Ever since climate activist Greta Thunberg proved to the world that no one is too small to make a difference, kids of all ages have been flocking to read all about the environment and what they can do to help.
This is something I seriously wish had been popular when I was in school, because then maybe my classmates wouldn’t have looked at me like I was crazy for digging through the trash to separate the recyclables out of it. But I am so glad the conservation of the environment has become so popular for this generation of eco-warriors!
Even more exciting is that this new wave of environmental activism has launched a new genre in fiction and especially in the middle grade section: eco-fiction!
From saving an endangered animal, to solving a huge pollution problem all the way to saving an entire rainforest, middle grade eco-fiction features normal kids becoming the heroes of the environment and saving the world they love.
To help you sort through the now numerous titles in this ever expanding category, here are just a few of my favorite middle grade eco-fiction books that are sure to enchant any eco-warrior.
The Last Bear by Hannah Gold
If Greta’s life was a fictional story this would be it.This book is beautiful, there is just no other word for it. It’s heartwarming and sad and joyful and wondrous and a million other things that’ll sink right into your bones, as one heroic girl sets out to save a polar bear and change the world. A story of connection and friendship between humans and nature, THE LAST BEAR will make you cry, laugh, cheer, and leave you with a sense of warmth and hope you’ll never want to let go.
An instant classic with a bear-sized heart, Hannah Gold’s debut novel is a touching story of kindness, adventure, and forging your own path—perfect for fans of Pax and A Wolf Called Wander.
There are no polar bears left on Bear Island. At least, that’s what April’s father tells her when his scientific research takes them to a faraway Arctic outpost.
But one night, April catches a glimpse of something distinctly bear shaped loping across the horizon. A polar bear who shouldn’t be there—who is hungry, lonely and a long way from home.
An excellent choice for readers in grades 3 to 7, this fierce celebration of friendship includes full-page black-and-white illustrations throughout, as well as information about the real Bear Island and the plight of the polar bears.
The Islanders by Mary Alice Monroe with Angela May
This book warmed my heart and made me smile all the way through. I love absolutely everything about it. The characters, the setting, the turtles all of it! Jake and his friends are amazing and really pull you into the story, and you will fall in love with them immediately. The relationships between friends, family, and nature feel so real you will be absorbed by the words until you feel like you’re standing right on the shoreline of Dewees. A wonderful work of eco-fiction and showing the powerful bonds of friendship, THE ISLANDERS is a must read!
From New York Times bestselling author Mary Alice Monroe comes a beautiful story of friendship, loss, and the healing power of nature in her first book for middle grade readers.
Eleven-year-old Jake’s life has just turned upside-down. His father was wounded in Afghanistan, and his mother is going to leave to care for him. That means Jake’s spending the summer on tiny Dewees Island with his grandmother. The island is a nature sanctuary—no cars or paved roads, no stores or restaurants. To make matters worse, Jake’s grandmother doesn’t believe in cable or the internet. Which means Jake has no cell phone, no video games…and no friends. This is going to be the worst summer ever!
He’s barely on the island before he befriends two other kids—Macon, another “summer kid,” and Lovie, know-it-all who lives there and shows both Jake and Macon the ropes of life on the island. All three are struggling with their own family issues and they quickly bond, going on adventures all over Dewees Island. Until one misadventure on an abandoned boat leads to community service. Their punishment? Mandatory duty on the Island Turtle Team. The kids must do a daily dawn patrol of the beach on the hunt for loggerhead sea turtle tracks. When a turtle nest is threatened by coyotes, the three friends must find a way to protect it. Can they save the turtle nest from predators? Can Jake’s growing love for the island and its inhabitants (be they two-legged, four-legged, feathered, or finned) help to heal his father?
Hello from Renn Lake by Michele Weber Hurwitz
This story is absolutely beautiful and such an original concept. Telling a story about pollution in a lake and a young girl trying to save it is one thing, but telling this story from both the girl’s and the lake’s point of view is something I’ve never seen before. And Hurwitz does a fantastic job of giving Renn Lake their own personality and flushing them out as a character. The connection between Annalise and Renn is a wonderful depiction of not just the strong bonds of friendship but of the bonds between humans and nature that so often is ignored. I can’t wait to read more!
The environmental activism of Hoot meets the summer friendship of Lemons in this heartfelt story about community, conservation, and standing up for the things you love.
Annalise Oliver’s family has owned and run lakeside cabins in Renn Lake, Wisconsin, for generations. This summer, she gets to help out while her younger sister focuses on being an actress and her best friend is babysitting rambunctious twin boys. It’s the perfect opportunity for Annalise to work and spend more time by her beloved lake.
When she was three years old, Annalise discovered that she could sense what Renn Lake was thinking and feeling. Now, at twelve, she still turns to Renn for comfort. But when a small patch of algae quickly becomes a harmful bloom, Annalise can no longer hear Renn, and the lake is closed. She and her friends must find a way to save the lake.
Writing from the perspectives of both the lake and Annalise, acclaimed author Michele Weber Hurwitz tells a sensitive and heartfelt story about community, activism, and fighting for the things you love.
One Small Hop by Madelyn Rosenberg
A mad cap, zany, yet poignant adventure about friendship, science, and hope, ONE SMALL HOP is a story you can’t help but smile all the way through. Dealing with issues of climate change, endangered species, pollution and our own involvement in all of it, this is a coming-of-age story wrapped up in an eco-fiction rescue story that will have you cheering Ahab and his friends on as they rush to save the last bullfrog and show that saving the world can begin with anyone taking just one small step.
Perfect for fans of Carl Hiaasen’s classic Hoot, this humorous adventure story set in a not-so-distant future celebrates the important differences we can make with small, brave acts.When Ahab and his friends find a bullfrog in their town — a real, live bullfrog, possibly the last bullfrog in North America — they have several options:A. Report it to the Environmental Police Force. Too bad everyone knows the agency is a joke.B. Leave it be. They’re just a bunch of kids — what if they hurt it by moving it?C. Find another real, live bullfrog on the black market. Convince their parents to let them bike to Canada. Introduce the two frogs. Save all of frogkind.Ahab convinces the rest of the group that C is their only real option. Because if they don’t save this frog, who will? Their quest, which will involve fake ice cream, real frog spawn, and some very close calls, teaches Ahab that hope is always the logical choice and that science is always better with friends.With humor and empathy, acclaimed author Madelyn Rosenberg builds an all-too-imaginable future ravaged by climate change, where one kid can still lean on his friends and dream up a better tomorrow.
Arrow by Samantha M. Clark
I don’t think it is possible to explain how truly amazing this story is. It’s like How to Train Your Dragon, Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind, and Princess Mononoke all wrapped up in one. Arrow is an incredible character and you will love getting to know him within these pages. While the story does deal with issues of pollution and rainforest destruction, at its core this is a story about friendship, family, and risking everything to save all those you love. ARROW is a prime example of how awesome middle grade co-fiction can be, and is absolute joy to read.
From the author of The Boy, the Boat, and the Beast comes a lush and timely tale about a boy who’s grown up as the only human in an enchanted rainforest and what happens when people from the outside world discover his home.
For the first twelve years of Arrow’s life, he has grown up as the only human in a lush, magical rainforest that’s closed off from the rest of the world. He was raised by the Guardian Tree, the protector of the forest, which uses the earth’s magic to keep it hidden from those who have sought to exploit and kill it. But now the magic veil is deteriorating, the forest is dying, and Arrow may be the only one who can save it.
Arrow has never seen another human until one day, a man in a small airplane crash-lands in the forest. Then, a group of children finds their way in, escaping from their brutal, arid world where the rich live in luxurious, walled-off cities and the poor struggle for survival.
The Guardian Tree urges Arrow to convince the trespassers to leave by any means necessary. Arrow is curious about these newcomers, but their arrival sets off a chain of events that leave him with a devastating choice: be accepted by his own kind or fight to save the forest that is his home.
Wilderlore #1: The Accidental Apprentice by Amanda Foody
How To Train Your Dragon meets a mythical forest, in this awesome tale of finding yourself and where you belong. This entire story is such a treat, and Barclay is one of my new favorite heroes. I love his relationship with Root and how it mirrors our own relationship with nature. The magic system in this world is so intriguing and the world itself seems to just leap off the page with the vivid descriptions in each line. A wonderful classic quest story wrapped up in a magical coming-of-age story, WILDLORE: THE ACCIDENTAL APPRENTICE is a most exhilarating read!
A boy who accidentally bonds with a magical Beast must set off on an adventure in the mysterious Woods in this “wholesome, delightful” (Kirkus Reviews, starred review), and cheeky middle grade fantasy debut—perfect for fans of Nevermoor and How to Train Your Dragon.
The last thing Barclay Thorne ever wanted was an adventure.
Thankfully, as an apprentice to the town’s mushroom farmer, Barclay need only work hard and follow the rules to one day become the head mushroom farmer himself. No danger required. But then Barclay accidentally breaks his town’s most sacred rule: never ever EVER stray into the Woods, for within the Woods lurk vicious magical Beasts.
To Barclay’s horror, he faces a fate far worse than being eaten: he unwittingly bonds with a Beast and is run out of town by an angry mob. Determined to break this bond and return home, Barclay journeys to find the mysterious town of Lore Keepers, people who have also bonded with Beasts and share their powers.
But after making new friends, entering a dangerous apprenticeship exam, and even facing the legendary Beast of the Woods, Barclay must make a difficult choice: return to the home and rules he’s always known, or embrace the adventure awaiting him.
The Book of Fatal Errors by Dashka Slater
A fun, lighthearted middle grade fantasy that shows just how extraordinary “fatal errors” can be. Full of family drama, magic, nature, and of course a hoard of feylings, this story will enchant children and adult readers alike. Rufus is the kind of hero that everyone can get behind because he’s not perfect, he makes mistakes, and he keeps on going. Such an enjoyable read!
Award-winning author Dashka Slater spins a tale of friendship, magic, and eternal life in The Book of Fatal Errors, an evocative and witty middle-grade fantasy.
Rufus doesn’t just make mistakes – he makes fatal errors. Clumsy and awkward, he feels entrapped by his teasing classmates and their constant laughter. But now it is summer. Rufus is free. He roams the wildlands of his grandfather’s mysterious homestead, blissfully unaware of the danger up ahead.
And there is much danger. Rufus and his snooty cousin Abigail soon become entangled in the tantalizing world of the feylings, mischievous fairly-like creatures desperate to find their way home. In helping the feylings, Rufus tumbles down a dark path rich with age-old secrets and difficult truths. Any move he makes might be his final fatal error.
Or perhaps, his most spectacular beginning.
A Discovery of Dragon by Lindsay Galvin
This book is an absolute epic adventure. Pulling from historical facts from the real voyage of Charles Darwin’s aboard HMS Beagle, Lindsey Galvin brings to life the real story of Darwin’s cabin boy and assistant Syms Covington on these pages. Simon is brave and selfless even when it’s difficult to be either and you will cheer for him at every turn. Combining fantasy, history, and environmental issues, A DISCOVERY OF DRAGONS is a can’t miss read!
How to Train Your Dragon meets natural history, with real science, in this story of discovery through one of the lens of one of the most historical voyages in history.
It’s 1835. Cabin boy Simon Covington is on the voyage of a lifetime to the Galapagos Islands with the world-famous scientist, Charles Darwin.
But when Simon falls overboard during a huge storm, he washes up on an unexplored island. Stranded there, he makes a discovery that could change the world. Now it’s not just his own survival at stake – the future of an undiscovered species is in his hands. But perhaps there’s one person who could help…Based on the real events of Charles Darwin’s legendary voyage, this is a novel that melds science with wonder.
Hopefully this will give you a start as you delve into eco-fiction for middle grade, and if you want more (which of course you will) check out what’s coming up in this exciting new genre.
Until next time, happy reading!