Way back in 1991, Books for Keeps published its very own Green Guide to Children’s Books. Edited by Richard Hill and with an introduction from Jonathon Porritt it is now long O/P. Sadly the need for books to introduce children to green issues and environmental action is greater than ever. Selected by the BfK editorial team, here’s a list of ten of the best recent books in this vital area.
Climate Crisis for Beginners
Andy Prentice and Eddie Reynolds, Usborne, 978-1474979863, £9.99hbk
Full of clearly presented facts and figures, plus useful advice on ways they can make a difference, this is an excellent introduction to the climate crisis for young readers. The language is simple and backed up throughout by illustrations making complex issues easy to understand and digest. The book explains the basics; talks about what we need to do, and why we’re not doing it faster; and finishes by listing things individuals can do now to make a difference, no matter their age. The conclusion reassures readers that having read the book, they will have the tools to imagine the future they want as well as ideas about how to get it.
Catherine Barr, J H Hayne & Co, 978-1785217258, £6.99 pbk
Author Catherine Barr worked at Greenpeace in the late 80s and her passion for protecting the natural world has endured. Designed to encourage young people to get involved in big issues, this pocket sized guide shows how they can make a real difference to the world. With sections on food production, biodiversity and plastic, it’s full of useful information, while other sections introduce campaigners who have successfully made a difference, and challenge readers to check the evidence before accepting something as fact. With colour photographs throughout, it’s attractive as well as informative and you can feel the urgency of the message throughout.
You Can Save The Planet: 101 Ways You Can Make a Difference
J.A. Wines, Clive Gifford, Sarah Horne, Buster Books, 978-1780556604, £6.99 pbk
This little volume is just the right size to fit into a pocket or backpack and one to carry at all times as it’s packed with handy advice on ways to be more green. Chapters include ‘Do You Live in a Green House?’, ‘Shopping for the Planet’ and ‘Stop Polluting the Planet’ and after describing the impact of the ways of life we all take for granted, they list things we can easily do to make a difference. These ‘over to you’ sections are practical, do-able and empowering. There’s a list of websites to visit at the end to find out more, as well as Planet Pledges to sign – one for the reader, one for the reader’s family.
Dougie Poynter, Macmillan Children’s Books, 978-1529019377, £9.99 pbk
This book’s dedication to Sir David Attenborough – ‘the most awesome human who has ever lived’ – sets the tone for this book; author, former McFly and Busted member Dougie Poynter keeping the tone friendly and real, while focussing on the big issues, and what we need to do about them. There’s no talking down to readers and he invites contributions from a range of scientist and campaigners, who all show that taking action is far more doable than we think. The book clearly lays out the huge problems our planet is facing from plastic while showing how changing our behaviour can really make a difference, and still allow us to live fun and happy lives.
How You Can Save the Planet
Hendrikus van Hensbergen, Puffin, 978-0241453049, £7.99 pbk
Hendrikus van Hensbergen is CEO of young environmental charity, Action for Conservation, which he founded after realising that no charities in the UK existed with the sole purpose of engaging young people in environmental action. Like his charity, his book speaks directly to young people and lets them know that, no matter how powerless and anxious they might feel, they’re not alone. It tells the stories of other young people around the world who took matters into their own hands, made a difference and actually changed things for the better. Part manifesto, part operations manual, it’s full of hope and inspiration.
Greta’s Story: The Schoolgirl who Went on Strike to Save the Planet
Valentina Camerini, illus Veronica Carratello, Moreno Giovannoni, Simon and Schuster, 9781471190650,
From one set of inspiring young people to the one who has done most to put young peoples’ voices at the heart of efforts to protect our planet. This book tells Greta Thunberg’s story, explaining how a wary, quiet girl from Sweden found the courage and determination to stand up for what she knows is crucial to the future of every one of us. Her story is unique, but it demonstrates again how together we can all make a difference, and work towards the future we want. In addition to Greta’s story, there’s a chapter explaining the science of global warming, notes on what we can do as individuals and suggestions for further reading.
Josh Lacey, Andersen Press,
Fictional characters can do just as much to inspire readers into action, take Hope Jones for example. Like many ten-year olds she worries about the state of the environment, and about plastic pollution in particular. Her dad is always saying if you want something done, you have to do it yourself, so she sets about doing what she can. Her adventures are recounted via her lively blog and we get a ringside view of her peaceful protest outside the local supermarket, interactions with local businesses, and conversations with neighbours, friends and parents of friends. As her campaign reaches more and more people, Hope realises that we can all make a difference, if we’re determined enough.
Be More Vegan
Niki Webster, Welbeck Publishing, 978-1783125692, £14.99 hbk
In the second book in the Hope Jones series, young Hope decides to turn vegan and this book could have been a real help. It’s full of tasty, faff-free vegan recipes, which are easy to follow, easy to make and certain to be a hit with everyone in the family, even dyed-in-the wool carnivores. More than just a recipe book though, it’s also full of equally useful and appealing information on the whys of being vegan. Niki Webster explains it all in a way that feels friendly and do-able, making sure to answer FAQs on getting enough protein and vitamins as well as on the best vegan substitutes, and laying out clearly, but with a sense of passion, why veganism is about more than just food and diet.
Be the Change Poems to Help You Save the World
Liz Brownlee, Matt Goodfellow, Roger Stevens, Macmillan Children’s Books, 9781529018943, £
Poetry has the power to change the change the world too and this might be the book to do it. Alongside poems on the many threats to the environment and the natural world are poems that pose ‘tricky questions’ about how we choose to live. There are poems to make children laugh, to inspire and inform them; above all here are poems that will provoke a reaction. It might be something practical, like deciding to change the contents of your lunchbox, or it might mean making a change to the way you understand the world. It ends with Liz Brownlee’s quiet but powerful poem ‘Snow’, a beautiful example of how the smallest things can effect change.
How to Change Everything
Naomi Klein with Rebecca Stefoff, Puffin, 978-0241492918, £12.99 hbk
It’s possible to build a better future, says this book, if we’re willing to change everything. The book poses three crucial questions: where are we now? How did we get here? What happens next? In tackling these it details well-known facts but also looks at some of the realities about climate change that we tend to ignore such as its disproportionate impact on poor communities and communities of colour. With chapters on Hurricane Katrina, Indigenous people’s initiatives for change, and lessons from the Covid-19 pandemic, Klein and Stefoff make a very solid case for changing everything and offer practical and realistic steps for doing so. Urgent, hard-hitting and serious, it shows young people what they’re capable of.