo Polo and the Yeti

Creative thinking in a time of crisis

This week's Author Insight from The Adventures of Polo the Bear is about the floating vegetable gardens of Bangladesh. This is a remarkable example of creative thinking under tough circumstances that are only getting worse as Bangladesh continues to suffer extreme flooding from rising sea levels brought about by global warming. As the world today is paralyzed by the coronavirus, people all around the world are drawing on their creativity to take care of each other and provide solutions. This is the human way, this is what made it possible for our species to survive for so long, and it is what we need to keep on doing in order to preserve our own future and what is left of life on Earth.

The land of contrasts

This week's author insight book bubble from 'The Adventures of Polo the Bear' is an example of how much technical information can be squeezed into one page of a comic strip, and the challenges that poses. Constrained by the bubbles, I had to be ruthlessly selective with the information I chose to portray. India is a land of contrast in many ways; I know, I was born on the India -Pakistan border and I have lived in India for 3 years and returned twice since. India's dual personality is also reflected in its position with climate change: one of the top emitters of greenhouse gases, it is also on the cutting edge of green energy. Gandhi-style, Polo explores all this and much more atop the roof of a speeding train.

Polo and the Yeti

Polo the bear's travels include the Himalayas, where he meets several interesting characters, none more so than the fabled Yeti. I saw this encounter as a fantastic opportunity to merge humour with climate change facts, while at the same time giving rare free rein to the world of fantasy and legend. Whether the Yeti really exists or not is irrelevant to the plot: the fact is that if this creature did exist, it would surely be affected by global warming, which in the Himalayas as in other mountain ranges, manifests mainly by melting of ice fields, and a shift from regular snowfall to erratic rainfall. Here again, I drew graphic inspiration from Hergé's 'Tintin in Tibet', where the Yeti also makes an appearance. I myself had a lot of fun drawing and writing the dialogues for this page. In fact, I laughed the whole time I was doing it!

Polo's capture

The excerpt I want to share this week is about Polo's capture by a Chinese tuna long liner. This is a kind of fishing vessel, very common especially in the western Pacific Ocean, which is where this scene takes place. The state of the world's oceans is deplorable, and its not only the plastic trash. Another major problem is overfishing, which also directly affects endangered species. China, among other nations, takes a lot of blame for unregulated fishing, much of it in foreign waters. I hope this page clearly brings attention to this serious issue. To add story-telling zest and humour I was inspired by a typical sequence seen in Hergé's Tintin, with the exploding radio. (Author's revelation: the sign the blown-up radio operator is reading originally said 'Made in China'. My editors convinced me to censor that out...). I really enjoyed drawing that radio blowing up!

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