You’re never too young to get outside, and young people these days are doing some awesome work in bringing awareness to environmental issues around the world. Fiction can be a great way to get kids interested in learning more about the environment, whether it’s through learning about endangered species or reading about survival stories set in changing climates. Additionally, fiction can help young people see themselves in stories of fighting to preserve natural spaces and teach them more about habitats across the world. Whether your young environmentalist is interested in survival stories set against changing climates, stories of friendship that have conservation themes in the background, or fiction that is factual enough to teach new facts about the world, there are many great books out there for kids interested in this topic.
If you’re hoping to introduce the kids in your life to environmental lit, start with their own interests and then find books that fit those themes. Aside from just raising awareness about the environment, these books can also encourage kids to spend more time outside and to learn from the stories of others. Pick up one of the titles below and give it a read with a middle schooler in your life to start a discussion for Environmental Lit Day!
Hoot by Carl Hiaasen
A classic of environmental lit for kids, this story set in Florida features great characters, plenty of laugh-out-loud moments, and a pack of endangered owls. When Roy sees a boy running toward the woods, he decides to follow him and is introduced to a habitat of owls threatened by a new housing development. Along with his new friends, Roy gets involved with issues of the environmental impact of development and the protection of species.
The Wild Robot by Peter Brown
Kids who enjoy spending time outside will fall in love with Roz, the robot who lives on a remote and wild island. At first, the animals on the island reject Roz and her technological ways, but she finds the island becomes her home as she learns from them and adapts to her surroundings.
Strange Birds by Celia C. Pérez
Three girls receive an invitation to a lavish mansion, where they meet a fourth member of their group, a fellow kid named Lane DiSanti. Though the four aren’t fast friends at first, they soon band together to convince their local scouting troop to ditch outdated traditions and get involved in some of the environmental issues their town is facing. As this is also set in Florida, it would be a great next book for kids who loved Hoot!
Fuzzy Mud by Louis Sachar
To avoid confronting a bully, Marshall and Tamaya cut through the forbidden woods, but what they find there ends up drawing the attention of not only the other people in town but also the federal government. It turns out that Marshall and Tamaya have stumbled upon an environmental disaster, and there are several adults who want to hush them up before people find out how serious the situation is.
The Line Tender by Kate Allen
Lucy is the daughter of a marine biologist mother who was killed in an accident when Lucy was 8. Lucy and her father have been plodding along, but when a second shark accident claims the life of someone near to them again, Lucy, with the help of her dad and neighbor, sets out to complete her mother’s research and save the sharks.
You Go First by Erin Entrada Kelly
A great choice for kids looking for environmental lit in an urban setting. Charlotte lives in Pennsylvania, and her pen pal, Ben, is in Louisiana, but the two form a bond where they share their family troubles, struggles at school, and concern about increasingly weird weather events. This novel is a great mix of a friendship story with plenty of realistic concerns stirred into the plot.
The Friendship Lie by Rebecca Donnelly
Everything in Cora’s life is garbage, literally. Her parents are professors who study where trash goes after it’s thrown out, but now they’re separating and Cora feels like her life and feelings are being tossed in the bin. One day, Cora and her friend Sybella find a diary that’s been thrown away and that describes different friendship issues. As the two girls read and learn from the diary, they learn that one person’s trash can be another’s treasure.
Melt by Ele Fountain
A boy and a girl in an Arctic village: one has lived there forever, and the other has just arrived. Slowly they start to notice suspicious things, from melting ice to secretive oil company employees. When the two of them are thrown together to fight for survival on the tundra, they’ll be forced to reckon with how the adults around them have impacted the fragile landscape.
A Cloud Called Bhura: Climate Champions to the Rescue by Bijal Vachharajani
When a Bhura Cloudus covers Mumbai, friends Amni, Mithil, Tammy, and Andrew are exposed to noxious gases and choking smog. It seems like the adults in their lives don’t know what to do, and the politicians that are supposed to help don’t care, so the four kids take things into their own hands — a witty and action-packed book about the dangers of climate change.
Lostman’s River by Cynthia DeFelice
Tyler MacCauley and his family have long lived near Lostman’s River in the Florida Everglades. Remote and largely unspoiled, it’s also home to hundreds of unique plants and animals who share the land with a few humans. However, development is lurking just beyond the river, and Tyler is becoming increasingly worried about how to protect the animal’s habitat.
If you’re looking for environmental books for other ages, check out these books about the environment for younger readers or pick up one of these picture books for budding environmentalists. And be sure to check out our other Environmental Lit Day articles for plenty of inspiration for everyone!
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