On my daughter’s 11th birthday, she and her friends celebrated girl eco-super heroes. My daughter had a Gaia Girls themed birthday party.
Gaia Girls is a girls adventure series in which four girls are each approached by Gaia, the living organism of the earth in the form of an otter, to help her. Each of the girls has power over one of the elements: air, fire, water, or earth. Gaia, as an otter, asks each girl to help her by using the elemental power she has.
In the first book, Enter the Earth, Elizabeth uses the power of Earth to fight CAFOs (confined or concentrated animal feeding operations) that threaten her town in upstate New York. In the second book, Way of Water, Miho uses the power of Air to fight the Japanese dolphin hunt. The rest of the books are not yet published. The third book, Air Apparent, uses the power of air; the fourth book uses the power of fire; and the last three books see the four girls come together to use the powers of all four elements.
How the Party Developed
My daughter was young when the first book was published, but we read it several times. When she heard that author Lee Welles was going to speak at a green festival we were attending, she sat for hours hugging her book, waiting in the children’s area, before it was announced that Ms. Welles had not been able to make it. My daughter was so disappointed.
Half a year or so later, I happened to be in a booth next to Lee Welles at another green festival. I bought her new book, had her sign it to my daughter, and told her about my daughter so patiently waiting to meet her. She was so moved by the story, that she asked how she could make it up to her. Since we were next to one another for most of a weekend, we kept talking and together we hatched a scheme to have her call my daughter on her birthday to talk about Gaia Girls.
How We Created the Gaia Girls Party
My daughter invited five girlfriends to her party. Each invitation was tucked into a copy of Gaia Girls: Enter the Earth (book one). Most of the girls read the book before the party.
We decorated with colorful fabric scraps tied to our trees. My husband is the family creator of treasure hunts. Since all of the girls were strong readers, he made the clues fairly difficult riddles, leading the girls around our neighborhood, which is surrounded by open space and a lot of trees. The final clue led to a group of otters swimming up a blue playsilk river—a large otter hand puppet as mother with enough baby otter finger puppets for each guest.
The cake was a simple round cake decorated with the Gaia Girls logo. Each girl also decorated a donut as we talked about the elements in the logo.
As the highlight of the party, the girls talked on the phone with Lee Welles, asking her questions about Gaia Girls and about writing.
My daughter and her guests knew that they were going to be talking to the author, but they didn’t know that she had sent my daughter a gift: a chapter from the as-yet unpublished Air Apparent, her next book. Keeping in mind that these were 11-year old girls, there was a lot of happy screaming.
All we bought for the party were books, puppets, donuts, and food to make lunch. I made and decorated the cake, and we used my fabric scraps as colorful decorations outside. We created and printed invitations and treasure hunt clues. We used the left-over colored cake frosting to decorate donuts. The party was simple and focused, but the girls had a lot of time to just run around our house to talk and play. It was a good balance of structured and open time.
It probably isn’t practical to plan a party around an author’s call unless you happen into a lucky situation like I did. This is a great age to plan a party around a favorite book, though. My son is a reader of the Percy Jackson series, and he attended a party around that theme. Any favorite book might suggest a birthday party theme.
The seven-book series is still two books long because author Lee Welles is busy being the Deputy Mayor of Corning, New York, at the moment. My daughter feels attached to the element of fire, so she is anxiously awaiting the publication of book three so she can then anxiously await the publication of book four about fire.
That my daughter was able to share an earth-friendly theme with her friends—they talked about what it means to raise animals in CAFOs—led to further conversations about how each of them could take steps to green their lives. It’s a simple step, but it’s a step. Every step is good.
The Gaia Girls blog is updated frequently and is still a good place for any older child to begin to make connections between the beauty of the earth around them and the need to act to protect the natural world.