4 Middle Grade & YA Nonfiction Titles to Help Heal the World

With engaging design, impeccable research, and actionable suggestions for making an impact, these four middle grade & YA titles discuss what strides are being made by scientists, activists, and young people who are fighting to save the planet they’ve inherited.

The evidence of climate change and pollution is all around us. These books prove it. See what strides are being made by scientists, activists, and young people who are fighting to save the planet they’ve inherited. These works are marked by engaging design, impeccable research, and actionable suggestions for making an impact.


Aitken, Stephen. Saving the Night: How Light Pollution Is Harming Life on Earth. 48p. (Orca Footprints). Orca. Mar. 2023. Tr $21.95. ISBN 9781459831070.
Gr 4-6–Have you ever seen the Milky Way? Chances are you have not, and that is most likely because of light pollution. Light pollution is a threat to every living thing on the planet. Ecosystems can collapse as light pollution increases. Multi-talented science writer, artist, and biologist Aitken explains that light pollution really started 150 years ago when the electric lightbulb was first invented. He explains the crux of the issue, how spectacularly the interplay of light and darkness affects ecosystems, living things have adapted to the dire problem of light pollution, and humans can curb the problem. His portrayal of life in darkness is richly described and alluring. Aitken is skilled at outlining the delicate relationship between plants and animals and the day-night cycle. The book includes stunning photographs and engaging graphics that clearly emphasize crucial points in the text. Aitken provides readers with a list of actions that will help solve the problem of light pollution. The book also includes a glossary, index, and resources for further study. VERDICT Aitken urges his readers to be unafraid of the dark and after reading this excellent book, tweens will want to venture forth into the night without a flashlight.–Lisa Gieskes

Levy, Dana Alison. Breaking the Mold: Changing the Face of Climate Science. 224p. (Books for a Better Earth). Holiday House. Feb. 2023. Tr $22.99. 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. They are representative of a wide swath of marginalized communities, including Indigenous tribes, those with visible and invisible disabilities, and people across the gender spectrum. The variety in the areas of scientific study is also substantial, including environmentalists, climate change activists, volcanologists, and urban ecologists. They hail from all parts of the world, working at a global scale and making important changes—in big and small ways. The trim size allows plenty of white space that helps set off the dynamic layout, popping color, and impeccable photos. Unfamiliar words are in bold within the text and defined in thorough but accessible side bars on the same page. This book can be read as a curricular tie-in, but science enthusiasts could just as easily browse through the engaging pages. Inspirational pull quotes from the scientists profiled also grace the page in bright-colored fonts. The back matter features short bios on seven non-scientists making a mark, including students; DIY activities with an environmental focus; and 10 pages of bibliography and source notes. VERDICT This inspirational text about underrepresented folks in STEM fields is nonfiction at its best.–Shelley M. Diaz

Malm, Andreas. Fighting in a World on Fire: The Next Generation’s Guide to Protecting the Climate and Saving Our Future. adapted by Jimmy Whipps & Llewyn Whipps. 272p. Verso. Feb. 2023. pap. $17.95. ISBN 9781804291252.
Gr 10 Up–A YA adaptation of a controversial missive on climate activism that encourages drastic measures to save the planet’s—and this generation’s—future. It focuses on why past movements haven’t been sufficient to change the tide in environmental justice; nonviolence and civil disobedience are just not enough. The author explains that many movements became successful once they began employing practices like property violence, riots, and self-defense. These include suffragettes Emmeline Pankurst and her daughters, civil rights activists SNCC, and anti-apartheid Spear of the Nation. Recent movements that readers will be familiar with include the Dakota Access Pipeline at Standing Rock and the Arab Spring. Though the structure and information is the same as the original, this edition attempts to give substantial background to make its arguments more accessible to young people. Frequent inserts define core concepts and are set off by gray boxes. Terms include divestment and fossil capital. They sometimes take up more than two pages. However, the definitions are important, because ­otherwise, young readers will find this difficult to digest. The work is most engaging when presenting past activist movements that centered around the work of young people and marginalized communities. ­Black-and-white photos, discussion ­questions, and suggestions for further reading are also featured. VERDICT A general purchase for curricular tie-in as needed.–­Shelley M. Diaz

Sanchez, Anita. The Forest in the Sea: Seaweed Solutions to Planetary Problems. 96p. (Books for a Better Earth). ­Holiday House. Feb. 2023. Tr $22.99. ISBN 9780823450138.
Gr 3-6–Wet, slimy seaweed, one of the oldest life forms on Earth, could be one of the keys to saving the planet, according to this slim but enlightening text. The saltwater algae provides food and shelter for countless living things and produces more oxygen than all the planet’s land forests put together. Readers are introduced to different types of seaweed forests from all over Earth, each one integral to the world’s survival. Almost half of the oxygen in Earth’s atmosphere comes from oceanic ­phytoplankton. They are even responsible for removing carbon dioxide, one of the main pollutants causing the worst effects of ­climate change, from the atmosphere. The friendly, accessible text will give tweens the feeling that they’re being taught by their cool biology teacher. Kids will encounter terms like aquaculture and discover the effects of farting cows and defecating whales on the environment. The dynamic ­design features jaw-dropping photos, catchy chapter headings, and lots of white space. Informative, brightly colored sidebars are integrated well onto the page and offer close-ups of all kinds of seaweed. Back matter includes a glossary, time lines, bibliography, source notes, and suggestions for how young people can help seaweed flourish, thereby helping to stem climate change. VERDICT A fascinating work about the importance of a seemingly simple life form with a gigantic impact, this is a strong choice for middle grade collections.–Shelley M. Diaz

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