A Child Author with His Sights Set On Changing the World

Photos by Emily Cordonier

He’s an award-winning author, a Child Ambassador for the United Nations, and an accomplished speaker who has stood up in front of large crowds all over the world – and he’s only eleven years old. Ottawa’s Jona David has already accomplished more in his young life than most people, but he has no intention of slowing down. Jona is a boy on a mission to help save the planet.

Jona has been writing since he was eight years old, when he penned his first book, The Epic Eco-Inventions. His debut story features an eco-inventor boy and his little brother, who together defeat a bully and gain the courage to share miraculous eco-inventions with the rest of the world. A family friend submitted Jona’s story to a United Nations program titled ‘Voices’. ‘Voices’ carefully selects and publishes the work of child authors whose stories are inspiring and empowering to children all over the world. Jona received the gold award and was named the Child Author for Europe and North America. His books have since been translated into four languages, with over 1000 copies sold and downloaded in 40 countries.

Just this month, Jona launched his latest book titled The Mechanical Chess Invention, at Kaleidoscope Books on Bank Street. Jona’s book is the third installment in his series about the eco-inventor boy and his little brother. A big component of these stories are the brilliant and sustainable inventions which Jona comes up with all on his own.

“Many invention ideas just bubble up out of my mind, or occur to me during Science Festivals, or when I’m researching online. For each invention that appears in my books, I make blueprints, and figure out what materials are needed to build it, and how it works. There is a pet robot spider, a lighting recharger that charges non-electrical things (like roller-blades), a great green vine that munches up rubbish, weather-warning mangroves that protect us from storm surges and more.”

Jona says he keeps a huge portfolio at home with drawings of all of these inventions, and each one serves a real purpose.

Even with all of the science in Jona’s writing, there is a very real human element to his stories, which is best highlighted by the relationship between the eco-inventor boy and his brother. Jona says his writing is inspired by his own relationship with his younger brother Nico.

“He’s very much like the little brother in my books – joyful, friendly, full of energy and mischief, with a strong belief in the kindness of others. He is also very protective of his friends and anyone who is unhappy or vulnerable and he cares a lot about endangered species and our planet too.”

It comes as no surprise that Jona and Nico feel so strongly about protecting the environment – they come by it honestly. The boys are the sons of Professor Marie-Claire Cordonier Segger and Dr. Markus Gehring, both of whom are highly respected lawyers with backgrounds in environmental law and sustainable development.

Jona David explains, “all of my stories are about protecting and restoring our environment, promoting eco-education and using science and technology wisely. Not just for children today, but for future generations of children.”

As part of Jona’s commitment to the rights of children and the environment, he serves as a UN Child Ambassador for the world’s Sustainable Development Goals, along with his brother Nico. Lydia Ruprecht, UNESCO’s Assistant Director-General for Education, was at Jona’s recent book launch in Ottawa and was inspired by his work.

"It is a wonderful message of hope and an inspiration to see young people like Jona and the other United Nations child authors invest their energies in the promotion of the Sustainable Development Goals. He is a true global citizen and by that I mean that he is committed to finding solutions to global challenges.”

Jona is now working on his fourth children's book for the series, titled The Cosmic Climate Invention. When he isn’t writing, Jona is a student at The Element High School. He can also be found singing in the St Matthews Boys Choir, playing chess or canoeing on the canal.