2 Middle Grade Novels That Explore Climate Change in Different Ways

Climate change and environmental activism are ­exceedingly relevant topics for young readers today, and these two titles have different approaches to similar issues.

Climate change and environmental activism are ­exceedingly relevant topics for young readers today. These two titles have different approaches to similar issues; Dee explores the ­eco-anxiety of a seventh grader trying to make the world better in Haven Jacobs Saves the Planet, while Gratz crafts an adventure novel centering four tweens fighting to survive environmental disasters in their hometowns in Two Degrees.


Dee, Barbara. Haven Jacobs Saves the Planet. 304p. Aladdin. Sept. 2022. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781534489837.
Gr 4-8–Middle grade author and tough topics expert Dee returns with a thought-provoking look at the very prevalent, but little known, issue of eco-anxiety and how it is affecting our youth. Seventh grader Haven Jacobs lives in the small town of Belmont with her family, and while she is hypersensitive worrying about climate change, she thinks she is alone in her thoughts. When her science teacher Mr. Hendricks announces the annual River Project to study the local Belmont River, Haven is excited to further the research that is compared and reported yearly. However, when Haven and her classmates find the river vastly changed from just two years ago (when her brother, Carter, did the project), Haven’s anxiety ramps up. The water has become more acidic, there are no more frogs, and Haven worries that Gemba, the new factory in town, could be to blame. Haven’s father works at Gemba, and Haven worries about what she suspects, as it may jeopardize her father as well as her friendship with Kenji, the son of the man running the company. Haven wants to make a difference for the planet, but feels her efforts can matter little. VERDICT Dee has deftly brought the important topic of eco-anxiety to the fore, while developing a wonderful story about juggling normal middle school worries such as friendships, crushes, and sibling issues.–Michele Shaw

Gratz, Alan. Two Degrees. 384p. Scholastic. Oct. 2022. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781338735673.
Gr 4-7–A fictional story about climate change geared for the middle grade audience. It is told through the eyes of four middle school students, all individuals battling climate disasters in North America; the parallel plots are linked by climate events. In Nevada, Japanese American Akira Kristiansen witnesses giant sequoias catching fire, which seems impossible. She is separated from her family as she struggles to survive the extraordinary wildfire. In Manitoba, eighth grade boys Owen Mackenzie (white) and George Gruyère (Mushkegowuk) face ravenous polar bears. In Miami, Puerto Rican Florida resident Natalie Torres is washed away by a hurricane. All characters suffer losses and scars. Gratz writes at the end of the book that he was inspired by Greta Thunberg and other climate protestors and wanted to boost their signal. The chapters are short and flow well enough to keep the reader’s attention. Gratz drives home the point that we are all very closely connected when it comes to climate change, and that everyone should be looking at the big picture. VERDICT Gratz urges readers to see that what is happening around them isn’t in isolation, but affects everyone around the world. Fans of Gratz and the “I Survived” series will welcome this action-packed title.–Lisa Gieskes

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