Lately, I’ve been making small environmental changes – silicone lids to replace cellophane, soap nuts to replace washing powder, switching to a renewable energy provider. My wife and I even decided to use cloth nappies and reusable baby wipes (which are brilliant and every parent should at least give them a go).
It’s important to carry on making these small changes, but what we should also be doing is encouraging our children to adopt these green alternatives as well. Kids love reading so let’s make sure they read books that help them become part of the solution rather than the problem.
It’s what Greta would want, right!
So I’ve been searching through the libraries and the bookstores to uncover the best climate change combating, plastic straw scrapping, extinction rebellion-ish books out there to inspire the leaders of the future. And here are the best of the bunch.
5. Greta and the Giants by Zoë Tucker & Zoe Persico
This book is a wonderfully crafted allegory involving a real-life climate change activist – Noble Prize nominee Greta Thunberg.
In the narrative, governments and industry are represented by giants who destroy the environment, leaving the animals fearing for their future. Nobody wants to do anything because everybody is afraid of standing up to the giants. Everybody except Greta, that is. She starts by herself, but is soon joined by others, until there are so many that their complaints can no longer be ignored. And as you can see from the front cover, the illustrations are gorgeous!
Greta and the Giants somehow manages to simplify climate change and the power one child has to change the world into a story that reception kids will grasp. Despite this, parents and adults need to read this just as much as children. It’s a fable for the modern world. What makes this story even better is that the main character, Greta, has Aspergers in real life and so we now have a book that not only encourages environmental discussions but also champions positive representation . . . phew, that was a long and meaningful sentence.
PLUS – at the end, there is a little blurb explaining that in real life the fight against the giants is still raging on. It also gives suggestions on what they can do to be apart of the solution.
4. The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind by William Kamkwamba
There’s nothing quite like a true story, and this one is so damn inspirational the boy in the story went on to do a TEDTalk!
William lives in Malawi, Africa, and faces the harsh realities of poverty. The young boy has it rough – he nearly starves during a famine, is forced to drop out of school due to poverty, and his only hopes are in an extremely minimal library of books that aren’t even in his own language. Despite the odds, he manages to build a working windmill that generates electricity to his home and pumps water to feed the crops . . . and also builds a radio station! Like, wooooooooow, this kid is AMAZING!
The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind would be perfect for a whole class read through (and then build mini windmills of their own). If you want your kids to learn resilience and the importance of learning, this is the book to do just that.
3. Cosmic by Frank Cottrell Boyce
If you’re looking for an eco-book disguised as a brilliant middle-grade book then I’ve found it for you.
“I’m not exactly in the Lake District.”
Indeed he is not. He’s not even on Earth. With that small, understated sentence Frank Cottrell Boyce introduces readers to his twelve-year-old narrator, Liam. He is really tall; tall enough to ride any amusement park ride he wishes, tall enough to drive, tall enough to be repeatedly mistaken as an adult (like on his first day at secondary school when his classmates mistake him for being their teacher). Liam ends up in a rocket blasting off towards the moon . . . with a bunch of kids . . . who thinks he is a dad.
Boyce is a very funny writer. He really does know how to craft a good sentence. For example: “I don’t think the world has vanished. But it is worrying not being able to see it. After all, Earth is where I keep all my stuff.” But, he can also make you think. He writes fantastic books that star boys, that are laugh-out-loud-on-your-work-lunch-break-and-get-strange-looks funny (I speak from experience here), and that also makes you think about life, death, the universe, and everything in it. Cosmic pairs the story of a twelve-year-old who looks thirty with discovering our place in the universe and responsibility to not waste it.
I’m thinking 9-12’s for this, but I reckon any aged human who picked this up would start thinking more and more about their carbon footprint.
2. Hoot by Carl Hiaasen
If endangered animals are your little eco-warriors prefered subject than take peek at this.
Hoot is about, you guessed it, endangered birds – the burrowing owl to be precise. Roy’s first acquaintance in Florida is Dana Matherson, a school bully. Then again, if Dana hadn’t mashed his face against the school bus window, Roy might never have spotted the running boy. He was running away from the school bus, carried no books, and – here’s the odd part – wore no shoes. Sensing a mystery, Roy goes on an adventure to find him and in the process meets a potty-trained alligator, a fake-fart champion, several endangered owls, a renegade eco-warrior, and several extremely poisonous snakes.
For anyone who has read a Hiaasen book for adults, you’ll recognise all his usual troupes in his middle-grade fiction: the quirky hero, the feisty female character, the grunt that seems bad but turns out to be not-so-bad, the odd law enforcement officer, the evil business owner, and a natural environment or animal that is endangered. All the ingredients are here mixed in with his trademark funny banter and quirky humour (except a PG version).
Hiaasen always manages to get a pro-environment and anti-development message into all of his books, as well as his love of Florida. So it’s nice to see this one got nominated for the Newbury Award, and well deserved too!
1. The Last Wild by Piers Torday
I’ve left the best to last. This book is the most astoundingly imaginative, breathtakingly creative and wonderfully inspiring book I’ve ever had the fortune to read.
In a world where animals no longer exist, twelve-year-old Kester Jaynes sometimes feels like he hardly exists either. Locked away in a home for troubled children, he’s told there’s something wrong with him. So when he meets a flock of talking pigeons and a bossy cockroach, Kester thinks he’s finally gone crazy. But the animals have something to say. And they need him. The animals manage to save Kester Jaynes from his prison and take him to The Last Wild. But can Kester save the animals?
Yes, this book is pro-environment, but it is also very very very good. It is both incredibly educational and a thrilling read. It has the power to impact a children’s minds but is also is an enthralling story. And it’s the first of a trilogy (Book Two is called The Dark Wild is about living in harmony with nature and Book Three is called The Wild Beyond is about ocean pollution).
The Last Wild desires to be in every classroom, school library and children’s bookshelves!
. . . and, last but not least, here’s my Eco kids book
There are three things you should know about Seaweed:
1. He is an eleven-year-old boy (and not the slimy green stuff at the bottom of the ocean)
2. He is an Eco-Warrior and the only one in his hometown – Picklington
3. He is willing to do whatever it takes to save the planet . . . anything!
Here are three more things that make Seaweed really angry:
1. The people of Picklington are wasting far too much electricity. Bummer!
2. The Mayor of Picklington is profiting from the pollution by building his unsafe and unnecessary Nuclear Power Station. Double bummer!!
3. The Picklington Vegetable Society is campaigning tirelessly against the Mayor (which is hard work considering Seaweed is the only member) and they are getting zero results. Triple bummer with a non-biodegradable plastic cherry on top!!!
He feels like he is letting the planet down . . . until he joins The Carrot Bandits. Join him as he discovers that indoctrination isn’t so bad. Sure, joining a criminal organisation and stealing one million socks is probably wrong but he gets to hang out with Pank, his equally indoctrinated sidekick, and he is finally making a real difference.
But blowing up the entire town in a catastrophic nuclear explosion would be a step too far, wouldn’t it?
This hilarious book is perfect for the little and big Eco-Warriors in this world. It’s going to take everyone to save our planet, and that’s exactly what this book is here to say (and also to make you laugh, but mainly the saving the planet thing).