Climate justice is at the forefront of youth activism. The following 19 titles illustrate what is happening on an individual and collective scale, highlighting not only the struggles of young people, but also what they are fighting for.
CLIMATE JUSTICE is at the forefront of youth activism, from school strikes led by Greta Thunberg to water protectors fighting the Keystone XL pipeline. Teens and tweens go beyond reading about historical ecologists and become eco-heroes themselves, fighting for their own future.
The following titles illustrate what is happening on an individual and collective scale, highlighting not only the struggles of young people, but also what they are fighting for. These books do not represent all the groups working on the ground, but they provide a good starting point for finding other voices that will inspire young people to take action.
DE LA BEDOYERE, Camille. Living Planet: The story of survival on planet Earth, from natural disasters to climate change. Welbeck. 2020. RRP $14.95. ISBN 9781783125296.
3-6 g –A tour of the planet from its core to the organisms that cover its surface. Taking a geological rather than a biological approach, this volume explores the history of the planet and, through the framework of the Earth’s slice of the cosmic calendar, makes it clear that humans have only been here for a relatively short time. Readers will enjoy this adventure through time which gives an overview of life on Earth.
SIMON, Seymour. Climate action: what happened and what we can do. Harper Collins. 2021. TR $18.99. ISBN 9780062943316.
3-6 g – Inspirational stories about climate action and the stories of people affected by the resulting natural disasters are the meat on this title’s very good bones. There are well-known voices like Greta Thunberg but also stories of everyday people in BIPOC communities around the world. They are quoted directly, giving readers an authentic window into people’s experiences.
YOU SLEEP, Aslan and Kelly Tudor. Young Water Protectors: A Story About Standing Rock. Create an independent space. 2018. pap. $27.99. ISBN 9781723305689.
2nd-5th grade –A first-hand account of a young Standing Rock water protector during the large protests at the Dakota Access Pipeline. This is an aboriginal story by a member of the Lipan Apache tribe that aims to inspire and encourage other young people to protect their own communities. This work is brief in text but features real photographs of water protectors in motion.
WOHLLEBEN, Rock. Do you hear the trees talking? : Discovering the hidden life of the forest. tr. from German by Shelley Tanaka. Gray stone. 2019. TR $15.99. ISBN 9781771644341.
3rd-5th grade –In the form of questions and answers, this illustrated text invites the reader to question the way in which trees exist in our world. In this young reader adaptation of the author’s adult title, The hidden life of treesquirky topics surrounding forests and tree communication are reduced to a manageable yet still engaging level for readers.
CHURCH, Dana. Beekeepers: How Humans Changed the World of Bumblebees. School. 2021. TR $10.99. ISBN 9781338565546.
6th to 10th grade – Weaving together stories, history and science around the culture of bees, this book portrays these insects as charming and helpful creatures that have spread across the world rather than animals in desperate need of be saved. Some conservation issues are discussed, but the focus is on the value of bees within their global ecosystems.
COUCH, Leslie. All the feelings under the sun: how to deal with climate change. illus. by Jessica Smith. Magination Pr. 2021. RRP $16.99. ISBN 9781433833915.
6th-9th grade – Eco-mourning is an important topic that has yet to fully make its way onto the main stage of conversations about the climate crisis. Moving beyond definitions, Davenport introduces readers to techniques for coping with the changing world around them. The heavy tone – unavoidable, given the gravity of the situation – is tempered by pauses and recordings as the tweens work on the text.
GREENFIELD, Rob. Be the Change: Rob Greenfield’s call for kids to make a difference in a messy world. Gray stone. 2022. TR $18.95. ISBN 9781771645911.
4-7 Gr – What can one person do to change the world? If so, they can do a lot by encouraging others to adopt zero-waste lifestyles. Readers are entitled to healthy conversations about consumerism and eco-friendly diets are modeled as an option; Greenfield focuses less on diets and more on trends and more on issues such as factory farming and subsidies. The text delves into buzzword territory, but its content really touches on practical ways for kids to mitigate climate change at home.
MCPHERSON, Stephanie. Greenhouse land: the climate crisis and the importance of carbon neutrality. 21st century books. 2021. RRP $37.32. ISBN 9781541579170.
8th-10th grade –The global perspectives applied here highlight the common struggle that awaits everyone. It’s less optimistic and more factual than other titles, but it’s valuable in its respect for readers’ intelligence around the issues. Global warming and climate change are covered in detail in each chapter. This is what emerging climate activists need on their TBR shelves.
MARTINEZ, Xiuhtezcatl. Imaginary borders. illus. by Ashley Lukashevsky. Penguin Workshop. 2020. pap. $8.99. ISBN 9780593094136.
7-9 g –Written by a young person for young people, this brief pocket-sized introduction to Indigenous environmental movements centered on the works of one family is groundbreaking. This empowering title speaks to the power of young people to deconstruct colonial barriers built over time and establish a better and greener future for the global community by being responsible today.
NEW MAN, Patricia. Planet Ocean: why we all need a healthy oceannm illus. by Annie Crawley. Millbrook Prof. 2021. RRP $34.65. ISBN 9781541581210.
5-8 grams – Dive into the vast underwater worlds of the ocean with this vibrant dip into the ecosystems beneath the water’s surface. Going beyond exploring familiar topics, such as plastic barges and coral reefs, Newman introduces cultural discussions of, for example, fishing rights in the Salish Sea. A nice deep cut that takes the time to look beyond the Anglo-European issues around aquatic life.
SARAH, Rachel. Girl Warriors: How 25 young activists are saving the Earth. Chicago Review Pr. 2021. pap. $16.99. ISBN 9781641603713.
7-9 g –Female leaders of contemporary green movements and current young adults are highlighted here. Each Warrior sees their work shown locally and on a larger scale to drive home that everyone can truly make a difference, no matter how small their actions. The profiles each include the activists’ pronouns, but the inclusivity of trans and non-binary women is minimal.
Willis, Birdy. Seen: Rachel Carson. illus. by Rii Abrego. BOOM! Box. 2021. pap. $5.99. ISBN 9781684156481.
6-8 g – Considered by many to be the founder of the modern environmental movement, Rachel Carson is reintroduced to the world as the lively and interesting person she was in life. Using soft colors, this comic focuses on developing content and storytelling around his works.
ZISSU, Alexandra. Earth Squad: 50 people saving the planet. illus. by Nhung Le. Run Pr. 2021. TR $17.99. ISBN 9780762499212.
4-7 Gr –A collection featuring eco-heroes from all walks of the international community. There are expected inclusions, like Mama Miti and Winona LaDuke, but there are many more unexpected faces, like actor Mark Ruffalo, who is also involved in environmental advocacy. The thematic approach of looking at different areas of activism allows for more space around the table and greater inclusion of BIPOC voices.
JAHREN, To hope. The Plus Story (suitable for young adults): how we got to climate change and where to go from here. Delacort. 2021. TR $16.99. ISBN 9780593381120.
8th year superior – Connecting the deeper issues of climate change to our society, this adaptation for young readers takes teens on a journey from agrarian culture to urban culture and the ramifications of the changing needs of people on Earth. This excellent resource examines the impacts of climate change on the planet as well as its people by addressing serious issues such as generational and climate amnesia. Jahren Fans lab girl will rejoice in the pursuit of environmentalist ideas.
KLEIN, Naomi. How to Change Everything: The Young Human’s Guide to Protecting the Planet and Each Other. adapt. by Rebecca Stefoff. S. & S./Athénée. 2021. TR $17.99. ISBN 9781534474529.
8th year superior –For those who want to know how global warming and climate change are impacting the present. Young adults will learn about the student strike movement and other youth-led initiatives that address not only the climate of the future, but also the climate of today, marked by natural disasters. A mighty punch is delivered in this young reader’s adaptation ofIt changes everything: capitalism against the climate and On Fire: The Case for a Green New Deal.
Liz Bosarge is a science teacher and children’s librarian at the Enoch Pratt Free Library in Baltimore.