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Julian Lennon Teaches Eco Awareness in New Children’s Book – with a Tender Nod to His Rock-Legend Dad

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Deborah Anderson

Julian Lennon is teaching children how to “Imagine” a better world — and build it themselves.

Like his rock-icon father John Lennon, the 54-year-old musician, photographer, film producer and activist is using his art as a rallying cry.

With a little help from his friends, New York Times bestselling author Bart Davis and Croatian illustrator Smiljana Coh, he’s written Touch the Earth, the first in a planned trilogy of illustrated books designed to educate children on the fragile beauty of the planet — and what they can do to protect it.

Out Tuesday (just ahead of Earth Day on April 22), a portion of the proceeds will go to support the efforts of Lennon’s White Feather Foundation, which fights for environmental and humanitarian causes across the globe.

Lennon spoke to PEOPLE about Touch the Earth, its message and its touching connection to his late father.

Sky Pony Press

PEOPLE: What moved you to write the book series?

Julian: After having written songs about environmental and humanitarian issues, worked as executive producer on several award winning documentaries and founded the White Feather Foundation, I asked myself what was next in that line of thought and direction. What could I do to reach people who were complacent about those very issues?

After a lovely chat with a dear friend of mine, Bart Davis — an incredibly talented writer — we mulled over the idea that [children] were the only age group I hadn’t really reached out to, as such. So we decided to play around with ideas, until we came up with the first book together.

PEOPLE: What’s your writing process like?

Julian: My writing process is much like my songwriting and lyric process. I come up with an idea or concept, then fine-tune it until it makes sense to me as a whole, and also touches me emotionally to the degree that I feel anyone else listening or reading it would feel the same, emotionally, as I do.

PEOPLE: What inspired you when you were writing? Did you have a muse?

Julian: The future of our planet. Mother Earth is my muse!

PEOPLE: What books did you read (or have read to you) when you were growing up?

Julian: My earliest recollection of characters in books that inspired me were of Rupert Bear and Dr. Seuss, amongst others.

PEOPLE: What do you hope readers will take away from the books?

Julian: I would hope that these books would serve as a gentle reminder of how beautiful the world we live in is, as well as the problems we face on a daily basis. And also I hope it would nurture the relationship between parent and child, and prompt discussion about life and love, too.

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PEOPLE: The “White Feather” is a symbol that crops up a lot for you, both in the story and the name of the foundation. Can you tell me about its significance?

Julian: Dad once said to me that should he pass away, if there was a way of letting me know he was okay, the message would come in the form of a white feather. Then, while on tour with the album Photograph Smile [1998] in Australia, I was presented with a white feather by an Aboriginal tribal elder.

It definitely took my breath away. The White Feather Foundation was created for the purpose of giving a voice and support to those who cannot be heard. The tribal elders asked for my help, as I could bring awareness to their plight and to others who were suffering the same. Having had the white feather bestowed upon me, I knew this endeavor was to be part of my destiny. The white feather has always represented peace to me, as well as communication.