11 Middle Grade Titles to Share with Budding Activists for Earth Day

From a fictional tale about saving orangutans and rainforests to a real-life story about a biological conservation mission to the lost city of the jaguar, hand these 11 titles to tweens who care about the environment and want to help any way they can.

From a fictional tale about saving orangutans and rainforests to a real-life story about a biological conservation mission to the lost city of the jaguar, hand these 11 titles to tweens who care about the environment and want to help any way they can.



Consider the Octopus by Nora Raleigh Baskin & Gae Polisner. Holt. ISBN 9781250793515. 
Gr 5-7–JB is 12 years old and facing a long summer at sea as the only kid on the NOAA deep sea research vessel Oceania II, where his mother is the lead research scientist. JB gets tasked with inviting scientists and students to an environmental summit on board to raise awareness of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch and hopefully reestablish funding for their mission. VERDICT A sure winner for readers interested in the environment and adventure, or even just in adventure.

Where the Sky Lives by Margaret Dilloway. HarperCollins/Balzer + Bray. ISBN 9780063047242. 
Gr 3-7–This heartwarming story follows Tuesday Beals as she works to save the preserved property surrounding Zion National Park, where she lives with her mother, the park’s head archaeologist. After picking up a discarded camera, Tuesday learns about photography and activism and, with her friend Carter, begins an Instagram campaign to save the property from becoming a residential development. VERDICT A gentle novel especially suited to students interested in the environment, careers in conservation, or the national parks.

Turn the Tide by Elaine Dimopoulos. HarperCollins/Clarion. ISBN 9780358538158. 
Gr 4-7–When 12-year-old Mimi and her family move from Massachusetts to Wilford Island, FL, Mimi works to bring awareness of plastic pollution and minimize plastic bag use in her new hometown. Everything wraps up nicely in this interesting novel in verse about how one person can make a difference when they get help from others. VERDICT A worthy purchase for collections with a need for more climate activism fiction and novels in verse.

[Read: 2 Middle Grade Novels That Explore Climate Change in Different Ways]

Turtles of the Midnight Moon by María José Fitzgerald. Knopf. ISBN 9780593488706. 
Gr 4-7–Abby and Barana, at first glance, have little in common. When Abby joins her father on a trip to Honduras, she and Barana are told to stick together, and they aren’t happy about it. Soon, though, their mutual interest in nature causes them to strike up a partnership. VERDICT This story will have wide appeal, reaching tweens interested in mysteries, the environment, and ocean life. 

Berani by Michelle Kadarusman. Pajama Pr. ISBN 9781772782608. 
Gr 5-8–A genuine and thoughtful realistic novel that focuses on protecting our animals and resources. Malia has lived her whole life in Indonesia. She has strong convictions about saving the orangutans, and stopping the destruction of the rainforests. VERDICT A perfect choice to give to fans of The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate, and an inspiring tale in support of environmental conservation.

The Decomposition of Jack by Kristin O’Donnell Tubb. HarperCollins/Katherine Tegen. ISBN 9780063212268. 
Gr 5 Up–Tubbs’s latest middle grade novel introduces readers to seventh grader Jack Acosta.  Jack finds himself in danger of failing earth science; but he may be able to turn things around if he can prove that cougars are not extinct, because there’s one living in the woods behind his house. VERDICT An engaging coming-of-age tale for the environmentally minded tween.



 Breaking the Mold: Changing the Face of Climate Science by Dana Alison Levy. Holiday House. (Books for a Better Earth). ISBN 9780823449712. 
Gr 3-8–Levy profiles 16 boundary-pushing and innovative scientists in this gorgeously designed title. From the first page, the author’s goal is to showcase the work of contemporary contributors to the scientific field who might not fit “the mold” of what a scientist “looks like.” The subjects are diverse, in every sense of the word. VERDICT This inspirational text about underrepresented folks in STEM fields is nonfiction at its best.

Be the Change: Rob Greenfield’s Call to Kids—Making a Difference in a Messed-Up World by Rob Greenfield & Antonia Banyard. Greystone Kids. ISBN 9781771645911.
Gr 4-8–In this volume, Greenfield touches on environmental topics like food waste, water, and energy issues affecting our planet today. Each section contains ways that he has helped the environment himself, followed by smaller get-started ways for students to do the same. VERDICT An inspirational addition to any nonfiction section in an elementary or middle school library.

Fresh Air, Clean Water: Our Right to a Healthy Environment by Megan Clendenan. illus. by Julie McLaughlin. Orca. (Orca Think: Bk. 4). ISBN 9781459826793. 
Gr 5-7–With a tone that is eager to share serious information without terrifying readers, this book provides the necessary background and inspiration to spur upper elementary-age children to environmental action. VERDICT Richly supported with stories and “You Be the Judge” sidebars that illustrate the challenging choices in fighting for environmental rights, this thought-provoking book offers a solid foundation for further exploration of the topic.

[Read: 4 Middle Grade & YA Nonfiction Titles to Help Heal the World]

All the Feelings Under the Sun: How to Deal with Climate Change by Leslie Davenport. illus. by Jessica Smith. Magination. ISBN 9781433833915. 
Gr 5-9–A cross between an emotional support workbook and a climate change science primer. For students interested in environmental issues and climate change, as well as the emotions that these topics stir up, this may be just the book they need. VERDICT Taking on everything from bees to disease to emotions, this workbook is a general purchase where patron interest in climate change activism is strong. 

Secrets of the Lost City: A Scientific Adventure in the Honduran Rain Forest by Sandra Markle. Millbrook. (Sandra Markle’s Science Discoveries). ISBN 9781728436593. 
Gr 5 Up–This is an exciting jungle adventure—part archeological exploration, part biological conservation mission. Markle’s latest first follows filmmaker Steve Elkins as his team searches for the lost city of the jaguar. Two years later, Conservation International sends in a team to investigate the lost city. VERDICT An adventurous biology and archaeology book filled with beautiful images and impeccable design.

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