Charged with a Cause | Social Justice Series Nonfiction

Collective awareness of environmental and social justice remains at the forefront of student minds' and these selections will help them take a step forward.


Collective awareness regarding environmental and social justice remains at the forefront of our minds. While matters regarding racist stereotypes and the purposeful pollution of the earth endure, unlearning and dismantling these cycles of harm has never been more important. The audience for each series varies widely, but still addresses key details without hiding the harsh reality of the past, present, and unknown future. Though the subject matter may be overwhelming at times, the use of discussion questions, activities, and further reading will help readers absorb the information more fully. With honesty and detail the following nine series will build readers’ knowledge, affirm their experiences, and give them a framework to move forward.



Dufresne, Emilie. Endangered Animals in the Arctic. ISBN 9781725336162.
––––. Endangered Animals in the Deserts. ISBN 9781725336209.
––––. Endangered Animals in the Rain Forest. ISBN 9781725336247.
––––. Endangered Animals in the Rivers. ISBN 9781725336285.
––––. Endangered Animals in the Sea. ISBN 9781725336322.
––––. Endangered Animals on the Grasslands. ISBN 9781725336360.
ea vol: 24p. (Endangered Animals). Rosen/PowerKids. Jan. 2022. Tr $26.60.
Gr 1-3 –A series devoted to highlighting vulnerable animals in each habitat. Every section of the title is two pages long and contains photographs corresponding with two to three sentences, done in a scrapbook, collage-like style. Vocabulary words are underlined, pictures are captioned, and the threatened list is color coded to show the severity of each level. Showing both extinct animals and success stories, or animals that are no longer as vulnerable, each title does not mince words about why the animals are endangered. The end of each title includes how readers can help endangered animals, such as donating to the World Wildlife Fund ( Endangered Animals on the Grasslands), followed by a glossary and index. VERDICT A solid introduction to endangered animals for beginning readers.

Limbada, Azra. Caring for Our Forests. ISBN 9781502663474.
––––. Defending the Animals. ISBN 9781502663511.
––––. Helping the People. ISBN 9781502663559.
––––. Saving the Seas. ISBN 9781502663597.
ea vol: 24p. (Our Planet, Our Future). Rosen/Cavendish Square. Jan. 2022. Tr $16.95.
Gr 1-2 –A series that introduces readers to helping people and the environment. Beginning with a table of contents, each section is only two pages long and vocabulary words are underlined. Full-page color photos are ­simply captioned with a text box that has two to three sentences each. Each topic is broken down in ascending order, first grounding readers by introducing the idea of Earth and then narrowing the focus from there. Oriented this way, the books move to the main topic; why the topic is important; what species lives there, if applicable; what are the ­challenges; who are the activists; what readers can do to help; and then, finally, a corresponding activity. Although that may seem like a lot, it is simply put for elementary-aged readers. For example, when describing what people can do to lower greenhouse gasses when looking for produce, Helping the People suggests: “Growing your own food or buying from nearby farms helps the environment.” The final page of each title includes a glossary and index. Overall, the books show a wide range of people and places on Earth. VERDICT A solid introductory series for beginning readers learning about the environment.

McHale, Brenda. Drier. ISBN 9781725335998.
––––. Hotter. ISBN 9781725336032.
––––. Wetter. ISBN 9781725336070.
––––. Windier. ISBN 9781725336117.
ea vol: 24p. (A World in Danger). Rosen/PowerKids. Jan. 2022. Tr $23.60.
Gr 2-3 –The series focuses on the effects of ­climate change on Earth. Each title starts with a table of contents, each section is twopages with short two-to-three sentence paragraphs paired with a photo on each page. Vocabulary words are underlined and bubbles with extra facts can be found throughout the text. Infographics help affirm how the planet is getting warmer and how that then impacts people, animals, and vegetation everywhere. The end of each title offers ways readers can help, such as choosing a meal without meat (Drier). The final page includes a glossary and index. While the design and color of the actual text can be difficult to read at times, the sentences are relatively short and the information is solid, overall. VERDICT A quick informative introduction to climate change for elementary readers.


Upper Elementary to Middle School

Chandler, Matt. Cryptocurrency. ISBN 9781637390764.
––––. Vaccines. ISBN 9781637390801.
Heitkamp, Kristina Lyn. Electric Vehicles. ISBN 9781637390771.
Henzel, Cynthia Kennedy. The Climate Crisis. ISBN 9781637390757.
Kaiser, Emma. Protests. ISBN 9781637390795.
Reeder, Eric J. Minimum Wage. ISBN 9781637390788.
ea vol: 48p. (Focus on Current Events). North Star Editions/Focus Readers. Jan. 2022. Tr $31.35.
Gr 6-8 –This series zeros in on current events from cryptocurrency to protests to electric vehicles. Each title has approximately seven chapters, the format of which is a full page of text then a smaller photo accompanied with a smaller paragraph. Pictures are captioned with detail and vocabulary words are in bold, helping with the focus questions. Infographics help breakdown more detailed information, such as a timeline of U.S. Citizenship (Protests) or the different parts of various electric vehicles ( Electric Vehicles). The series attempts to give a well-rounded overview of each topic, starting with why it is a current event, and then moving into the history, advantages, challenges, what needs improvement, and what the future holds. Although not every topic may appeal to every reader, each topic is presented to make it more accessible. Back matter includes a glossary, where to learn more, and an index. VERDICT Good overviews of trending topics and current events.

Loh-Hagan, Virginia. What is Asian-Black Solidarity? ISBN 9781534199378.
––––. What is the Forever Foreigner Stereotype? ISBN 9781534199361.
––––. What is the Model Minority Myth? ISBN 9781534199354.
––––. What is Yellow Peril? ISBN 9781534199385.
ea vol: 32p. (Racial Justice in America: Asian American Pacific Islander). Cherry Lake. Jan. 2022. Tr $29.93.
Gr 5-8 –This series covers the complexity of the Asian American Pacific Islander experience in connection to the United States. Opening with the table of contents, there are about five chapters of varying length per book title. Each title explains what the central question is about, the history, the challenges, what this topic looks like, and how readers can do better by it. The pages are brightly color-blocked and the text is easy to read, and vocabulary words are in different colors. A cloud bubble with a raised hand asks the reader critical thinking questions connecting the text to self, such as, “Think about what you have learned in school. How many Asian Americans did you study?” (What is Yellow Peril?). Smaller photos are used and correspond with the text. The text is honest and clear about each topic explaining the definition of privilege and its application in the U.S., along with what Asian-Black solidarity looks like, and what the Forever Foreigner Stereotype is. Every title’s last section is about how young people can do more by starting with themselves and building from there. The final page includes a glossary, index, and more reading suggestions, including fiction and nonfiction books. VERDICT A comprehensive series for readers learning or affirming the Asian American Pacific Islander experience.


Upper Middle School to High School

Bergin, Raymond. Animals in Danger. ISBN 9781636915555.
––––. Fires Everywhere. ISBN 9781636915562.
––––. Melting Ice. ISBN 9781636915579.
––––. Rising Seas. ISBN 9781636915586.
––––. Terrible Storms. ISBN 9781636915593.
––––. Warming Planet. ISBN 9781636915609.
ea vol: 32p. (What on Earth? Climate Change Explained). Bearport. Jan. 2022. Tr $28.50.
Gr 5-7 –This series covers the many aspects of climate change from weather patterns to climate events to the effects on animals. Each section is two pages long, and builds understanding of what climate change is and why it is happening. For example, due to climate change “ seasons worldwide have gotten longer—in some places as much as a whole month longer each year!” (Terrible Storms). Alternating with paragraphs, full-page photos with small text boxes and/or captions, as well as infographics, the sections move quickly while also providing a significant amount of information. Each title ends with a list of how the reader can help fight climate change with a picture guide and description. While much of the information can feel overwhelming, it is important to note what people can do to lessen climate change and then follow through. Each title ends with a glossary, what to read next, online resources with a QR code from the publisher, and an index. VERDICT A in-depth series on climate change for upper middle grades.

Bodden, Valerie. The Threat of Overpopulation. ISBN 9781640264281.
––––. The War on Waste. ISBN 9781640264298.
––––. Water for Life. ISBN 9781640264304.
––––. Wildlife in Danger. ISBN 9781640264311.
Gunderson, Jessica. Climate Change. ISBN 9781640264267.
––––. The Energy Dilemma. ISBN 9781640264274.
ea vol: 80p. (Odysseys in the Environment). The Creative Company/Creative Education. Jan. 2022. Tr $45.65.
Gr 9 Up –Each title covers current challenges facing the modern world today. Starting with a detailed table of contents the topics are introduced, then further broken down by what challenges are faced, what the future looks like, how readers can support the causes to make the situation better, and if there is an end in sight. Much of the text includes long paragraphswith small font that is broken up by sometimes jarring photographs. There are red tabs that read ‘opposite’ and sometimes state a conflict or quick fact, along with gray takeaways, showing how nuance and complexity exist within each topic. Every chapter also connects the new information to readers and how they can change what they do to help the environment. For example, The War on Waste covers the decades-long plan to turn New York City’s Fresh Kills Landfill into a park . Although the text feels oddly bare throughout, the photographs that are used have a great impact. The back matter includes a selected bibliography, endnotes/glossary, websites to visit, and an index. ­VERDICT A slightly dense, but still important, series on current challenges we face today.

Knutson, Julie. Do the Work! Clean Water and Sanitation. ISBN 9781534199286.
––––. Do the Work! Gender Equality. ISBN 9781534199279.
––––. Do the Work! Good Health and Well-Being. ISBN 9781534199255.
––––. Do the Work! No Poverty. ISBN 9781534199231.
––––. Do the Work! Quality Education. ISBN 9781534199262.
––––. Do the Work! Zero Hunger. ISBN 9781534199248.
ea vol: 32p. (Committing to the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals). Cherry Lake. Jan. 2022. Tr $29.93.
Gr 6-8 –This series summarizes the Sustainable Development Goals or SDGs from the United Nations. Each title has about five chapters, always starting with an explanation about what SDGs are and why accessibility to fundamental human rights around the world is important. The next chapters cover how we can do the work at home, school, and in our communities to make sure the Sustainable Development Goals are met, such as raising awareness of the UN’s 17 SDGs or starting a book club to explore each goal ( Do the Work Quality Education). The series shows a diverse group of people from multiple countries, participating in the topic covered for each title and highlights people around the world raising awareness. While the amount of information could be overwhelming for younger readers, the format of the text is varied, using lists, infographics, real-world examples, and “Stop and Think” discussion questions to break up the details. Each title ends with suggestions on how readers can extend their learning, further research, a glossary, and index. VERDICT A thorough explanation of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals for upper middle grades.

Nichols, Hedreich & Kelisa Wing. Excellence in STEM. ISBN 9781534199323.
––––. From Black Wall Street to Allensworth. ISBN 9781534199347.
––––. The Harlem Renaissance. ISBN 9781534199309.
Wing, Kelisa. 6888th Battalion and Military Achievement. ISBN 9781534199316.
––––. Excellence in the Arts. ISBN 9781534199330.
––––. Historically Black Colleges and Universities. ISBN 9781534199293.
ea vol: 32p. (Racial Justice in America: Excellence and Achievement). Cherry Lake. Jan. 2022. Tr $29.93.
Gr 6-8 –This series celebrates Black culture and achievements while also exploring racism in the U.S. Starting with the table of contents, there are four to five chapters per book title of varying lengths. Each title gives the history, who was involved, achievements and firsts in the area of focus, and what the field looks like today. This series has pages that are brightly colorblocked making the text easy to read with vocabulary words in a different color. A cloud bubble with a raised hand further explains a fact more in depth, connecting it to today, such as the importance of mail during the 2020 election ( 6888th Battalion and Military Achievement). Smaller photos are used and correspond with the text, which is clear and honest about the racism faced by Black Americans. The last section of every title has a journaling activity called “Making Your Way Out of No Way” that encourages readers to write or draw what could and should happen in the future. The final page includes more reading from fiction and nonfiction books, a glossary, and an index. VERDICT A comprehensive series for readers learning about the great achievements of Black Americans.

Powerful photographs and detailed text immediately engage readers and make them want to learn more. Many of the series, including “Endangered Animals” (Rosen/Booklife), “Our Planet, Our Future” (Rosen/Booklife), and “A World in Danger” (Rosen/Booklife) lay the foundation for understanding environmental justice and what readers can do to slow climate change, while series “What on Earth” (Bearport) and “Odysseys in the Environment” (CreativeCompany) give more seasoned readers more information for each topic. The series “Committing to the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals” (Cherry Lake) intertwines social and environmental justice by providing an outline to attain a more sustainable, higher standard of living for everyone. Notably the series “Focus on Current Events” (North Star/Focus Readers) breaks down the present-day topics from protests to the climate crisis, cryptocurrency to minimum wage offering readers a nuanced analysis of each topic. Quality series that center on dismantling racism include “America are Racial Justice in America: Asian American Pacific Islander” (Cherry Lake) which focuses on the social issues the AAPI community faces, while “Racial Justice in America: Excellence and Achievement” (Cherry Lake) celebrates the culture of Black Americans. The above series can enhance readers’ understanding of complex topics and build critical thinking, overall.

Be the first reader to comment.

Comment Policy:
  • Be respectful, and do not attack the author, people mentioned in the article, or other commenters. Take on the idea, not the messenger.
  • Don't use obscene, profane, or vulgar language.
  • Stay on point. Comments that stray from the topic at hand may be deleted.
  • Comments may be republished in print, online, or other forms of media.
  • If you see something objectionable, please let us know. Once a comment has been flagged, a staff member will investigate.



We are currently offering this content for free. Sign up now to activate your personal profile, where you can save articles for future viewing