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Earth Day 2017

Earth Day and the March for Science are tomorrow! The campaign focus for Earth Day 2017 is “Environmental and Climate Literacy.”

In keeping with that theme, the books below celebrate our precious planet, educate about the crises it faces, and offer age-appropriate models for environmental activism. The list includes both fiction and nonfiction titles for a range of ages, all recommended by The Horn Book Magazine and Guide at the time of their publication; reviews are reprinted from The Horn Book Guide Online. Grade levels are only suggestions; the individual child is the real criterion.

For more on this topic, see Kathleen T. Isaacs’s Horn Book Magazine article “Fostering Wonder” and the tag Earth Day.

Preschool

depalma_two little birdsDePalma, Mary Newell  Two Little Birds
40 pp.     Eerdmans      2014
Trade ISBN 978-0-8028-5421-6

Two adorable bird siblings (based on the orchard oriole of North and Central America) hatch and begin their first year of life. Each milestone they encounter is portrayed effectively through the soft colors of DePalma’s emotive mixed-media illustrations and simple, repetitive-sound sentences that explain the actions of the birds and underscore the instincts that drive each behavior.

elliott_in the wildElliott, David  In the Wild
32 pp.     Candlewick     2010
Trade ISBN 978-0-7636-4497-0

Illustrated by Holly Meade. In full-spread woodcut and watercolor art, Meade captures both the essences and habitats of fourteen worldwide animals: a jaguar prowling the jungle floor, an evanescent polar bear immersed in a blue-green sea, etc. Elliott’s deftly composed verses include paradoxes (“Big, yet moves / with grace”) and wry thoughts. A beautiful book, not quite as lighthearted as it first appears.

step gently outFrost, Helen  Step Gently Out
24 pp.    Candlewick     2012
Trade ISBN 978-0-7636-5601-0

Photographs by Rick Lieder. This paean to some of nature’s smallest creatures, including ants, crickets, and fireflies, invites children to “be still, and watch.” The spare verse is set in large type; dazzling close-up photographs show the insects against soft-focus backgrounds. The overall effect is lovely and contemplative and fosters an appreciation for the small wonders in our world. Additional information about each insect is appended.

wateriswaterPaul, Miranda  Water Is Water: A Book About the Water Cycle
40 pp.     Roaring Brook/Porter     2015
Trade ISBN 978-1-59643-984-9

Illustrated by Jason Chin. An evocative rhyming text and verdant watercolors introduce the water cycle, linking water’s forms to seasonal changes and an interracial family’s kid-friendly activities. The narrative moves from what water is (rain, fog, cloud, snow) to what it makes (mud, which feeds trees, which grow apples, which make cider). Additional information about the water cycle and a call for water conservation are appended. Reading list. Bib.

Swirl by SwirlSidman, Joyce  Swirl by Swirl: Spirals in Nature
40 pp.     Houghton     2011
Trade ISBN 978-0-547-31583-6

Illustrated by Beth Krommes. “A spiral is a snuggling shape…coiled tight, warm and safe…” Krommes’s scratchboard illustrations, vividly depicting spirals in nature, suffuse every page with color, shape, and movement. Each spread presents an entire landscape in varying palettes, with a treasure trove of details that will captivate the youngest readers. Sidman’s very simple text is powerful, poetic, and good for reading aloud and reading again.

teckentrup_treeTeckentrup, Britta  Tree: A Peek-Through Picture Book
32 pp.     Doubleday     2016
Trade ISBN 978-1-101-93242-1

Text by Patricia Hegarty. It’s wintertime in the forest, and “Owl sits watching in his tree. / No one sees as much as he.” The “peek-through” die-cuts are used to great advantage, allowing Owl and several animal friends to be constant or semi-constant presences as pages are turned and seasons go by (“Birds are singing, foxes play. / Summertime is on its way”).

 

Primary

It's Our GardenAncona, George It’s Our Garden: From Seeds to Harvest in a School Garden
48 pp.     Candlewick     2013
Trade ISBN 978-0-7636-5392-7

From spring planting to winterization, full-color photographs chronicle a year in the life of an elementary school garden in Santa Fe; students are shown composting soil, watering plants, and sampling the edible delights. While green is visually ubiquitous, the real star is the white space, which keeps each spread from becoming crowded. Ancona’s no-nonsense text is perfectly suited for newly independent readers. Websites. Bib.

bang_rivers-of-sunlight_170x206Rivers of Sunlight: How the Sun Moves Water Around the Earth [Sunlight]
by Molly Bang and Penny Chisholm; illus. by Molly Bang
48 pp.     Scholastic/Blue Sky     2017
Trade ISBN 978-0-545-80541-4

Bang and Chisholm bring their Sunlight series’ energy-centered perspective on Earth systems to the water cycle. The sun serves as narrator, showing us how its energy, upon reaching the Earth, interacts with water and supports life. The science is superb, moving well beyond the typical water cycle representations to emphasize the dynamic, constant, nonlinear movement of massive amounts of water. Bang’s illustrations feature yellow dotted waves of energy and translucent water molecules sparkling over green and brown lands, blue skies, and indigo seas. The sun ends with a warning about the need for conservation and management of water resources. Look for companion books My Light, Living Sunlight, Buried Sunlight, Ocean Sunlight.

Island by Jason ChinChin, Jason  Island: A Story of the Galápagos
32 pp.      Roaring Brook/Porter     2012
Trade ISBN 978-1-59643-716-6

Readers witness the six-million-year development of classic biogeography example the Galápagos. The organizational structure — five chronological chapters — echoes the story line and underscores the ecological message. Gorgeous illustrations include sweeping double-page spreads and panels arranged to show dynamic changes (e.g., species adaptation). Back matter addresses natural selection, volcano formation/plate tectonics, and endemic species. An author’s note discusses scientific facts versus speculation.

chin_grand canyonChin, Jason  Grand Canyon
56 pp.     Roaring Brook/Porter     2017
Trade 978-1-59643-950-4

Vacationing in Grand Canyon provides a father and daughter — and readers — numerous opportunities to explore this national park’s geology and ecology. Travel guide–like narration presents accurate scientific information, as do page perimeters filled with delicate sketches and diagrams. Detailed, scenic watercolors portraying actual sites cleverly feature selected objects through subtle die-cuts that transport the girl back to ancient geologic environments. Reading list. Bib.

redwoods_199x300Chin, Jason  Redwoods
40 pp.     Roaring Brook/Flash Point/Porter      2009
Trade ISBN 978-1-59643-430-1

In a fantastical visual narrative paired with a straightforward nonfiction text, a young boy waiting for a subway train finds an abandoned book about redwood trees. When he exits the subway, he finds himself in the middle of a redwood forest, learning all manner of things about them. Chin’s watercolors capture both the majesty of the redwoods and the young boy’s inquisitive personality.

cole_magic school bus and the climate challengeCole, Joanna  The Magic School Bus and the Climate Challenge
40 pp.     Scholastic     2010
Trade ISBN 978-0-590-10826-3

Illustrated by Bruce Degen. Magic School Bus series. In the magic school bus (temporarily a plane), Ms. Frizzle’s class gathers information for a play about climate change. Cole and Degen are straightforward about the seriousness of global warming but eschew gloom and doom, focusing on day-to-day changes individuals can make. Prolific sidebars provide background information, deepening the discussion and empowering the book’s audience. Throughout, humor keeps readers engaged.

cousteau_follow the moon homeCousteau, Philippe and Hopkinson, Deborah  Follow the Moon Home: A Tale of One Idea, Twenty Kids, and a Hundred Sea Turtles
40 pp.     Chronicle     2016
Trade ISBN 978-1-4521-1241-1

Illustrated by Meilo So. Many newly hatched loggerhead turtles die when house lights lead them away from the ocean. For a community action project, Viv and her summer-school classmates follow five clearly outlined steps and ask beachfront vacationers to turn off their lights. The strong narrative culminates with a moonlit mass turtle hatching, reverently depicted in quiet blue and brown watercolors. Websites.

davies_promiseDavies, Nicola  The Promise
48 pp.    Candlewick     2014
Trade ISBN 978-0-7636-6633-0

Illustrated by Laura Carlin. “When I was young, I lived in a city that was mean and hard and ugly,” begins the narrator of this book about the healing power of nature. She tries to steal the bag of a woman who tells her she can have it if she promises to plant what’s inside. The illustrations begin as harsh cityscapes, gradually softening with bursts of color.

duke_in the rainforestDuke, Kate  In the Rainforest
40 pp.     HarperCollins/Harper     2014
Trade ISBN 978-0-06-445197-0
Paperback ISBN 978-0-06-445197-0

Let’s-Read-and-Find-Out Science series. This series entry takes readers on a tour through the rainforest, describing the special features of the area. Unfamiliar vocabulary is presented in bold-face type, defined, and repeated in the text. Cheerful mixed-media illustrations show the visiting children climbing trees (with ropes and clamps), journaling, and exploring the ecosystem. A list of rainforest exhibits to visit is appended, as are directions for making a rainforest terrarium.

drummond_green city

Drummond, Allan  Green City: How One Community Survived a Tornado and Rebuilt for a Sustainable Future
40 pp.     Farrar/Foster    2016
Trade ISBN 978-0-374-37999-5

On May 4, 2007, a tornado leveled Greensburg, Kansas. The citizens who stayed decided to rebuild a community as environmentally sound as possible. Drummond creates a first-person narrator from a composite of experiences “meant to reflect [those] of many town residents.” Concise informational sidebars explain the processes. Watercolor illustrations — a vibrant blend of vignettes, full-page art, and double-page spreads — reflect the town’s can-do attitude.

drummond_energy islandDrummond, Allan  Energy Island: How One Community Harnessed the Wind and Changed Their World
40 pp.     Farrar/Foster     2011
Trade ISBN 978-0-374-32184-0

On Samsø, an island “in the middle of Denmark…in the middle of the sea,” the inhabitants decided to “harness the wind” and become as energy-independent as possible. Drummond’s vignette illustrations perfectly capture the community spirit as the Danes realize their dream. Helpful sidebar information expands the science introduced in the descriptive first-person narrative.

drummond_pedal powerDrummond, Allan  Pedal Power: How One Community Became the Bicycle Capital of the World
40 pp.     Farrar     2017
Trade ISBN 978-0-374-30527-7

Drummond (Energy Island; Green City) takes young readers to Amsterdam, a city that turned automobile- and carbon monoxide–clogged streets into bicycle- and family-friendly boulevards. His straightforward text and near-impressionistic illustrations show citizens, led by activist Maartje Rutten, who took to the streets (on bicycles) in the 1970s to protest constructing more roads for automobiles. As a united community, they effected (worldwide) change. Bib.

Douglas Florian UnbBEElievable coverFlorian, Douglas  UnBEElievables: Honeybee Poems and Paintings
32 pp.     Simon/Beach Lane     2012
Trade ISBN 978-1-4424-2652-8

Working in gouache, colored pencils, and collage on paper bags, Florian evokes the world of bees with repetitive patterning that cleverly references their honeycombs and the fields of flowers they frequent as well as the bees themselves. His humorous rhythmic verse, too, echoes bee behavior, as much with sound as with sense. A paragraph of more straightforward facts elucidates each spread. Bib.

george_buffalo are backGeorge, Jean Craighead  The Buffalo Are Back
32 pp.     Dutton     2010
Trade ISBN 978-0-525-42215-0

Illustrated by Wendell Minor. In George’s compact ecodrama, we first see the buffalo slaughtered to decimate the Indians and open the prairie to settlers. Moving to the somber Dust Bowl migrants, we then turn to the reversal: the discovery, instigated by President Theodore Roosevelt, of three hundred remaining wild buffalo. With illustrations that both document and dramatize, it’s another small triumph from a seasoned team. Websites. Bib.

Can We Save the Tiger?Jenkins, Martin  Can We Save the Tiger?
56 pp.     Candlewick     2011
Trade ISBN 978-0-7636-4909-8

Illustrated by Vicky White. This volume provides a gracefully organized overview of how some of our endangered fellow creatures are doing. Jenkins’s narrative voice is engagingly informal and lucid. White’s pencil and oil paint illustrations fill the large pages; the pictures are mostly in sober black and white with occasional blushes of color. A stunningly beautiful book as well as an eloquent appeal and consciousness raiser. Websites. Ind.

Rachel Carson and Her Book That Changed the WorldLawlor, Laurie  Rachel Carson and Her Book That Changed the World
32 pp.     Holiday     2012
Trade ISBN 978-0-8234-2370-5

Illustrated by Laura Beingessner. From the naturalist’s early fascination with wildlife to her determination to finish her landmark work, Silent Spring, before her death, this accessible account folds a commendable amount of significant information into picture book format. Beingessner’s spacious ink and tempera spreads reflect the upbeat tone and Carson’s most passionate concerns. An epilogue describes the watershed effect of Silent Spring. Bib.

lester_sophie scott goes southLester, Alison  Sophie Scott Goes South
40 pp.     Houghton      2013
Trade ISBN 978-0-544-08895-5

Sophie Scott is embarking on an Antarctic adventure with her father, captain of the Aurora Australis. She spots penguins, seals, and whales, and one night she’s dazzled by the southern lights. Sophie’s scrapbook-style journal is written in a likable, conversational style. Most pages are decorated with appealing childlike art; thumbnail photographs are also used to great effect on several spreads.

Puffling PatrolLewin, Ted and Lewin, Betsy  Puffling Patrol
56 pp.     Lee     2012
Trade ISBN 978-1-60060-424-9

Fledgling puffins journeying from their nests to the sea are confused by nighttime lights from towns. In Iceland, on the island of Heimaey, children take part in a generations-old puffin search-and-rescue tradition. As they tour the island with researchers, then join a night patrol, the Lewins capture the beauty of the landscape and the awkwardly amusing appeal of the birds.

All the Water in the WorldLyon, George Ella  All the Water in the World
40 pp.     Atheneum/Jackson     2011
Trade ISBN 978-1-4169-7130-6

Illustrated by Katherine Tillotson. Lyon celebrates the essence of life itself in a lyrical poem about the water cycle. In sweeping, digitally rendered art resembling watercolor and collage, Tillotson creates luxuriant ocean swirls and pelting streaks of rain. It’s a familiar subject but a vital one, to which author and illustrator bring a passion and artistry that give it the power of story.

martin_chiru of high tibetMartin, Jacqueline Briggs  The Chiru of High Tibet: A True Story
40 pp.     Houghton     2010
Trade ISBN 978-0-618-58130-6

Illustrated by Linda Wingerter. The antelope-like chiru of northern Tibet were hunted nearly to extinction for their soft wool. Wildlife champion George Schaller hoped to save the chiru by protecting their birthing ground — but first he had to find it. Martin’s account, brief and dramatic, is nicely amplified in Wingerter’s art, evoking Tibet’s windswept plains and peaks in rosy sunset colors and twilight blues. Bib.

Nivola, Claire A.  Life in the Ocean: The Story of Oceanographer Sylvia Earle
32 pp.     Farrar/Foster     2012
Trade ISBN 978-0-374-38068-7

Earle’s intimate knowledge of the creatures she’s spent over half a century observing, whether while snorkeling near the surface or walking on the ocean floor, permeates this enthusiastic biography illustrated with exquisitely detailed watercolor art. An author’s note explains why we all need to get involved in efforts to curtail the threats of overfishing, climate change, oil spills, and other pollutants. Bib.

paul_one plastic bagPaul, Miranda  One Plastic Bag: Isatou Ceesay and the Recycling Women of the Gambia
32 pp.     Millbrook     2015
Library binding ISBN 978-1-4677-1608-6
Ebook ISBN 978-1-4677-6299-1

Illustrated by Elizabeth Zunon. In 1980s the Gambia, ever-growing piles of discarded plastic bags were attracting disease-bearing insects and killing domestic animals. Paul has written a clear and sensitive account of Isatou Ceesay and her fellow activists’ ingenious solution to the problem. Zunon’s collages, with vivid colors, elegant patterns, and varied textures — especially those from plastic bags — provide a beautiful entry into the story. Reading list, timeline. Glos.

peterson_leopard & silkiePeterson, Brenda  Leopard & Silkie: One Boy’s Quest to Save the Seal Pups
32 pp.     Holt/Ottaviano     2012
Trade ISBN 978-0-8050-9167-0

Photographs by Robin Lindsey. The Seal Sitters is a Pacific Northwest watch group that educates human beachgoers and protects harbor seals when they come ashore to give birth to and care for their young. Newborn seal Leopard is fortunate to have “kid volunteer” Miles on the case. In the excellent photographs, Leopard’s large, dark eyes and expressive mug seem to be smiling right at the viewer.

preus_celebritreesPreus, Margi  Celebritrees: Historic and Famous Trees of the World
40 pp.     Holt/Ottaviano      2011
Trade ISBN 978-0-8050-7829-9

Illustrated by Rebecca Gibbon. This picture book gallery of impressive trees, illustrated in friendly folk-art style, offers substantive information on what makes each specimen unique. Preus discusses world-record holders as well as fascinating oddities; a number of the trees have cultural significance. Gibbon’s mixed-media paintings bustle with life, including birds and squirrels in the high branches and people in the shade. Conservation tips are appended. Websites. Bib.

root_anywhere farmRoot, Phyllis  Anywhere Farm
32 pp.     Candlewick     2017
Trade ISBN 978-0-7636-7499-1

Illustrated by G. Brian Karas. Upbeat rhyming text details all the places one can grow things: “Plant a farm in a truck! / In a box on a bike! / Plant an anywhere farm / anywhere that you like.” The book then goes on to suggest what one might plant (“Kale in a pail. / Corn in a horn”) and who might come to visit one’s “anywhere farm” (bees, butterflies, birds — and neighbors). Mixed-media illustrations focus on one little girl who starts everything off with a single plant but eventually include a whole neighborhood that participates in transforming a barren urban space into a lush, flourishing garden.

root_plant a pocket of prairieRoot, Phyllis  Plant a Pocket of Prairie
40 pp.     Minnesota     2014
Trade ISBN 978-0-8166-7980-5

Illustrated by Betsy Bowen. There isn’t much prairie left in the U.S., thanks to human farming and development. Readers are encouraged to reverse this trend by planting native plants in their own backyards and watching what animals are attracted by each plant species. Mixed-media illustrations are placed on white backgrounds, their chunky outlines a modern twist on botanical illustration. The conservation and restoration message is universal.

roth_parrots over puerto ricoRoth, Susan L. and Trumbore, Cindy  Parrots over Puerto Rico
48 pp.     Lee      2013
Trade ISBN 978-1-62014-004-8

Illustrated by Susan L. Roth. This gorgeously illustrated history of the endangered Puerto Rican parrot underscores the environmental consequences of human populations on indigenous animal species. With stunning paper-and-fabric artwork, the book is laid out vertically to give a sense of height. Ruffly-feathered parrots, colorfully clothed people, and Puerto Rican landmarks are located within dense, intricate illustrations that capture the lushness of the landscape. Timeline.

roth_prairie dog songRoth, Susan L. and Trumbore, Cindy  Prairie Dog Song: The Key to Saving North America’s Grasslands
40 pp.     Lee     2016
Trade ISBN 978-1-62014-245-5

Illustrated by Susan L. Roth. The authors detail the plight of the prairie dog, whose numbers have been greatly reduced by farming and development. Two independently strong texts — one a modified song lyric, the other in-depth nonfiction — provide details on the biology and ecology of grassland environments. Roth’s painstakingly precise mixed-media illustrations are bursting with rich, varied colors. Extensive notes include resources and photographs. Glos.

roy_neighborhood-sharks_170x218Roy, Katherine  Neighborhood Sharks: Hunting with the Great Whites of California’s Farallon Islands
32 pp.     Roaring Brook/Macaulay    2014
Trade ISBN 978-1-59643-874-3

This impressive account of great white sharks off the Northern California coast examines fascinating details about the predator. The dramatic main narrative describes a shark swimming and hunting, while well-integrated information-rich sections tell more about shark biology and about the scientists who study them. Roy’s illustrations masterfully employ color and perspective as blood-reds flow through the blues and grays of the ocean. Reading list, websites. Bib.

Subway StorySarcone-Roach, Julia  Subway Story
40 pp.     Knopf    2011
Trade ISBN 978-0-375-85859-8
Library binding ISBN 978-0-375-95859-5

Subway car Jessie begins service during the 1964 New York World’s Fair. After approximately fifty years she’s dismantled and dumped into the ocean. There she happily resides as an artificial reef, home to myriad sea animals. Sarcone-Roach allows her theme of reuse and recycling to emerge naturally from a fine tale. Cozy-looking illustrations emphasize the story’s tone. An author’s note is appended. Bib.

schaefer_lifetimeSchaefer, Lola M.  Lifetime: The Amazing Numbers in Animal Lives
40 pp.     Chronicle     2013
Trade ISBN 978-1-4521-0714-1

Illustrated by Christopher Silas Neal. The concept of quantity is cleverly examined in the context of animal lives. Schaefer presents the number of times an animal “performs one behavior” in its lifetime, starting with the single egg sac spun by a spider, up to the thousand babies carried by a male seahorse. Bold and beautifully composed, Neal’s retro illustrations contain the actual number of items mentioned. Supplemental information is appended.

shingu_traveling butterfliesShingu, Susumu  Traveling Butterflies
40 pp.     Owlkids     2015
Trade ISBN 978-1-77147-148-0

This simple, elegant picture book traces the migration of the monarch butterfly from its northern home to its “winter sanctuary” in Mexico and back again. Shingu’s account is at once poetic and informative. Spare text, translated from the Japanese, is reproduced in a clean, open typeface. Each spread features the artist’s vivid paintings of the insects, brilliant close-ups alternating with sweeping butterfly’s-eye vistas.

simon_global warmingSimon, Seymour  Global Warming
32 pp.     HarperCollins/Collins    2010
Trade ISBN 978-0-06-114250-5
Library binding ISBN 978-0-06-114251-2

With his outstandingly straightforward and logical prose, Simon leads novices through such tricky concepts as greenhouse gases and the differences between observable daily weather and long-term climate change. The book ends with the reassurance that we can help reverse the rate of change. Full-page photographs range from decorative enhancements to comparative evidence of the effects of a rise in global average temperature. Websites. Glos., ind.

stewart_no monkeys no chocolateStewart, Melissa and Young, Allen  No Monkeys, No Chocolate
32 pp.     Charlesbridge     2013
Trade ISBN 978-1-58089-287-2

Illustrated by Nicole Wong. Stewart and Young explain where chocolate comes from: working backward from cocoa beans (dried and processed by humans) to cocoa pods (which come from cocoa flowers pollinated by midges) to monkeys dropping cocoa seeds on the rainforest floor. Full-bleed ink and watercolor illustrations zoom in on each step along the way; in a corner of each spread, two little worms provide humorous running commentary.

thompson_faraway foxThompson, Jolene  Faraway Fox
32 pp.     Houghton    2016
Trade ISBN 978-0-544-70711-5

Illustrated by Justin K. Thompson. A lone fox observes its environs — once a forest, now suburbia. The first-person narrative is straightforward, with twinges of nostalgia; the angular illustrations feature retro-looking architectural details. Then the tone shifts: the fox sees construction workers — but what they’re building is a wildlife preserve and “highway wildlife underpass,” a safe pass-through for the animals. An author’s note tells more about these types of structures.

meadowlandsYezerski, Thomas F.  Meadowlands: A Wetlands Survival Story
40 pp.     Farrar     2011
Trade ISBN 978-0-374-34913-4

Yezerski adroitly captures the sometimes adversarial, sometimes beneficial relationship between humans and the environment in this marvelous ecological history of the Meadowlands of New Jersey. Each main double-page-spread illustration is bordered by tiny images with a wealth of additional taxonomical information (and sly humor) about the diverse flora and fauna (and mobsters and sports enthusiasts) of northern New Jersey. Websites. Bib.

Secrets of the GardenZoehfeld, Kathleen Weidner  Secrets of the Garden: Food Chains and the Food Web in Our Backyard
40 pp.    Knopf     2012
Trade ISBN 978-0-517-70990-0

Illustrated by Priscilla Lamont. Alice and her family grow edible plants, raise chickens, and enjoy the wide variety of living things in their backyard ecosystem. Scientific information is included about such topics as composting, plant life cycles, food chains and food webs, and nutrition, with anthropomorphized chickens explaining the underlying facts. Changes during the garden growing season are attractively portrayed in Lamont’s cheery illustrations.

 

Intermediate

One and Only IvanApplegate, Katherine  The One and Only Ivan
307 pp.     HarperCollins/Harper     2012
Trade ISBN 978-0-06-199225-4

Illustrated by Patricia Castelao. In short chapters that have the look and feel of prose poems, Applegate captures the voice of Ivan, a captive gorilla who lives at the “Exit 8 Big Top Mall and Video Arcade.” When a new baby elephant arrives, Ivan realizes they deserve more than their restrictive environment. Ivan’s range of thoughts and emotions poses important questions about kinship and humanity.

broach_wolf keepersBroach, Elise  The Wolf Keepers
343 pp.     Holt/Ottaviano     2016
Trade ISBN 978-0-8050-9899-0

Illustrated by Alice Ratterree. In this mystery-adventure, twelve-year-old zookeeper’s daughter Lizzie discovers that a boy, Tyler, is living in the zoo. Despite Tyler’s gruff demeanor, they become friends. When the zoo’s wolves begin to mysteriously get sick right after Tyler notices odd comings and goings at night, they work together to solve the mystery. Lizzie’s wry humor and the page-turning adventure give the novel solid middle-grade appeal.

burns_citizen scientistsBurns, Loree Griffin  Citizen Scientists: Be a Part of Scientific Discovery from Your Own Backyard
80 pp.     Holt     2012
Trade ISBN 978-0-8050-9062-8

Photographs by Ellen Harasimowicz. Burns brings much-deserved attention to four remarkable scientific projects that enlist regular people in data collection: the Monarch Watch butterfly tagging project, the Audubon Christmas Bird Count, a project documenting ladybug species, and a frog study. Detailed accounts of the procedures along with the handsome color photography make the idea of participation highly appealing. Bib., glos., ind.

Tracking TrashBurns, Loree Griffin  Tracking Trash: Flotsam, Jetsam, and the Science of Ocean Motion
58 pp.     Houghton     2007
Trade ISBN 978-0-618-58131-3

Scientists in the Field series. When hundreds of sneakers washed up on the Washington coast, scientist Curt Ebbesmeyer discovered that they came from a cargo spill, and he began studying the Pacific Ocean’s currents. Burns’s book conveys solid scientific explanations of ocean patterns and discusses the tracking of debris and the effect of ocean trash on the environment. Scientific information builds, creating a natural detective story. Reading list, websites. Bib., glos., ind. We also recommend many more entries about environmentalism and earth science in the long-running series Scientists in the Field.

cate_look upCate, Annette LeBlanc  Look Up!: Bird-Watching in Your Own Backyard
64 pp.     Candlewick     2013
Trade ISBN 978-0-7636-4561-8

The book starts by encouraging children to sharpen their awareness of their surroundings and to notice the presence of birds in pastoral and urban settings. Next are the basics of bird identification, then it’s on to habitat, range, and migration. The discussion is lighthearted; Cate and the birds, portrayed in illustrations with speech balloons, poke fun at themselves as they teach bird observation. Bib., ind.

connor_crunchConnor, Leslie  Crunch
330 pp.     HarperCollins/Tegen     2010
Trade ISBN 978-0-06-169229-1
Library binding ISBN 978-0-06-169233-8

When a severe fuel shortage strands their parents, the five Marriss children hold down the fort — and the family’s bike business. With fewer cars on the highway, the now-growing shop is about to overrun the kids’ abilities. Connor’s narrative ambles pleasantly along; a feel-good denouement brings the community together, with neighbors willing to learn how to help themselves and others.

davies_lion who stole my armDavies, Nicola  The Lion Who Stole My Arm
89 pp.     Candlewick     2014
Trade ISBN 978-0-7636-6620-0
Ebook ISBN 978-0-7636-7022-1

Illustrated by Annabel Wright. After losing his right arm in a lion attack, young Pedru thinks of revenge. And he does kill a lion, but it’s not the same one; it’s tagged with a collar from the Madune Carnivore Research Station. Thus begins Pedru’s relationship with lion researchers sympathetic to the concerns of the villagers. Davies’s story, both subtle and thoughtful, is also an exciting adventure tale.

farley_wild at heart

Farley, Terri  Wild at Heart: Mustangs and the Young People Fighting to Save Them
196 pp.     Houghton    2015
Trade ISBN 978-0-544-39294-6

Photographs by Melissa Farlow. Beginning with “Wild Horse Annie,” the 1950s activist who secured protections for America’s wild horses, this wide-ranging volume explores horses’ prehistoric ancestors, herd dynamics, the horrors of government roundups, and today’s young activists fighting to make a difference. Emotional language and first-person sidebars try to recruit readers to the cause, while crisp color photos depict beautiful horses in their natural habitats. Bib., glos., ind.

french_operation redwoodFrench, S. Terrell  Operation Redwood
355 pp.     Abrams/Amulet     2009
Trade ISBN 978-0-8109-8354-0

Julian can’t resist reading an e-mail sent to his uncle: “Sibley Carter is a moron and a world-class jerk!!!” Robin, the note’s author, is trying to protect a redwood forest from Uncle Sibley’s voracious investment company. The book’s modern feel balances its pastoral nature; French works in many facts about redwoods without losing the story’s focus on its characters.

furstinger_mercyFurstinger, Nancy  Mercy: The Incredible Story of Henry Bergh, Founder of the ASPCA and Friend to Animals
178 pp.     Houghton     2016
Trade ISBN 978-0-544-65031-2

Illustrated by Vincent Desjardins. After witnessing a man beating his horse, Henry Bergh established an agency much like England’s RSPCA and championed the passage of an animal anti-cruelty law. In short chapters, Furstinger details these events, allowing descriptions of specific incidents to create drama and tension. Digitally rendered illustrations mirror mid-nineteenth-century political cartoons and color-wash engravings. A collection of archival photographs concludes the volume. Timeline. Bib., ind.

ChompHiaasen, Carl  Chomp
290 pp.     Knopf     2012
Trade ISBN 978-0-375-86842-9
Library binding ISBN 978-0-375-96842-6

Wahoo Cray’s pop, a well-known South Florida animal wrangler, can’t work after getting a concussion, so a lucrative job offer seems like a godsend. Expedition Survival!, a TV program featuring a bumbling, egomaniacal star, wants to use their backyard zoo and faux Everglades pond. The serious environmental message behind the madcap antics isn’t heavy-handed; the fast-paced story sticks to easy laughs and good fun.

Moonbird by Phillip M. HooseHoose, Phillip  Moonbird: A Year on the Wind with the Great Survivor B95
148 pp.     Farrar     2012
Trade ISBN 978-0-374-30468-3

Flying nearly from pole to pole twice a year, one robin-sized rufa red knot known as “Moonbird” has flown some 325,000 miles over a twenty-year lifespan. In lucid, graceful prose, Hoose details the birds’ characteristics, profiles scientists and activist kids, and takes a sobering look at long-term prospects for survival. Glorious full-page and smaller photographs alternate with helpful maps in an informative progression of images. Bib., ind.

tree-ladyHopkins, H. Joseph  The Tree Lady: The True Story of How One Tree-Loving Woman Changed a City Forever
32 pp.     Simon/Beach Lane     2013
Trade ISBN 978-1-4424-1402-0

Illustrated by Jill McElmurry. Kate Sessions, the first woman to graduate from Berkeley with a science degree, was responsible for populating San Diego’s Balboa Park with lush, green trees, just in time for the Panama-California Exposition in 1915. Hopkins’s text succinctly captures the highlights of his subject’s life, and McElmurry’s gouache illustrations document the gradually changing landscape from barren desert to verdant garden.

jenkins_animal bookJenkins, Steve  The Animal Book: A Collection of the Fastest, Fiercest, Toughest, Cleverest, Shyest — and Most Surprising — Animals on Earth
208 pp.     Houghton    2013
Trade ISBN 978-0-547-55799-1

This thoughtful and coherent book begins with a survey of the animal kingdom, then covers “Family,” “Senses,” “Predators,” and “Defenses.” A section on “Animal Extremes” provides Guinness Book–type facts kids love, and the concluding section, “The Story of Life,” explores evolution. The paper-collage art throughout is taken from Jenkins’s many previous books; each image is recontextualized to serve the book’s purpose. Bib., glos., ind.

king_me and marvin gardensKing, Amy Sarig  Me and Marvin Gardens
250 pp.     Scholastic/Levine     2017
Trade ISBN 978-0-545-87074-0

Sixth-grader Obe lives at the edge of a massive housing development being built on land that once belonged to his mother’s family. One day he spies a strange creature whose favorite food is plastic and whose scat is toxic. A. S. King’s middle-grade debut is a smart, environmentally conscious underdog story with a lot of heart and a little sci-fi.

leavitt_blue mountainLeavitt, Martine  Blue Mountain
163 pp.     Farrar/Ferguson     2014
Trade ISBN 978-0-374-37864-6
Ebook ISBN 978-0-374-37865-3

Mankind encroaches upon the bighorn sheep’s habitat; wolf and puma feed on their dwindling herd. Biggest lamb Tuk must save the herd by finding a way west to “blue mountain,” a place he sees in visions and may not be real. With its omniscient third-person narrator and mythic feel, the book celebrates the power of story and the beauty of the mountain world.

newman_plastic ahoyNewman, Patricia  Plastic, Ahoy!: Investigating the Great Pacific Garbage Patch
48 pp.     Millbrook     2014
Library binding ISBN 978-1-4677-1283-5
Ebook ISBN 978-1-4677-2541-5

Photographs by Annie Crawley. Here readers travel to the Pacific Garbage Patch with three graduate-student scientists as they try to determine the effect of plastics on the sea. There’s solid explanation of their hypotheses and research, and emphasis on the researchers’ experiences lends a personal feel. Questions of how plastic may harm the oceans, its inhabitants, and even humans encourage further inquiry. Reading list, websites. Glos., ind.

o'connell_bridge to the wildO’Connell, Caitlin  Bridge to the Wild: Behind the Scenes at the Zoo
202 pp.     Houghton     2016
Trade ISBN 978-0-544-27739-7

Photographs by Caitlin O’Connell and Timothy Rodwell. O’Connell and co-photographer Rodwell present an in-depth (and in this case favorable) view of the workings of a major zoo — Zoo Atlanta — and the personalities of many of its residents. Through her first-person narration, full of curiosity, enthusiasm, humor, and respect for animals, O’Connell exposes a biologist’s thinking process. The final chapter emphasizes the important conservation and education missions of zoos. Bib., ind.

park_project mulberryPark, Linda Sue  Project Mulberry
227 pp.     Clarion     2005
Trade ISBN 0-618-47786-1

Initially reluctant because she is embarrassed by her Korean heritage, seventh-grader Julia warms to her 4-H-like project of raising silk worms. But when she learns that she must kill the worms to reap the silk, she faces difficult moral choices. Park undermines her engaging novel with metafictional conversations between herself and Julia that interrupt the narrative flow.

stead_first lightStead, Rebecca  First Light
328 pp.     Random/Lamb     2007
Trade ISBN 978-0-375-84017-3
Library binding ISBN 978-0-375-94017-0

Fourteen-year-old Thea lives in Gracehope, a hidden community underneath the ice. When Peter’s family goes to Greenland, their paths intersect and they discover a close connection. Peter and Thea are vividly realized, and their frustrations with the secrets kept by the older generations are keenly felt. The story is immediate and compelling, and Gracehope itself is sketched with sure strokes.

young_mission sea turtle rescue

Young, Karen Romano  Mission: Sea Turtle Rescue: All About Sea Turtles and How to Save Them
112 pp.     National Geographic    2015
Library binding ISBN 978-1-4263-1894-8
Paperback ISBN 978-1-4263-1893-1

National Geographic Kids Mission series. With Daniel Raven-Ellison. Spectacular photos, fascinating facts, anecdotes about individual turtles, and updates from field scientists give a thorough overview of the species’ survival threats and current status. Unfortunately, the design is busy and page inserts of stories and interviews interrupt the flow of the narrative. Each chapter ends with “rescue activities,” such as holding an awareness-raising art show and writing to politicians. Reading list, websites. Ind.

 

Older

bergin_h2oBergin, Virginia  H2O
331 pp.     Sourcebooks/Fire     2014
Trade ISBN 978-1-4926-0654-3

Ruby Morris heard about the asteroid that almost collided with Earth — “honestly, it was boring” — but years later, dust from that boring asteroid infects water molecules with an alien virus that kills humans on contact. Alone and thirsty, Ruby holds tightly to the unlikely hope that her father is still alive. Ruby’s diary-style narration lends some dark comedy to the post-apocalyptic doom and gloom.

castaldo_story of seedsCastaldo, Nancy  The Story of Seeds: From Mendel’s Garden to Your Plate, and How There’s More of Less to Eat Around the World
136 pp.     Houghton     2016
Trade ISBN 978-0-544-32023-9

In this wake-up call about the fragility of our plant-based food supply, Castaldo speaks clearly to the importance of plant diversity, presenting engaging scientific and historical information about agricultural science, genetics, and biodiversity along with accounts of global politics, industrialism, and activism. Numerous photographs of the plants and people involved in plant and seed preservation are included. A “Call to Action” section is appended. Reading list, timeline, websites. Glos., ind.

crossnan_breatheCrossan, Sarah  Breathe
373 pp.     Greenwillow    2012
Trade ISBN 978-0-06-211869-1

In an environmentally ravaged world with four percent oxygen in the air, people live inside glass domes (and pay for air) or struggle to survive outside. Privileged Quinn, his poorer friend Bea, and rebel Alina travel outside of the dome and are stranded there with little hope of survival. Sci-fi fans with an environmental bent will find this book particularly engaging.

fleischman_eyes wide openFleischman, Paul  Eyes Wide Open: Going Behind the Environmental Headlines
204 pp.     Candlewick     2014
Trade ISBN 978-0-7636-7102-0
Paperback ISBN 978-0-7636-7545-5
Ebook ISBN 978-0-7636-7407-6

A wake-up call about the environmental crisis, this book homes in on five “key fronts” — population, consumption, energy, food, and climate — and explores historical and sociological contexts. Fleischman writes urgently, conversationally, and inspirationally, in a flow of ideas that can be dizzying. Yet none of the concepts is dumbed-down. A refreshingly opinionated approach to informed action. Reading list, websites. Bib., glos., ind.

heos_it's getting hot in here

Heos, Bridget  It’s Getting Hot in Here: The Past, Present, and Future of Climate Change
231 pp.     Houghton    2016
Trade ISBN 978-0-544-30347-8

This thoughtful, in-depth account examines earth and human history from a climate-change perspective, the scientific evidence for human-produced global warming, global energy policies, and future societal changes that need to occur. Heos’s narrative is straightforward, occasionally conversational, and mostly jargon-free. Sections labeled “Be the Change” encourage practical actions that readers can take to make a real difference. Reading list, websites. Bib., glos., ind.

layborne_monument 14Laybourne, Emmy  Monument 14
296 pp.     Feiwel     2012
Trade ISBN 978-0-312-56903-7

A devastating hailstorm, an earthquake, and then a dangerous chemical spill lead to a school bus of kids (teens and younger) seeking refuge in a superstore — abundant resources and no adult supervision. In this intriguing, fast-paced dystopian novel, Laybourne gradually deepens the characterization and includes some touching scenes before bringing it all to an exciting conclusion. Also look for sequels Monument 14: Sky on Fire and Monument 14: Savage Drift.

lloyd_momentumLloyd, Saci  Momentum
215 pp.     Holiday     2012
Trade ISBN 978-0-8234-2414-6

London, in the not-so-distant future, is home for both Hunter, a Citizen, and Uma, an Outsider; these star-crossed protagonists meet during a military crackdown on the Outsiders. Lloyd’s latest eco-thriller features a taut plot, a rapid-fire tour of London and its bridges and rivers, and well-developed secondary characters. What’s really riveting is Lloyd’s writing, which buzzes with a tense, organic energy.

schrefer_endangered199x300Schrefer, Eliot  Endangered
264 pp.     Scholastic     2012
Trade ISBN 978-0-545-16576-1

When Sophie, fourteen, arrives for her yearly visit to her Congolese mother’s animal sanctuary, she becomes attached to a baby bonobo. So when the political situation destabilizes dangerously and she’s scheduled to be airlifted back to Miami, she can’t bear to leave him behind. Schrefer packs a wealth of incident into a compelling survival story set in contemporary conflict-ridden Congo. Look for companion novels Threatened and Rescued.

vacco_my chemical mountainVacco, Corina  My Chemical Mountain
186 pp.     Delacorte     2013
Trade ISBN 978-0-385-74242-9
Library binding ISBN 978-0-375-99057-1

Jason and his friends roam the industrial zone near their neighborhood, swim in the toxic creek, and ride their dirt bikes around a landfill they call Chemical Mountain. Vacco’s thought-provoking modern-day dystopian novel, set in a fictional upstate New York factory town, is plausible and action-packed. She captures both the disheartening helplessness of the situation and the boys’ reckless resistance from Jason’s complex perspective.

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Comments

  1. Jen Mason Stott says:

    FANTASTIC list! I can’t wait to display them Monday. For fiction, I would add First Light, by Rebecca Stead; Project Mulberry, by Linda Sue Park; and Operation Redwood, by S. Terrell French; nonfiction- Plastic Ahoy!

  2. Katie Bircher Katie Bircher says:

    Thanks so much for the great suggestions, Jen! We’ve added them above. We’d love to see a pic of your display! 🙂

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