Story Time: An Interview with Joel Harper

All the Way to the Ocean tells the story of how two young boys learn how they can help prevent stormwater pollution and how that helps the many animals that live in oceans, creeks, and lakes.



Story Time: An Interview with Joel Harper

Stormwater Management Outreach Team’s purpose is to educate people who live and work in Dallas on how each one of us can prevent water pollution right here in the Dallas area. A very important audience that we educate are children. One of our favorite educational programs is called Story Time.

In Story Time, we read the book All the Way to the Ocean written by Joel Harper and illustrated by Marq Spusta. All the Way to the Ocean tells the story of how two young boys learn how they can help prevent stormwater pollution and how that helps the many animals that live in oceans, creeks, and lakes.

Stormwater Management had the privilege of speaking with Joel Harper about his book and what he hopes children and adults will learn from it.


Joel Harper

Joel Harper


Stormwater Management (SWM): Why did you decide to write a book about stormwater pollution?

Harper: “I have wonderful memories as a child enjoying the ocean. My family would rent a beach house in Laguna Beach, CA every summer. I wrote All the Way to the Ocean back in 1998. I was driving along in my car; it was pouring rain, I noticed a storm drain so full of garbage that the rain could not even enter the drain. That sparked an incredible rage in me. I remembered thinking to myself, how can this be! There is no excuse for this. As I was driving home, the storyline for the book played out in my head. When I got home, I immediately wrote the story down. That part took about one hour. However it would take 8 years before the book would make its way into the world.”

SWM: Why did you write the story as a children’s book?

Harper: “Why did I write a children’s book? I don’t know exactly. I think maybe because I would like to think I still have my children’s soul. I think children are so much smarter than we (adults) give them credit for. Sometimes I feel that my generation is a lost cause in many ways as far as working toward a more clean ocean planet. Not that there are not people doing incredible work that are of my generation; however, we are running out of time and I think it is more crucial than ever that we reach out to children and help educate and inspire them to want to make a difference. I never had big dreams of writing children’s books. It was more like one of those things where one thing led to another.”

SWM: Were you involved in choosing Marq Spusta to be the illustrator?

Harper: “Yes. I came across Marq’s work on my younger brother’s online art forum: On my brother’s website, artists from all around the world submit artwork to the site and each month the people vote and decide on one winner each month. Mr. Spusta was a monthly winner. It was there that I saw his work for the first time. I knew right then and there that he was the one that would illustrate the book. It took some convincing. Artists of his caliber usually do not work with independent small self-publishers, especially on such large scale projects.”

SWM: When a child reads All the Way to the Ocean, what lesson or idea do you hope they take from the book?

Harper: “I hope that kids AND adults absorb the message that little things add up and when we all pitch in and work together, we have the potential to make a huge difference for the better. Just picking up a piece of trash from the ground before it enters into a storm drain is making an impact! I think people often times get overwhelmed with the problem and think that it is so huge that it is beyond their control.”


Cover art by Marq Spusta


All the way to the Ocean is available in three languages: English, Spanish, and Mandarin. Visit to learn more about the book and to purchase it.

You may also check out All the Way to the Ocean in both English and Spanish through the Dallas Public Library. Visit their website at to find the closest branch to you.

To schedule a Story Time presentation contact Stormwater Management at 214-948-4022 or email


Inside the Inlet
A Quarterly Newsletter from City of Dallas Stormwater Management
November ‘09 - January ‘10
Vol. 3 Issue 1

One Response to “ Story Time: An Interview with Joel Harper ”

  1. Nice interview. Hopefully he can put something like a song on youtube that can go viral and help spread awareness!

Leave a Reply