Episode 75: Changing the Narrative about Climate Change with Author Rab Ferguson

On this week's dose of book recommendations, library love, and literary enthusiasm, our guest is debut author Rab Ferguson. He's written a young adult climate change novel, Landfill Mountains, that blends all the coming-of-age and young love of YA with a bleak, futuristic landscape and eerie characters plucked straight from folktales. The result is an ode to the fragile beauty of our planet and the timeless art of oral storytelling. I first met Rab through the Big Kids Book Club Podcast, and today we have a great chat about storytelling and its role in his life and career, as well as what inspired his first book. We also swap some great book recommendations

Get in touch with Rab on his website and @rabtales on InstagramTwitter, and TikTok.

Don't miss the giveaway of one copy of Landfill Mountains on the Library Laura Podcast social media accounts thanks to Onwe PressFollow the Library Laura Podcast on InstagramFacebook, and Twitter.

Buy a copy of Landfill Mountains as a book or ebook today! (affiliate links) 

Books from today's episode are on the Library Laura storefront on bookshop.org (affiliate link)

Landfill Mountains by Rab Ferguson

This book blends all the coming-of-age and young love of YA with a bleak, futuristic landscape and eerie characters plucked straight from folktales. The result is an ode to the fragile beauty of our planet and the timeless art of oral storytelling. Landfill Mountains took me out of my comfort zone as a reader, but it will stick with me for a long time. Ferguson’s portrayal of the heaps of refuse in the landfill took me straight back to the time I visited the Guatemala City trash dump and met the people who live alongside it, gathering anything of value that could help them survive. But then he introduced a twist— this magical element to the novel. A Storyteller’s folktales start coming to life, strange events begin to occur, and Joe and his town will never be the same. This book is both a call to action and an invitation to reflection, and as such it is beautifully done. (Also available on Amazon

Laura in the settlements that line the trash dump in Guatemala City.
She was reminded of this trip while reading Landfill Mountains. 

Rab first got into storytelling thanks to theater. He's even worked as a professional storyteller, something I didn't know existed until this conversation. He will memorize the main points of a story and then tell it to a live audience anywhere from children in libraries to adults in pubs. The telling of the story changes every time and is an interactive experience with the audience. 

You can see the influences of his storytelling background in Landfill Mountains, as we even have the grandfather who is the Storyteller for the village. His stories change with each telling, and go on to play an important part in the magical realism aspects of the novel. 

The landfill setting also came from Rab's days in theater. He was tasked with coming up with an interesting set design, and ended up designing a scene where people in the future were living off what remained from previous generations on the edge of a landfill. It wasn't until later when this story thread combined with the folklore element to create what we now have in Landfill Mountains. 

Rab became a father during the Pandemic, and we talked about what influence that's had on his reading and writing. In terms of reading, he is keeping his New Year's resolution to read aloud to their daughter everyday. She's started to pick up on the fact that books are treasured objects in their home, and she'll even look at them on her own these days. Rab's father read aloud to him as a child, and he advocates for continuing reading to your kids as long as they'll put up with it. It's great for little kids, but older kids can enjoy the stories and connection with an adult too. 

In terms of writing, becoming a father has added a certain urgency to his writing that was previously lacking. Rab said, "I want to show my daughter that you can finish things and make them exist." Rab saw this in his own father, who is a songwriter. 

He's also changed his writing time. While he was previously an evening writer, morning is his most productive writing time these days. He's enjoying the feeling of productivity at the start of his day. It's too early to say if that's changed the nature of the his writing itself...stay tuned! 

Books mentioned on this episode

Animorphs series  - A series for kids with characters that can turn into animals to fight off mind-controlling aliens. Rab got a strong start on reading with the Animorph series. He enjoyed that they were accessible and immersive, plus there were 52+ books to keep him engrossed for a long time. He wasn't always the most confident reader, but it was something he loved and therefore improved over time. (Amazon link)

Wizard of Earthsea and the Earthsea Cycle series by Ursula Le Guin  - One of the worlds that "lives in my brain" according to Rab. His dad read these books aloud. One of the themes in this book, that names have power, shows up in Landfill Mountains. (Amazon link)

His Dark Materials Trilogy by Philip Pullman - This series, beginning with the Golden Compass, is so rich. It's one of the other worlds that Rab experienced as a younger reader that continues to live in his brain. (Amazon link)

Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo - Rab picked this up at YALC, where he also met Marcus from Big Kids Book Club podcast! (Amazon link)

The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins - A book that Rab might not have picked up if it wasn't for the Big Kids Book Club. Emma, one of the other monthly guests on the show, just kept talking about how much she loved this series which influenced Rab to actually read it. (Amazon link)

The Raven Heir by Stephanie Burgis - Rab enjoyed this book, which incidentally has a main character that can transform into an animal, which harkens back to his childhood appreciation of Animorphs. (Amazon link)

A Dangerous Game by Malorie Blackman - This is the book that we didn't know the name of during the podcast episode! It's about a boy with a long-term illness who goes on a school trip. There's bullies and unintended consequences and Sam must decide how to handle the circumstances he's thrown into. (Amazon link

The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman - Rab loves this book as a great work of literature for kids. He also loves that it leaves gaps in the explanations of the magic that allows kids to fill in with their imagination. This is the only Gaiman book I've read, and I enjoyed it! It's also a Newbery Award winner.  Rab said I need to be sure and read some other books by Neil Gaiman! (Amazon link

Something Wicked This Way Comes by Ray Bradbury - Rab recommends this book as magical, dark, and with interesting characters, perfect for fall reading. Bradbury was a huge influence on Gaiman as well. (Amazon link

Moby Dick by Herman Melville - Part of Rab's day job is working with The Reader, a charity that promotes shared reading among diverse communities in the UK. They're also promoting connecting with history through reading, which is part of what led Rab to pick up Moby Dick. He's been working his way through it slowly (thanks to whole chapters about types of whales!) but has also enjoyed connecting with the past in a different way through this reading experience. (Amazon link)

Gone to Soldiers by Marge Piercy - An example of historical fiction that Rab has enjoyed recently. He's looking to enjoy more historical fiction in the future. (Amazon link

The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern - Laura recommended this and the other Morgenstern book to Rab. I love the setting of this book and it's magical and immersive. Rab liked the sound of the magicians pitted against each other in a wizard battle. It reminded him of the classic battle between Arthur and Merlin trying to one-up each other with bigger and scarier animals. He also mentioned there's an instance of one-upmanship between magical beings with the wolf in Landfill Mountains.  (Amazon link

The Starless Sea by Erin Morgenstern - Laura recommended to Rab. This book is intensely visual and dwells a lot on the power of story. I loved it but still have mixed feelings about the ending. Rab said the "starless sea" sounds like something that would fit right in to Le Guin's world in the land of the dead.... he's not wrong as he'll see when he reads the book. (Amazon link

Everyone Brave is Forgiven by Chris Cleave - I recommended this as a good choice of historical fiction for Rab. It's got some amazing imagery that stuck with me long after I read the book, even if I totally struggled to pitch the plot in an intelligible way.  It's WWII historical fiction that follows several characters and explores love, loss, and bravery in a touching way. (Amazon link)

The Blue Sword by Robin McKinley - High fantasy that fits in Rab's comfort zone of 20th century fantasy. A Newbery Honor book. A young woman discovers secrets about her origins that influence her destiny. I love the relationship of the heroine with her large cat and her horse...oh, and the love interest too I suppose!  (Amazon link)

Green Rising by Lauren James - another novel about climate change that Rab says is very good. The author makes sure to note that that this is NOT a dystopian novel, but rather more of a YA climate change thriller. Our main character has the gift of being able to grow plants out of her skin. She must team up with other young activists to change their world before it's too late. (Amazon link

With lots of literary love from my library to yours! 



My photo
Library Laura
Laura is an avid reader who is happiest when surrounded by books, tea, blankets and/or friends. Host of the Library Laura Podcast.


The Library Laura Podcast


Affiliate links disclosure

As an Amazon Associate and Bookshop.org Affiliate, I earn from qualifying purchases made through links on this blog. Thanks for your support!

Popular Posts

Laura 's Goodreads bookshelf: read

The Slug Queen Chronicles: Season One
Christmas Night 1776
A Perilous Undertaking
The Mostly Invisible Boy
Please Close It!
On the Bright Side: Stories about Friendship, Love, and Being True to Yourself
The Giving Tree
At Home in Mitford
The Last Year of the War
The Goblin Emperor
My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She's Sorry
Goodnight, Anne
Such a Fun Age
Every Heart a Doorway
The Underground Railroad
The Hate U Give
The Boy, the Mole, the Fox and the Horse
A Kind of Paradise

Laura Miller 's favorite books »

@library.laura on Instagram

The Library Laura Podcast on Facebook

Laura's Profile

Contact Form


Email *

Message *