Looking to the Future | Social Justice Series Nonfiction

Information and ideas about how we can act, as communities and individuals, for a better and cleaner world can be found in this season’s social justice selections.



Publishers are looking to the future and giving young readers the knowledge they need to cut through the misinformation surrounding climate change. There is a wide range of materials designed to understand the history of the crisis and fight toward a cleaner tomorrow, individually and as a community.



AMSTUTZ, Lisa. 10 Ways to Use Less Energy. ISBN 9780756577940.
––––. 10 Ways to Use Less Water. ISBN 9780756577964.
BOONE, Mary. 10 Ways to Create Less Waste. ISBN 9780756577971.
––––. 10 Ways to Use Less Plastic. ISBN 9780756577957.
ea vol: 24p. (Simple Steps to Help the Planet). Capstone/Pebble. Jan. 2024. Tr. $29.99.
K-Gr 3–Through colorful yet minimally designed pages, young environmentalists discover how to reduce waste and contribute to the well-being of the planet. One-to-two-page chapters feature bolded vocabulary words and large photographs, addressing issues related to excessive water usage, energy consumption, plastic, and garbage. Readers are provided with a list of 10 actionable steps they can take to minimize their waste, such as turning off the faucet while brushing teeth, switching off lights when leaving a room, and utilizing reusable bags. Engaging activities involve tracking waste and reducing energy usage. The back matter includes a glossary, lists of books and websites, and an index. VERDICT Recommended for readers who may find relief in the simplicity of this series design, especially those overwhelmed by busier alternatives.

HOWELL, Izzi & Paula Bossio. All the Bees Died Out? ISBN 9780716654490.
––––. All the Rainforests Were Destroyed? ISBN 9780716654537.
––––. A Supervolcano Erupted? ISBN 9780716654506.
––––. We Had to Live on Other Planets? ISBN 9780716654544.
MARTIN, Claudia & Paula Bossio. The Icecaps Melted? ISBN 9780716654520.
––––. Robots Became Smarter than Humans? ISBN 9780716654513.
ea vol: 48p. (What Would Happen If…?). World Book. Apr. 2024. Tr. $22.50.
Gr 3-5–Surprisingly adorable responses to some hard-hitting questions fill this series. A concerned cartoon bee calls after a dead friend serenely floating off in a cloud, while a happy little tree waters itself with a can. The illustrations, among the most appealing in this year’s selection of books, do not compromise the content; it remains unwatered-down and unsanitized. Young readers confront the harsh reality of human activity on bees, rainforests, and ice caps as well the potential dangers of AI and supervolcanoes. However, this series is also a beacon of hope, showcasing the wonders of science and the daily efforts people make to improve and safeguard our world. The engaging layout seamlessly blends illustrations and photos, encouraging critical thinking with ‘Think About It’ sections throughout the text. The books begin with tips for close reading and conclude with comprehension questions, a glossary, an activity, and a writing prompt. VERDICT Eye-catching and comprehensive. A treat for curious readers.

PHILLIPS-BARTLETT, Rebecca. Building Habits to Help Earth. ISBN 9798889162865.
––––. Ditching Food Waste. ISBN 9798889162858.
––––. Keeping Ecosystems Clean. ISBN 9798889162841.
––––. Stopping Pollution. ISBN 9798889162872.
ea vol: 24p. (How to Help the Planet). Bearport/Fusion. Jan. 2024. Tr. $28.50.
Gr 1-3–In this beautifully designed series, young readers learn how to be climate-conscious consumers. Each title not only defines the pressing issue of climate change, but also outlines multiple actionable steps that children can take to make an impact. Building Habits offers concrete strategies for reducing, reusing, and recycling. Ditching Food Waste provides a guide to combating food and water waste at home. Keeping Ecosystems Clean introduces the practice of composting and explains the benefits of home gardens. Stopping Pollution provides methods to reduce our waste footprint. Each book features vibrant pages with white text boxes and bolded vocabulary words. The pages come alive with a blend of colorful photos and engaging illustrations that occupy much of the space. The back matter includes a glossary and index. VERDICT Highly recommended.

SCHUH, Mari. Bravery Is a Superpower. ISBN 9780756576608.
––––. Helpfulness Is a Superpower. ISBN 9780756576769.
––––. Leadership Is a Superpower. ISBN 9780756576684.
––––. Responsibility Is a Superpower. ISBN 9780756576844.
ea vol: 24p. (Real-Life Superpowers). Capstone/Pebble. Jan. 2024. Tr. $29.99.
K-Gr 2–Character traits become superpowers in this series. Young readers learn that exhibiting bravery, leadership, helpfulness, and responsibility can greatly impact themselves and others. Each virtue is explored, explaining its significance through narrative tales featuring kids exemplifying these traits. Accompanying each page is a photographic example, further illustrating the main idea. The books conclude with a relevant activity such as making bravery bracelets and growing plants from seeds. The series includes a glossary, resources, and an index. The books deftly condense abstract ideas into concrete notions for younger readers. VERDICT Recommended for schools and libraries.

Upper Elementary to Middle School

ANDERSON, Robert. LGBTQ+ Pride. ISBN 9781781219478.
––––. Rights for Migrants and Refugees. ISBN 9781781219485.
CROY, Anita. Racial Equality. ISBN 9781781219454.
O’BRIEN, Cynthia. Animal Rights. ISBN 9781781219430.
––––. Climate Emergency. ISBN 9781781219447.
––––. Gender Equality. ISBN 9781781219461.
ea vol: 32p. (Be the Change). Brown Bear Bks. Jan. 2024. Tr. $37.10.
Gr 5-8–Young activists get an education about social justice campaigns. An introduction to each topic provides historical context and essential terminology. In Climate Emergency this includes causes of global warming and the human role in it. In Rights for Migrants and Refugees the introduction clarifies the classification of migrants and the primary causes of migration. Subsequent chapters focus on how change can be achieved through individual and political action, encouraging children to learn about refugees in their communities or transition to a more plant-based diet. The activist’s toolkit offers valuable resources, including relevant organizations, social media tips, and guidance on supporting marginalized communities. The books feature profiles of activists, timelines, glossaries, resource lists, and indexes. VERDICT While the toolkit lacks specificity in suggesting activities for young people, it serves as a starting point to think about effective ways to bring about change in their communities. Recommended.

BROWER, Felicia. Green Homes. ISBN 9781339020846.
JOHNSON, Daniel & Samantha Johnson. Green Farming. ISBN 9781339020877.
LAMICHHANE, Priyanka. Green Transportation. ISBN 9781339020815.
TING, Jasmine. Green Energy. ISBN 9781339020907.
ea vol: 48p. (A True Book: A Green Future). Scholastic/Children’s Pr. Feb. 2024. Tr. $31.
Gr 4-6–This series paints a hopeful picture of the future, exploring engineering advancements in farming, construction, transportation, and energy crucial for achieving environmental goals. Dramatic images contrast traditional practices with sustainable alternatives. Readers delve into natural alternatives to pesticides and herbicides, different types of renewable energy, and the problems caused by lithium batteries in electric cars. The authors candidly address barriers, including cost considerations. Throughout, timelines, diagrams, and striking photos enhance understanding, with Green Homes showcasing how eco-friendly construction yields stunning structures. Each book opens with true or false statements, providing answers at the end. Actionable steps are presented, from composting to energy conservation. The back matter includes insightful statistics, additional resources, a glossary, and an index. VERDICT A comprehensive and hopeful exploration of a greener future.

BRUEGL, Heather. The American Indian Movement. ISBN 9781668937976.
––––. Boarding Schools. ISBN 9781668937921.
––––. Gaining U.S. Citizenship. ISBN 9781668937938.
––––. Indian Removal. ISBN 9781668937945.
––––. Indigenous Peoples and Military Service. ISBN 9781668937952.
––––. Longhouse Form of Government. ISBN 9781668937969.
––––. What Is Cultural Appropriation? ISBN 9781668937983.
––––. What Is Land Back? ISBN 9781668937990.
ea vol: 32p. (Racial Justice in America: Indigenous Peoples). Cherry Lake. Jan. 2024. Tr. $32.07.
Gr 6-9–This noteworthy series sheds light on the often-overlooked history of Indigenous North Americans. With heartbreaking clarity, it unveils troubling post-colonization moments, such as the impact of Indian boarding schools aiming to eradicate Indigenous cultures in favor of a European, Christian lifestyle. The author, a member of the Oneida Nation, exposes a litany of historical horrors, including the struggles for citizenship, broken treaties, and the Indian Removal Act. Amid this unsettling history, readers discover the influential role of Native cooperative government in shaping the U.S. Constitution, celebrate Native American war heroes, and explore community involvement in modern politics. Despite delving into the darker aspects of history, the series is ultimately a testament to resilience. VERDICT A long overdue series.

HILL, Christina. Climate Migrants. illus. by Ash Stryker. ISBN 9781728476926.
––––. Forests and Deforestation. illus. by Julie Lerche. ISBN 9781728476872.
––––. Oceans, Glaciers, and Rising Sea Levels. illus. by Julie Lerche. ISBN 9781728476889.
LOUREIRO, Stephanie. Animal Extinctions. illus. by Ash Stryker. ISBN 9781728476902.
––––. Climate Activists. illus. by David López. ISBN 9781728476919.
––––. Fossil Fuels. illus. by Julie Lerche. ISBN 9781728476896.
ea vol: 32p. (The Climate Crisis). Lerner/Graphic Universe. Jan. 2024. Tr. $33.32.
Gr 4-6–This detailed overview of the climate crisis is presented in graphic format. Though the format is not conventional, the content is typical for the subject matter. The series touches on deforestation and its causes and impacts, human causes of animal extinction, and fossil fuels vs. renewable energy sources. Vivid cartoon graphics depict a world in crisis. While some of the content is delivered through character conversations, it reads more like a traditional nonfiction book dropped into a graphic novel, missing some potential advantages of the format. Nevertheless, the comic book style may attract reluctant readers. VERDICT While it falls short of its potential, the graphic format may appeal to some readers, making it an additional selection.

While children may feel helpless in the face of climate change, “How to Help the Planet” (Bearport/Fusion) and “Simple Steps to Help the Planet” (Capstone/Pebble) suggest activities that could start bringing about change. “What Would Happen If...?” (World Book) and “A Green Future” (Scholastic/Children’s Pr) describe current actions and what still needs to occur to fight climate change.


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