Elem. – The Wild Robot Protects

Brown, Peter. The Wild Robot Protects. Little Brown and Company, 2023. 978-0-316-66941-2. 277 p. $17.99. Grades 3-5.

The Wild Robot Protects takes the reader back to the island with Roz and her family. Everything is going well when a seal comes to the island and warns the creatures of a “poison tide” that is headed towards the island. Many of the animals leave the island, some such as Roz’s son Brightbill decide to stay as this island is their home. Roz decides that she is going to figure out where the “poison tide” is coming from and she will stop it as well. She learns that she  needs to find an ancient shark and ask them for help, so off she goes. The reader follows Roz as she goes off on this adventure, and they will wait with anticipation to find out whether Roz was able to save the island and stop the “poison tide”.

THOUGHTS: The Wild Robot series is so fun, whether being used for a read aloud with a group of students, or just read by one student for pleasure. This addition is as wonderful as the rest of them! This would be a great book to use with a climate change unit, or just as a read aloud (as long as the class is familiar with the other Wild Robot books). Highly recommended for any elementary school collection.

Science Fiction

MG – Total Garbage: A Messy Dive Into Trash, Waste, and Our World

Donnelly, Rebecca. Total Garbage: A Messy Dive Into Trash, Waste, and Our World. Henry Holt & Co, 2023. 978-1-250-76076038-8. 156 p. $21.99. Grades 5-8.

Donnelly tackles an everyday reality: garbage, and answers questions such as: What is garbage? Where does it come from? Why do we make so much? Where does it go? What can we learn from our garbage? How bad is our garbage problem? And how can we do better? Trash is complicated, and whether it ends up in a landfill, incinerator, recycling center or compost heap, it doesn’t really go ‘away.’ Using first person plural we and and direct address (“take a look at your kitchen trash”), Donnelly establishes a friendly tone through the ordinary and unknown trash realities. Occasional line drawings by John Hendrix help to lighten the heavy load.  Along the way, readers will learn facts ranging from disgusting to simply sobering, facts like: early garbage piles in Paris were so large that troops had difficulty seeing around them, decomposing garbage produces toxic gas, recycling has not been the solution we hoped for, there are many ocean garbage ‘patches,’ planned obsolescence increases profits and trash, and much more. This book explains new terms like MSW, fatbergs, fast fashion, materials recovery facility (MRF), downcycling, middens, mudlarks and toshers, and the rag-and-doll man. The result is a complete look at garbage and ways we can confront our garbage problem.

THOUGHTS: Donnelly covers all the facts on global trash yet maintains a hopeful tone for readers, resulting in a very useful book. This title could work well with Can I Recycle This? A Guide to Better Recycling and How to Reduce Single-Use Plastics by Jennie Romer (2021).

628.4 Conservation & Environment

MG – The First Rule of Climate Club

Firestone, Carrie. The First Rule of Climate Club. G.P. Putnam’s Sons Books, 2023. 978-1-51604-213-5. 469 p. $22.99. Grades 5-8.

Mary Kate Murphy has always loved nature. Luckily enough she lives next to a beautiful nature sanctuary that becomes a special place for her and Lucy, her best friend, to hang out. She is thrilled that she is chosen to be in the first ever climate change science class along with Lucy. Under the guidance of Mr. Lu, the class decides to do a composting project. They apply for a grant that would give them enough money to start the project, but their application is rejected by the mayor who has troubling racist views. The climate class decides to host a fun fest to raise funds for the project. To raise awareness for the fest (and also expose the mayor’s problematic views), they start a climate change podcast. One of their guests includes Miss Charlotte Lane, their English teacher and the candidate running against the mayor in the upcoming election. Meanwhile, Lucy is battling an unknown illness which weighs on Mary Kate’s mind. Fortunately, she has her friends in the climate club, and with their help, Mary Kate sets out to educate her community about climate change and prove that a group of determined kids can do anything.

THOUGHTS: While this is a stand-alone novel, fans will be delighted to see the return of some beloved characters from Dress Coded. This book is fast-paced, funny, and realistically portrays middle schoolers in a modern world. This is a fantastic read for any middle school students, especially those with an interest in activism.

Realistic Fiction

MG – Haven Jacobs Saves the Planet

Dee, Barbara. Haven Jacobs Saves the Planet. Aladdin, 2022. 978-1-534-48983-7. 286 p. $17.99. Grades 4-8. 

Haven spends a lot of time worrying about the climate crisis. When she begins to suspect that a local factory is polluting the river in her town, she jumps at the chance to organize her friends and family in an effort to expose a potential problem with the water supply and the corporate world that may be perpetuating the problem. What she learns, however, is that the situation is more complicated than it appears on the surface, and that the consequences of investigating environmental pollution may be more far-reaching than she anticipated. Still, the vivid characters and interesting plot help this book to end on a hopeful note, and the story may provide a helpful example for a new generation of climate activists.

THOUGHTS: This is a wonderful book for students who are worried about climate change and pollution but don’t know how they themselves fit into the larger picture of the world’s environmental problems. The factory that Haven fears is polluting her town also employs her father, and her activism sometimes creates additional tension in her friendships that the book explores with a refreshing, realistic voice. Once again, Barbara Dee tells a story in this book that many middle-grade readers will find relatable and thought-provoking.

Realistic Fiction          Erin Faulkner, Cumberland Valley SD

Elem. – To Change A Planet

Soontornvat, Christina. To Change A Planet. Scholastic Press, 2022. 978-1-338-62861-6. 40 p. $18.99. Grades PreK-2. 

To Change A Planet is a picture book that focuses on how one person can affect the world both positively and negatively. There is minimal text, and there isn’t necessarily a story; however, the author does get their message across. The end of the book has an extensive author’s note which delves into more detail about climate change and what people can do. The illustrations have a dreamy, almost underwater type quality to them which gives them a blurry type look to them.

THOUGHTS: This is a beautifully done picture book that can be used as a great introduction to climate change or just a beautiful book to share with readers. A must own for any elementary school collection.

Picture Book            Mary McEndree, Lehigh Valley Regional Charter Academy 

MG – Little Monarchs

Case, Jonathan. Little Monarchs. Margaret Ferguson Books, 2022. 978-0-823-44260-7. $22.99. 255 p. Grades 5-8.

African-American, ten-year-old Elvie cruises around a post-apocalyptic world of 2101 in a dilapidated van with her white, twenty-something caregiver, Flora. The world’s population has decreased to a mere 7,000 due to sun sickness; the sun hovers dangerously close to the Earth, and many of the inhabitants have retreated under the ground, the Deepers. The sole way Elvie and Flora can survive in the daytime is because biologist Flora has created a serum from the scales of monarch butterflies. Shortly after Elvie’s birth, her parents traveled to Michoacan, Mexico, to pursue the migration of the monarchs and further Flora’s discovery. Since the deaths of Elvie’s grandparents, Flora has protected Elvie and schooled her in both survival skills and nature. Since the serum only lasts for a brief time, Flora is determined to find a vaccine. The pair are following the migration route of the monarchs up and down the west coast, searching for sufficient material to do so. As they wind their way to Michoacan, hoping for the survival of Elvie’s parents, they cope with natural disasters and get caught up with sinister Deepers who want to thwart Flora’s pursuit. Though very young, Elvie’s unusual upbringing makes her an environmental expert and fearless explorer who emerges a clever and unflappable hero. Part graphic novel, part naturalist notebook, Little Monarchs boasts of colorful and clear illustrations with a compelling, if unusual, plot. 

THOUGHTS: Given the insatiable thirst for graphic novels, Little Monarchs proves itself to be a worthy contender. The storyline is clear and different and has the bonus of being extremely informative. Through Elvira’s system of writing facts in red, readers can learn about the monarchs’ migration and other habits, edible plants, characteristics of frogs, and types of knots, among other secrets of nature and survival. Different frames contain the geographical coordinates. This title sparks discussion of future results of climate change as well as an interest in survival skills, geography, and map skills. 

Graphic Novel          Bernadette Cooke, School District of Philadelphia
Science Fiction

MG – Planet Ocean: Why We All Need a Healthy Ocean

Newman, Patricia. Planet Ocean: Why We All Need a Healthy Ocean. Photographs by Annie Crawley. Millbrook Press, 2021. 64 p. 978-1-541-58121-0. $31.99. Grades 5-8.

Writer Newman and diver Crawley team up for a second book, after the success of their first collaboration Plastic Ahoy! Investigating the Great Pacific Garbage Patch (2014). Their excitement over the beauty of the ocean is evident and contagious as they visit three distinct areas of ocean: the Coral Triangle near Indonesia, the Salish Sea in the Pacific Northwest, and the Arctic Ocean at the top of the world. Since Earth is about 70% ocean and 30% land, they contend that a better name for it would be Planet Ocean. The facts they share about the importance and wonder of the ocean and its creatures make it seem amazing that much of the ocean is yet unexplored because of its size and depth. In each location they highlight young people who are working to improve the health of the oceans. Examples include a group of children who regularly meet to clean their Indonesian beach of plastic and garbage that washes ashore daily, and Inupiat teen Eben Hopson, who started his own film company and has traveled the world to show his films and educate about the changing climate in his own town. Crawley states, “I know how important the ocean is to our daily lives, how fragile it is, and how much we’re changing it. I want kids and teens to speak up for our oceans” (7).

THOUGHTS: This is an engaging look at why our oceans matter, and it encourages young people to take action. Free teaching resources are available via Titlewave.

551.56 Oceans          Melissa Scott, Shenango Area SD

Elem. – Rise Up! The Art of Protest

Rippon, Jo. Rise Up! The Art of Protest. Charlesbridge, 2020. 978-1-623-54150-7. 60 p. $18.99. Grades K-3.

Human rights are important to all of us which is why when they are threatened, many artists create work that peacefully protests and raises awareness. This book is sectioned into six different topics of protest that have been around for years and are still ongoing, including climate change, gender equality, and LGBTQIA+ rights. Each section describes a bit about the history of the struggle and features artwork in various mediums that supported the cause. Captions accompany each piece of artwork to explain the powerful meaning behind it. But in many cases the artwork, the creation of which spans over the past century, speaks for itself.

THOUGHTS: Rise Up! is written in child-friendly language which makes it easy for young readers to understand the cause behind the protest. The artwork in this book is carefully and thoughtfully chosen and shows the power a paintbrush (or camera or crayon) can have. For adolescents figuring out their place in the world around them, this book can be crucial in helping them see the power young people can have. Written in collaboration with Amnesty International, this is a must-have for librarians and teachers who want to curate a collection of books that bring awareness to social issues.

322.4 Social Issues and Peaceful Protest        Danielle Corrao, Manheim Central SD

Elem. – Weather and Climate (Series NF)

Raij, Emily. Weather and Climate. Capstone Press, 2020. $21.99 ea. $88.16 set of 4. 32 p. Grades 3-5. 

The Power of Weather. 978-1-543-59155-2.
Weather Watch. 978-1-543-59156-9.
Wide World of Weather. 978-1-543-59158-3.
Climate Change and You. 978-1-543-59157-6.

This series focuses on climate change and how it affects your everyday life. Each book has a table of contents, glossary, and index, as well as a list of internet sites if you want to do more research. Climate Change and You has extra facts throughout the book, as well as full color photos to go along with certain topics that are covered.

THOUGHTS: This book is a great addition to any upper elementary school collection. It’s a great addition to research about climate change, and the topic is broken down in a way that makes it easy to understand and follow.

363.738 Climate Change          Mary Hyson, Lehigh Valley Charter Academy

Picture Books – Big Cat, Little Cat; Leaf; Baawaa & Wooliam; Olivia the Spy

Cooper, Elisha. Big Cat, Little Cat. Roaring Brook Press, 2017. 9781626723719. Unpaged.  $16.99. Gr. 2-5.

Using simple drawings with lots of white space and spare text, author-illustrator Elisha Cooper has written a quiet gem of a book that tells the story of a friendship between two cats. We first meet a single household cat who keeps busy exploring, playing, and eating.  His life changes when a kitten joins the family, and the two cats quickly becomes friends.  The older cat serves as a mentor to the kitten and shows him how to eat, rest, and play.  Time passes and the kitten grows into a cat.  The two animals continue to have fun together, until the older cat gets sick.  Using poignant text, the author tells us about the passing of the cat in a way that is accessible to young children; “He had to go…and he didn’t come back. And that was hard.”  Coming full circle, a new kitten once again appears in the house soon after, and the cycle continues of mentor and friend. The illustrations are an important part of the story.  Cooper uses a black and white color palette and artistically juxtaposes the color of the fur of the three cats. This creates a striking image as the pairs sit next to each other, white cat next to black cat.  The drawings are simply without much detail, and the human family appears on only one page, which is right after the death of the older cat. We see them as shadows on a gray page as the younger cat sits off to the side.  This double page spread paints a strong visual image of grief.  THOUGHTS:  This understated book is a real winner and will be savored by children who love cats. They will enjoy listening and reading it again and again.  Parents may wish to read this book to their children who have experienced the loss of a pet.  After reading this book aloud, it can also lead to a discussion about friendship.   Cooper’s text is a great addition to elementary collections

Picture book                Denise Medwick, West Allegheny School District

 

Dieckmann, Sandra. Leaf. Flying Eye, 2017. 978-1-911171-31-7. Unpaged. $17.95. Gr. K-1.
In Leaf, debut author/illustrator Sandra Dieckmann tells the story of an unnamed polar bear who washes ashore on the edge of the woods. The other animal residents of the woods are quite scared; they have never encountered a polar bear before! They are also confused by the bear’s habit of collecting leaves. As the days go by, the woodland creatures debate about how they should handle their new neighbor. The situation comes to a head when they witness the polar bear cover himself in leaves and jump off a hill and a cliff before crashing back to ground. Spurred to conversation, the other animals learn that the bear drifted across the sea due to the melting of the ice. He was using the leaves in an attempt fly back home. As the story draws to a close, the animals have banded together to help the polar bear return home. THOUGHTS: This is a lovely story about the importance of friendship and inclusion that also incorporates the concept of climate change and it’s impact on animals. The color of the illustrations spring from the page and draw readers into the world of the animals. A great choice for collections serving younger readers.
Picture Book     Elizabeth Henry, Lampeter-Strasburg School District

 

Elliott, David. Baabwaa & Wooliam. Candlewick, 2017. 978-0-7636-6074-1. Unpaged. $16.99. Gr. K-3.

Baabwaa & Wooliam are best friends (and sheep!). Wooliam loves to read while Baabwaa enjoys knitting. One day, they decide to go on an adventure and set off through the surrounding fields. As they are finishing lunch,  a third sheep approaches. But, as the sheep gets closer, they realize it is really a wolf in sheep’s clothing! Wooliam shouts that it must be the wolf he has read about, and he and Baabwaa take off running. They are quite surprised when the wolf stops chasing them and wants to talk about the wolf story Wooliam had mentioned. They soon quickly realize that the wolf is unfamiliar with wolf stories because he cannot read. Wooliam decides to teach the wolf to read (while Baabwaa knits him a new sweater). As the story draws to a close, a unique friendship has developed between three animals. THOUGHTS: This humorous tale of unexpected friendship would make a great read-aloud for any classroom or library. Sweet (a past Caldecott Honor honoree) enhances the text with her watercolor, gouache and mixed media illustrations that bring the personalities of sheep and wolf to life. Highly recommended for picture book collections.
Picture Book      Elizabeth Henry, Lampeter-Strasburg School District

 

Falconer, Ian. Olivia the Spy. Atheneum Books for Young Readers, 2017. 978-1-4814-5795-8. 36pp. $17.99. Gr K-3.

Olivia usually does her best to stand out from the crowd, but in her latest title, she has a new mission: blending in whenever possible. After overhearing her mother’s phone conversation detailing Olivia’s mishaps with the blender (blueberry smoothie all over the kitchen) and the laundry (two red socks dying all her father’s shirts pink), Olivia decides to go undercover to determine what else her family really thinks about her. While eavesdropping, she hears her father mention an ‘institution,’ and Olivia is sure he is planning on sending her to prison. The comical reality of her father’s words play out against a stark white background, allowing Falconer’s trademark pencil and charcoal illustrations to shine. Bright pops of color, including a brightly lit cityscape and an illuminated ballet theatre, add to the story’s drama.  THOUGHTS:  Olivia fans will not be disappointed with this latest addition to the series. During her eavesdropping, Olivia overhears some information and incorrectly interprets it, opening the door for teachers to discuss the ethics of listening in on other people’s conversations.

Picture Book      Anne Bozievich, Southern York County SD