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We’re celebrating Earth Day tomorrow, and in case you haven’t given much thought to Earth Day since elementary school projects, now is a great time to stop and think about our planet beyond the importance of recycling and picking up trash. Protecting our planet requires us all to think about our own habits, practices, and expectations, as well as educating ourselves on the larger forces at work and the need for humanity to work together to reverse the harm of so many years of reckless use and waste. Considering how many young people are passionate about the environment, I’m frankly surprised that there isn’t more in the YA sphere that talks about the urgent need to reduce our waste and be more environmentally conscious. Here are a handful of YA books for Earth day, including fiction and nonfiction, that get at the issue in different ways:
Taking on the Plastic Crisis by Hannah Testa
This book is a part of the Pocket Change Collective, a series of small books by leaders in change and social justice movements. In this very readable paperback, Hannah Testa talks about her mission to cut down on single use plastic. Single use plastics are really insidious when you think about it, because they’re everywhere. And the majority of these single use plastics can be avoided by taking simple steps to embrace multiple use products. In Testa’s book, she’ll share both personal and political stories of running a grassroots campaign for legislation that cut down on plastics, and how she influenced big corporations to reduce their plastics use. It’s an inspiring and eye-opening read that will hopefully get you motivated to join the movement!
The Confusion of Laurel Graham by Adrienne Kisner
Laurel Graham aspires to be the best nature photographer and birding expert ever, and she wants nothing more than to win the nature photo competition that her gran placed in once. She and Gran often spend time on a local conservatory, and one day they hear a bird call neither of them can identify — and then Gran is in a horrible car accident. With her life spinning out of control and Laurel feeling more confused and hopeless than ever, she tries desperately to identify the bird and protect the conservatory from some predatory developers, hoping her Gran will one day recover.
Cast Away by Naomi Shihab Nye
Technically, this collection of poems skews a little younger than YA, but not by much — it’s an upper middle grade book, but really great for all ages. It’s a beautiful collection that addresses the poet’s habit of picking up trash and her desire to clean up the world, but it also touches on themes of nature, social justice, and climate change in a really beautiful way. This poetry collection is excellent for anyone who is interested in exploring poetry as a means to talk about contemporary issues and social justice, and it will get readers thinking about the life cycle of the plastics and items that pass through our lives.
Boys, Bears, and a Serious Pair of Hiking Boots by Abby McDonald
Jenna is all about green activism — she’s a vegetarian who loves the planet and supports all eco-focused causes. But her ideals run up against the realities of rural, outdoor living when she gets the chance to spend her summer in rural Canada with her godmother. The suburban teen’s ideas of what it means to be earth-conscious are challenged in new and interesting ways as she deals with the realities of nature and how people in rural and remote communities live, and finds that there’s more than one way to support the planet.
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