19 Top Books for Tween and Teen Climate Activists

Climate justice is at the forefront of youth activism. The following 19 titles illustrate what is happening on the individual and collective scale—highlighting not only the youths’ struggles but also what they are fighting for.

CLIMATE JUSTICE is at the forefront of youth activism, from the school strikes led by Greta Thunberg to the water protectors fighting against the Keystone XL pipeline. Teens and tweens are going beyond reading about historical environmentalists and becoming eco-heroes themselves, battling for their own futures.

The following titles illustrate what is happening on the individual and collective scale—highlighting not only the youths’ struggles but also what they are fighting for. These books don’t represent every group doing work on the ground, but they do provide a good jumping-off point to find other voices that will inspire young people to action.


DE LA BÉDOYÈRE, Camilla. Living Planet: The Story of Survival on Planet Earth from Natural Disasters to Climate Change. Welbeck. 2020. Tr $14.95. ISBN 9781783125296.
Gr 3-6 –A tour of the planet from its core to the organisms that coat its surface. Taking a geological rather than a biological approach, this volume explores the history of the planet and, through the frame of Earth’s slice of the cosmic calendar, makes clear that humans have been here only a relatively short time. Readers will enjoy this romp across time that looks at the bigger picture of life on Earth.

SIMON, Seymour. Climate Action: What Happened and What We Can Do. HarperCollins. 2021. Tr $18.99. ISBN 9780062943316.
Gr 3-6 –Inspiring tales of climate action and stories of those affected by its resulting natural disasters are the meat on the very good bones of this title. There are well-known voices like Greta Thunberg but also stories from everyday people in BIPOC communities all around the world. They are directly quoted, offering readers an authentic window into people’s experiences.

TUDOR, Aslan & Kelly Tudor. Young Water Protectors: A Story About Standing Rock. CreateSpace Independent. 2018. pap. $27.99. ISBN 9781723305689.
Gr 2-5 –A firsthand account of a young water protector at Standing Rock during the major protests at the Dakota Access Pipeline. It is an Indigenous story from a Lipan Apache Tribal member that aims to inspire and encourage other young people to protect their own communities. This work is brief in text but features real photographs of the water protectors in the movement.

WOHLLEBEN, Peter. Can You Hear the Trees Talking?: Discovering the Hidden Life of the Forest. tr. from German by Shelley Tanaka. Greystone. 2019. Tr $15.99. ISBN 9781771644341.
Gr 3-5 –In a question-and-answer format, this illustrated text invites readers to inquire about the way trees exist in our world. In this young reader’s adaptation of the author’s adult title, The Hidden Life of Trees, the original topics surrounding forests and tree communication are scaled down to a manageable yet still captivating level for readers.


Middle School

CHURCH, Dana. The Beekeepers: How Humans Changed the World of Bumble Bees. Scholastic. 2021. Tr $10.99. ISBN 9781338565546.
Gr 6-10 –Weaving together stories, history, and science around bee culture, this book depicts these insects as charming, helpful creatures that spread across the globe rather than as animals desperately in need of saving. There are some conservation issues discussed, but the emphasis is on the value of the bees within their global ecosystems.

DAVENPORT, Leslie. All the Feelings Under the Sun: How to Deal with Climate Change. illus. by Jessica Smith. Magination Pr. 2021. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9781433833915.
Gr 6-9 –Eco-grief is an important topic that has not yet fully made its way onto the main stage of climate crisis conversations. Moving past definitions, Davenport introduces readers to techniques for dealing with the changing world around them. The heavy tone—unavoidable, given the gravity of the situation—is tempered with breaks and check-ins as tweens work through the text.

GREENFIELD, Rob. Be the Change: Rob Greenfield’s Call to Kids Making a Difference in a Messed-Up World. Greystone. 2022. Tr $18.95. ISBN 9781771645911.
Gr 4-7 –What can one person do to change the world? In this case, they can do a good bit by encouraging others to lean into zero-waste lifestyles. Readers are treated to healthy conversations about consumerism, and Earth-friendly diets are modeled as an option; Greenfield focuses less on diets as trends and more on issues such as factory farming and subsidies. The text does lean into buzzword territory, but its content really gets at practical ways kids can mitigate climate change at home.

MCPHERSON, Stephanie. Hothouse Earth: The Climate Crisis and the Importance of Carbon Neutrality. Twenty-First Century Bks. 2021. Tr $37.32. ISBN 9781541579170.
Gr 8-10 –The global perspectives applied here highlight the shared struggle in store for everyone. This is less hopeful and more factual than other titles, but it is valuable in its respect for readers’ intelligence around the issues. Global warming and climate change are covered in detail in each chapter. This is what emerging climate activists need on their TBR shelves.

MARTINEZ, Xiuhtezcatl. Imaginary Borders. illus. by Ashley Lukashevsky. Penguin Workshop. 2020. pap. $8.99. ISBN 9780593094136.
Gr 7-9 –Written by a youth for youths, this brief pocket introduction to Indigenous environmental movements focused on the works in one family is groundbreaking. This empowering title speaks to the power of young people to deconstruct colonial barriers built up over time and establishing a better, greener future for the global community by being responsible today.

NEWMAN, Patricia. Planet Ocean: Why We All Need a Healthy Ocean. illus. by Annie Crawley. Millbrook Pr. 2021. Tr $34.65. ISBN 9781541581210.
Gr 5-8 –Dive into the massive underwater worlds of the ocean with this vibrant dip into the ecosystems under the water’s surface. Going beyond the exploration of familiar topics, such as plastic barges and coral reefs, Newman introduces cultural discussions of, for instance, fishing rights in the Salish Sea. A beautiful, deep cut that takes time to look beyond Anglo-European issues around aquatic life.

SARAH, Rachel. Girl Warriors: How 25 Young Activists Are Saving the Earth. Chicago Review Pr. 2021. pap. $16.99. ISBN 9781641603713.
Gr 7-9 –Women leaders of the current contemporary and young adult green movements are highlighted here. Each warrior has their work shown on the local and larger scale to convey that everyone can truly make a difference, no matter how seemingly small their actions. The profiles each include the activists’ pronouns, but the trans and nonbinary femme inclusivity is minimal.

WILLIS, Birdie. Seen: Rachel Carson. illus. by Rii Abrego. BOOM! Box. 2021. pap. $5.99. ISBN 9781684156481.
Gr 6-8 –Considered by many to be the founder of the modern environmentalist movement, Rachel Carson is reintroduced to the world as the vivid, interesting person she was in life. Using muted colors, this comic focuses on content and narrative development around her works.

ZISSU, Alexandra. Earth Squad: 50 People Who Are Saving the Planet. illus. by Nhung Lê. Running Pr. 2021. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780762499212.
Gr 4-7 –A collection featuring eco-heroes from all walks of life in the international community. There are some expected inclusions, such as Mama Miti and Winona LaDuke, but there are many more unexpected faces, like actor Mark Ruffalo, who are also involved in environmentalist advocacy. The thematic approach of looking at different areas of activism allows for more room at the table and more inclusion of BIPOC voices.


High School

JAHREN, Hope. The Story of More (Adapted for Young Adults): How We Got to Climate Change and Where to Go from Here. Delacorte. 2021. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780593381120.
Gr 8 Up –Connecting deeper issues in climate change to our society, this young readers’ adaptation takes teens on a journey from agrarian to urban culture and the ramifications of the shifting population needs on Earth. This excellent resource looks at the impacts of climate change on the planet as well as its people by addressing serious issues like generational and climate amnesia. Fans of Jahren’s Lab Girl will rejoice over the continued environmentalist ideas.

KLEIN, Naomi. How to Change Everything: The Young Human’s Guide to Protecting the Planet and Each Other. adapt. by Rebecca Stefoff. S. & S./Atheneum. 2021. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781534474529.
Gr 8 Up –For those who want to know how global warming and climate change impact the present. Young adults will learn about the student strike movement and other youth-led initiatives that look at not only the climate of the future but also the natural disaster–ridden climate of today. A powerful punch is delivered in this young reader’s adaptation ofThis Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. The Climate and On Fire: The Case for a Green New Deal.

Liz Bosarge is a science educator and children’s librarian at the Enoch Pratt Free Library in Baltimore.

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