Mother Daughter Book Reviews is pleased to welcome author Bonnie J. Doerr with us today as a guest contributor. Ms. Doerr is here to share her recommendations for “Green Reads” for tweens and teens.
Read Green. Breathe Easier.
Middle Grade and Tween Books
By Bonnie J. Doerr
With the frequent focus on the environment of late, children are likely aware of Earth’s ecological problems. But awareness doesn’t always translate into a connection or appreciation. With our fast-growing cities and abundant technology, there is a greater separation between children and nature than ever before. This separation, Richard Louv in Last Child in the Woods defines as “nature deficit disorder.” Louv argues that “this separation produces adults who don’t personally interact with nature, don’t understand the importance of our connection with it, and therefore are unlikely to care much about it.” It’s up to parents and other educators to find ways to get our children outdoors and to encourage that appreciation for their present and future health.
Reading together is a great way to initiate this encouragement. One of the best things about reading is that it’s not weather dependent! The list of entertaining and/or meaty titles is endless, but let’s look at some I’ve found to be tasty appetizers, beginning with reference titles that offer inspiration.
Even if there’s no time to read the entire book, I highly recommend Last Child in the Woods. This enlightening adult title includes ways to reconnect to nature no matter your age or location. Skim through it and see if you agree.
Two classics by Joseph Cornell that parents and other educators find valuable are Sharing Nature with Children and Sharing Nature with Children II. These titles provide ideas on how to increase enjoyment and appreciation of nature in children and adults.
To suggest fun and creative ways for youth to live a more green life all year, try The Green Teen: The Eco-Friendly Teen’s Guide to Saving the Planet by Jenn Savedge and Generation Green by Linda and Tosh Sivertsen.
I have a tendency to get wrapped up in shiny book covers. So before that happens to you, here are three terrific links to help you find environmentally focused books, both fiction, and nonfiction.
Here is the index page for recommended green titles from Authors for Earth Day:
The Children and Nature Network suggests books for adults and children here:
Each year, The Green Earth Book Awards are presented to books that best use the power of story to teach children about our natural environment and the responsibility we all have to protect it. Lists of these awards are found here (This link works best if you copy and paste it in your browser.):
(Just a note: My own middle grade novel Stakeout was a 2012 Green Earth Book Award finalist.)
It would be a disservice if I did not mention a series of unique literary field guides published by Milkweed Editions. These books travel the United States by region combining social studies and literature through stories, poetry, and essays that tell what makes each area distinct. More information can be found here:
Adventure novels with tweens and young teens as environmental heroes are good reads any time. A virtual experience with nature may initiate interest in a real outdoor encounter.
Ginny Rorby’s novels will take the reader outdoors, at least in his or her mind. Several are inspired by true stories. Choose from Dolphin Sky, Hurt Go Happy, the Outside of a Horse, Lost in the River of Grass, and How to Speak Dolphin.
The late Jean Craighead George remains a favorite author who provided such experiences. She said it well in her preface to My Side of the Mountain, “Be you writer or reader, it is very pleasant to run away in a book.” A lesser known of her titles about a Seminole girl’s solo journey into the Everglades is The Talking Earth. ALA Booklist says of it, “…the story’s message that the earth is precious and we are all part of it will be well taken.”
Any young reader novel by Carl Hiaasen is a winner, though his latest, Skink No Surrender, is one of my favorites, perhaps because he’s finally put the ex-governor of Florida— Clinton Tyree (Skink) who is a fierce environmentalist—in one of his children’s titles.
Sammy Keyes and the Wild Things pits Wendelin Van Draanen’s wonderful Sammy against a poacher of the endangered California Condors. What could go wrong combining a group of lost kids, limited supplies, an injured condor, and a dangerous poacher?
Readers more interested in plants than animals will enjoy S. Terrell French’s Operation Redwood, “a funny, fast-paced adventure that shows the power of determined individuals, no matter their age, to change the world.”
For those who’d rather be eco-minded without tackling the outdoors (we all know at least one, right?), I recommend Lisa Greenwald’s My Life in Pink & Green. Twelve-year-old Lucy, a whiz with makeup, finds a way to save her family’s business and help the environment, too.
For a final recommendation, my own eco-adventure/mysteries, Island Sting and Stakeout, are fun and accidentally educational reads.
“Island Sting is an exciting adventure, highly recommended.” ~ Midwest Book Reviews
“Stakeout is a riveting read for younger readers and nature lovers.” ~ Midwest Book Reviews
Before I go, I would like to share with you part of a personal message I received from Jean Craighead George when she was 90 years young and still writing: “That you were teaching ecology to youngsters will make all the difference in how we handle this ‘sixth mass extinction’ since the Ordovician Period—which we are causing, not lava flows or meteors. Since we are the cause, we can solve it with the help of people like you raising the awareness of the next generation… Bonnie, may you sell millions of copies.”
Let’s all “sell” reading to children, and let’s work together to raise the ecological awareness of millions of children!
About the Guest Contributor: Bonnie J. Doerr
Bonnie J. Doerr, a nature lover and lifetime educator, has taught students from kindergarten to college in eight states. Ms. Doerr’s work has been described as a “mashup of Nancy Drew, the Hardy Boys, and Lassie.” She is the author of eco-adventure/mystery novels, Island Sting, Leap Books 2010 (2011 EPIC eBook Outstanding Children’s Book award), Stakeout, Leap Books 2011, (finalist 2012 Green Earth YA Book award) and the forthcoming Tangled Lines, Leap Books 2016.
To learn more about Bonnie’s inspiration, research, and where to purchase her books visit http://bonniedoerrbooks.com/.