Originally published in hardcover last year, the paperback release of this fun Summer mystery is perfect for beach reading while ruminating on how water ices can save the world. Half-sisters Josie and Stella spend every summer together: Josie lives in Australia with her mom, while Stella lives in New York with her mom and stepdad. They share their summers – and their dad – together at the Jersey Shore, where they have their rituals. This year, Stella is pushing back against those rituals, because she’s on the verge of high school and wants to act more adult; Josie revels in their childhood memories. What starts out as a story where two sisters are growing up yet afraid of growing apart gets infinitely more interesting when you realize that chapters alternate between the sisters’ story and a debriefing at a police station. Something big has happened, as the story unfolds through each chapter, and it has to do, somehow, with the new smoothie store that took the place of Josie’s beloved water ice shop; a pop star coming to perform a concert at the pier, and the jellyfish population, currently undergoing a marine life crisis. This family story becomes a co-plot to an environmental mystery that brings the sisters back together to solve as they work out their growing pains, and it is guaranteed to keep readers glued to the pages. There’s a fun cast of supporting characters, great pacing and dialogue, and an eloquent statement about the environment and how we affect it, for better or for worse. Put this on your shelves with other summer books like Kayla Miller’s graphic novel, Camp, Mae Respicio’s Any Day With You, Melissa Savage’s Lemons, and – naturally! – Rita Williams-Garcia’s One Crazy Summer.
A young girl makes a call to the local plant pavilion to order a trillium flower, but a hilarious game of telephone leads to the family being put down for an order of a trillion trees! When the first thousand show up, the family bands together to figure out where to put all of them: the yard, the town, the park, everywhere one can imagine, the family’s planting trees of all kinds. When the day is done, the weary family heads home to discover a truck in the driveway… with their next shipment of trees. An environmentally sound counting story with a fun twist, this rhyming tale will have readers giggling and trying to figure out where to put tree upon tree upon tree! It’s a great readalong with books like Kadir Nelson’s If You Plant a Seed. Colorful illustrations show trees of all types, including a giant Sequoia and an apple orchard. Fun family moments show them being overwhelmed by the trees tumbling off the truck, and digging multiple holes across their town. A back page provides fun facts about trees. This list from Brightly includes more books about planting trees, to add to a Hug a Tree display for Earth Day.
Trillions of Trees is a companion to Kurt Cyrus’s 2016 book, Billions of Bricks and has a starred review from School Library Journal.
The second book in Dr. Ellen Prager’s new Wonder List Adventures takes siblings Ezzy and Luke to the next stop on their mother’s “Wonder List”: Greenland. The siblings and their father, who are visiting the places their mother wanted them to see for her when she passed away. After visiting the Galápagos Islands and finding themselves in the middle of a poaching ring in Escape Galápagos (2019), they’re hoping for a calmer vacation in Greenland. No such luck, my friends. Dr. Skylar, Ezzy’s and Luke’s dad, is called away to help out an injured researcher, just as the siblings overhear a plot to attract tourism by speeding up the melting of a glacier and find themselves in some very unfriendly company! In between once-in-a-lifetime adventures like seeing humpback whales breach (and being under them when they’re eating!), playing with puppies and getting a ride from sled dogs, they’re on the run from some pretty scary bad guys. Dr. Prager creates likable, interesting characters and uses her wealth of knowledge about marine science and climate change to put readers in the middle of the story with them. Settling her stories in incredible locales, she encourages environmental awareness by creating a love for the natural wonders of our planet and by spotlighting the very real types of people who would wreak ecological havoc through illegal and shady business practices, Dr. Prager sets readers’ sights on the big villain: personal gain.
The Wonder List Adventures is a good series to recommend to your Nat Geo Explorer Academy readers and your Carl Hiaasen readers. And fans of her previous series, Tristan Hunt and the Sea Guardians, will love the little Easter Egg she put in there!
Beatrix is a young girl who loves to listen to and watch the bees buzzing around their hive in a tree on her way home from school. They zig and zag from flower to flower, and head back to the hive, weighed down with pollen and nectar. But one day, the tree is silent, and Bea discovers that the flowers by the tree have all been cut down. She take a trip to the library and researches bees: what flowers they like to feast on, the important part bees play in our own food web, and how some bees are an endangered species. She takes action, planting seeds for mint, clover, and flowers that bees like; she encourages others to plant wildflowers, even handing out seed packets; she even does her science fair project on bees. Can Bea’s dedication bring the bees back to the tree? A moving story about the impact one person can make on helping the environment, Bea’s Bees is realistic fiction that weaves information about bees, environmental impact, and activism seamlessly into the story of a young girl. Back matter has more information about being a friend to bees, and the artist’s rendering of plants that Bea grows in her garden will encourage readers to grab their shovels and some seeds. Endpapers feature dancing, realistic bees against a white backdrop. A good pick to put aside for Earth Day. Read and display with Candace Fleming and Eric Rohmann’s award-winning Honeybee: The Busy Life of Apis Mellifera. If you’re doing grab-and-go bags, consider handing out some seeds for flowers that will grow in your area and that bees enjoy. I looked at the NY State Parks blog and found this article; the Native NY Gardens website also has helpful information. Buggy and Buddy has adorable and affordable craft ideas and books to feature.
On the heels of Earth Day is Arbor Day (April 30th in 2021), and The Tiny Giant is great Arbor Day reading. A tiny acorn falls from a blue jay’s mouth, and settles into the ground as the seasons, and life, goes on around it. As the seasons change, the seed within the acorn swells and bursts through, with roots anchoring a tentative sapling poking up through the dirt. The sapling will grow until one day, it will provide acorns for future trees, too. The Tiny Giant plays with perspective, shifting from traditional left-right reading to top-bottom as the tree grows, letting storytime listeners see the exciting shift as the tree grows tall. One and two-sentence spreads use beautiful language to describe the sights unfolding: “…blossoms parade along the branches of the tall oak”, “Buds dress in sleeves of summer’s glory”, “…warm summer rain feed the little seed as it sends a single spare thread of life toward the sky”. The story is about a tiny acorn, but the incredible, detailed artwork shows the life that goes on around the acorn as it begins its journey into a mighty tree; seasons pass, animals wander the landscape in search of food and shelter, leaves curl and wither in the snow, and ripe blackberries burst through the pages as spring arrives. It’s a celebration of life and nature, a look at seasons, and a primary STEM story. Wonderfully done. Back matter includes artwork on North American acorns, Arbor Day Fun Facts, and how readers can grow their own oaks from acorns. Endpapers are decorated with leaves and acorns, faded and pale against a light blue background. The Arbor Day Foundation has a kids corner with digital games and printable coloring sheets. PBS Cartoon Nature Cat has an Arbor Day episode, available with teacher materials, on the PBS website.
A girl discovers a love of butterflies, a desire for advocacy, and defines a place for herself in her new home in the U.S. Told in first person narration, a girl reads about butterflies as she learns English, and learns that butterflies, “make a long, long journey, just like we did. They have to be strong to fly so far”; as she becomes a more proficient English reader, she learns that the monarch butterfly population is faltering because of environmental impact: milkweed, the plant they eat and lay eggs on, is being decimated by climate change and by farmers who use chemicals to keep it from growing in fields. She gains the confidence to become an activist, motivating her classmates to take action and create a monarch way station that will create a safe space for monarch butterflies. The girl’s story runs parallel to the caterpillar to butterfly life cycle: she feels herself transforming into someone confident, strong, ready to take a stand. The story moves easily between the girl’s narrative and “book excerpts” that provie the nonfiction text and maps the girl reads, letting readers feel like they’re sharing the same book with the narrator. A quiet subplot about immigration makes itself known as the girl wonders if she belongs in her new life; these doubts diminish as she gains more confidence in herself through her activism. Endpapers illustrate a beautiful kaleidoscope of butterflies fluttering across the page. Back matter is written with children and adult readers in mind, including a guide to getting a monarch way station up and running, monarch facts, booklists for young environmental activists and grown-up activists and educators, and a rich list of Internet resources.
BookRiot has a nice list of butterfly books; I also recommend Caroline Arnold’s Butterflies in Room 6. and activism books like Thank You, Earth: A Love Letter to Our Planet by April Pulley Sayre, The Honeybee by Kirsten Hall, and Greta and the Giants: Inspired by Greta Thunberg’s Stand to Save the World by Zoë Tucker are great display ideas. The Spruce Crafts has a list of 15 butterfly crafts that hit that grab-and-go budget sweet spot.
The coordinator of Extinction Rebellion Youth London, an activist group, is behind this straightforward, illustrated guide that encourages readers to challenge everything: government, big business, even ourselves. Blue lays out the crisis facing Gen Z in a no-nonsense, no drama statement: “We are a generation that has never known a stable climate and that will be defined by how the world responds to the climate and ecological crisis”. Blue calls for readers to research and know their facts before taking action (THANK YOU), and to boycott businesses that pollute the environment, treat their workers poorly, or are unethical. Blue calls for craft activism to do away with the disposable, “fast fashion” trends and encourages readers to repair, mend, and repurpose clothing; reconsider our diets and cut down or cut out animal products; make our leaders accountable and, most importantly, figure out our own moral grounds. Worksheets throughout invite readers to engage in some introspection and create action plans. The last few years have seen our young people take on greater roles in activism than ever before, and the literature out there is reaching younger kids, encouraging them to act and take charge. Whether it’s organizing beach cleanups or asking readers to make businesses and people accountable for their actions, there are ways for everyone to be involved. Challenge Everything is written for middle schoolers through college, and you can use this book in virtually any kind of programming: journaling, advocacy, STEM. Give it a look and consider it for your budding activists.
I’ve got two STEM picture books from Schiffer Publishing, by author Sol Regwan and illustrator Denise Muzzio. The Gizmo Girl series stars a second grader named Geraldine. If you have readers who enjoyed Pip Jones’s Izzy Gizmo, Andrea Beaty’s Questioneers series, or Ashley Spires’s The Most Magnificent Thing, this series should be next on their reading lists.
Geraldine is a second grader who loves to call herself a troublemaker, but she’s really not. She’s curious, a budding astronaut and scientist, and just needs a little focus, which she gets when her teacher announces a science contest! The winner gets a trophy and the title of Best Second-Grade Scientist, and Geraldine knows she has to win. She puts her talent for tinkering to work and gets out her piles of gadgets, screws, electronic parts, and other bits and pieces she’s scavenged from her parents (sometimes, while they were still in use), and thinks about what to make that would win first prize. Will it be good enough to impress her teacher and take home the gold? A fun story with a rambunctious heroine, Geraldine and the Most Spectacular Science Project is a good STEM/STEAM picture book for kids who still love picture books, but are ready to take on more complex text. The story provides a look at some popular science fair projects, like the erupting volcano and solar system mobile; teachers who are prepping classes for a science fair should kick off with this one, particularly for first- and second-graders. Illustrations are colorful and cheerful, and present a diverse group of learners. The cover and endpapers are a nod to Geraldine’s interest in outer space, and her name looks like a fun mashup of technology and gadgets from her project pile. Additional Schiffer Kids readalikes in the back are spotlighted as some of Geraldine’s “favorites”, which is really sweet and invests readers in the character.
Give this one a shot; I think it’s going to be a hit. Kids who are interested in Geraldine’s project can find a similar one here at the HomeScienceTools website.
Gizmo Girl Geraldine waters her mother’s plants one day and notices that there aren’t as many bees as she’s used to seeing. After mentioning it to her mother, she learns that bee populations are on the decline and that pesticides – bug-killing poisons – are a big cause. Geraldine decides to make saving the bees the subject of her next science project: creating a model of something she’d like to send into outer space, for the Space Museum. After thinking over the decline of the bee population and how a spaceship wouldn’t have harmful chemicals aboard, she decides she’s going to build a feeding station that will allow scientists to study bees in space, in a pesticide-free environment! This story delves even further into the scientific process than the first Geraldine book, and it’s really exciting to read and see Geraldine work out the steps in her experiment. Geraldine and the Space Bees makes a great reading choice for science and STEM/STEAM classes, where learners can discuss how they can and would address the environmental factors leading to the decline in bee populations, and why this is such a serious matter. Back matter includes a note about pollination and why bees are so important. Endpapers show bees buzzing around the planets in outer space, a nod to the story inside. A note at the end of the book promises more Gizmo Girl books are coming soon.
Readers who are interested in learning more about the bee crisis can read 6 Ways to Help Honeybees, from the Whole Kids Foundation; A Bee is More Than a Bug from NASA’s Climate Kid webpage; and Why Are Bees Vanishing? from Science News for Students. The Pragmatic Mom blog has a DIY Bee House STEM project that would be a good project to work on over the winter.
This is a new adventure series that animal adventure fans are going to want to pay attention to. A team of endangered animals from all over the world – an orangutan, a narwhal, and a pangolin – meet at a rehabilitation and research facility called The Ark, and discover they are hyperaware. They can understand humans, and they can understand and communicate with each other. Nukilik, a polar bear, joins the Ark and is solely focused on one thing: going home. But when a mated pair of ferrets leave the Ark to be reintroduced into the wild and go missing, Nukilik joins the team as they launch into action to find their friends and discover an insidious plot to cause pure mayhem. A fun story, colorful characters with strong, standout personalities and solid backstories, and great pacing and dialogue, this is just nonstop action and great reading; there are strong themes of climate change and environmental encroachment that will appeal to younger readers, who will be motivated to think about our impact on the planet and how we can work to make things better for ourselves and the creatures we share this world with.
Philippe Cousteau, grandson of Jacques Cousteau and host of Xploration Awesome Planet, and award-winning author Austin Aslan – who also holds a master’s degree in Tropical Conservation Biology, have a great new series on their hands. I’m looking forward to seeing where the Endangereds go next!
A moving look at how ecosystems are connected, If You Take Away the Otter begins with a discussion on the kelp forests in the Pacific Coast waters. Towering kelp trees can grow up to a foot a day, and are full of living creatures: abalones, clams, sea stars, and more find their shelter within the kelp. Sea otters hunt in these waters, requiring about a quarter of their own body weight in food to keep warm (kids would need to eat about 24 hamburgers a day as an equivalent!). Otters keep the food web in balance. In the 18th century, the international fur trade came to the Pacific waters, and otters were hunted for their pelts: which caused a disastrous fallout in the ecosystem. With the otter population decimated, sea urchins proliferated, eating the kelp forests to their bottoms, forming “urchin barrens”. When people above noticed the change, they enacted laws to protect the remaining population; the otters returned, got control of the urchins, and new kelp once again flourished. As the story says: “Those forests are homes again for crabs and snails, sea worms and shrimps. They make safe places for the fish and their eggs. There is food for the seaweed eaters; there is food for the hunters. There is just enough of everything to help the kelp forests, and all that depend on them, thrive”. An author’s note highlights the importance of food webs in our ecosystems, and how a change in one part of the web affects both the ecosystem and the people – in this case, the Indigenous Peoples of the northern Pacific – who depend on them to survive and thrive. There are resources available for further reading and research.
Mixed media illustrations run primarily blue and green, showing both a thriving and a struggling underwater world. The otters are rendered in beautiful detail, and the floating kelp is almost tangible as it dances across the page. The artwork is just brilliant and gives real life to the factual text. Small callouts throughout offer deeper reading about the effects of environmental change.
A solid book to have in your natural history collections. When my Corona kids come in looking for food webs/ecosystems information, this is a book I want to have handy for them.
There are lots of great books about taking care of our planet out for kids, and two timely ones focus on the ways tweens and middle graders can start on a big problem: the use of single-use plastics. Inspiring, empowering, and fun, these are two great books to add to your shelves (and Plastic Sucks! also has the dual duty of offering some environmentally conscious careers, too).
Musician and activist Dougie Poynter, of the group McFly, is here to give kids some straight talk about single-use plastics: they suck. They suck the life out of our oceans, most notably, by killing marine life and decimating our natural resources. Poynter has put together a history of plastic, how plastic still has good uses (medical equipment, safety belts) but is largely used as a temporary convenience, and how kids can take action – and get families involved – to lessen the use of single-use plastic in their everyday lives.
Illustrated in two-color green and black, with loads of infographics and eye-catching statistics, this is a smart look at conservation with a friendly, informative voice. Poynter breaks down recycling symbols and has an illustrated aquatic foodweb to show how everything is interconnected, and how pollution affects life on earth as well as the oceans. Easy swaps illustrate how to cut down on plastic waste. Profiles of environmental activists run throughout the book, offering a look at different careers that may appeal to burgeoning activists: marine biologists, wildlife charity heads, and bloggers/YouTubers are all in here. A glossary is available to help readers with some new terminology. A nice, concise book to have in your environmental collections.
Absolute fun while providing absolute info, this digitally illustrated guide to fighting single-use plastic gives kids a book full of missions to fight plastic: from our homes to our schools, to the supermarket and beyond, kids get the skinny on plastics while racking up points, whether it’s through identifying five “good” and five “bad” pieces of plastic, bringing a reusable water bottle everywhere you go, and making homemade snacks to cut down on the use of plastic-wrapped stuff, there’s something for everyone here. Martin Dorey is the founder of the #2minutebeachclean movement, and shows kids that 2 minutes can make a huge difference. Missions are all worth different points, which they can tally up at the end and calculate their “Superhero Rating”. Profiles of different rescued sea life and activists appear throughout on “Everyday Superhero” graphics that look like collectible cards – they can even envision their own Everyday Superhero card! – and missions are all available at the end of the book, in one convenient spot, so folks don’t have to go throughout the book to locate each mission. More resources are available for readers who want to learn more, including more information about the #2minutebeachclean initiative.