5 new books for young environmental activists

Young people have been making history by taking part in school strikes to demand action on the crises affecting the environment. Here’s a list of five books that would make great gifts for the budding climate activists in your lives.

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Last year was an extraordinary year of unprecedented youth climate activism. These books will inspire young environmentalists to continue to learn about, love and take action for the planet.

The Sea: Exploring our Blue Planet by Miranda Krestovnikoff (Author) Jill Calder (Illustrator). Bloomsbury 2019. Hardback £12.99

The Sea takes readers on an astonishing underwater journey. Using an evocative palette of greens, blues and purples, this large hardback book provides a captivating look at the world’s seas.

The journey begins on the coastline with a lighthouse and children rock-pooling in the background. Double-page spreads on estuaries, salt marshes, mangrove swamps and kelp forests follow.

The second half takes a more in-depth look at the animals, with stylised depictions of creatures, such as whales, penguins, and jellyfish, and features of the deep ocean, like hydrothermal vents.

The final double page spread serves as a warning. The authors outline some of the ways governments are trying to tackle plastic waste and, as a final message, urge us all to take steps to reduce our plastic consumption. 

Natural Wonders of the World by Molly Oldfield (Author), Federica Bordoni (Illustrator). Wren & Rook 2019. Hardback £14.99

Natural Wonders of the World promises the reader “30 marvels of Planet Earth”, and it doesn’t disappoint. A world map guides the reader to the location of various natural phenomena, presented in double page-spread photographs, with detailed information and illustrations.

After an introduction describing the challenges our planet faces, each double-page spread is a large photograph with a few paragraphs describing the wonders. These include caves, waterfalls, birds of paradise, penguins, the northern lights, the Salar de Uyuni salt flat in Bolivia, Yellowstone Park and the Grand Canyon. There are also pages on numerous amazing animals and massive migration and breeding events, which are enhanced by digital illustrations.

All in all this is an excellent gift for a curious young geologist, geographer or biologist, and will keep even adults entertained through its vibrant images and scientific detail.

Fantastically Great Women who Saved the Planet by Kate Pankhurst (Author & Illustrator). Bloomsbury 2019, £6.99

The latest book in the Great Women series shines a spotlight on many inspirational women from around the world who have dedicated their lives to studying, conserving and protecting nature. 

Learn about how Antarctic researcher Edith Farkas helped identify the hole in the ozone layer and made the whole world realise the effect of pollution. Isatou Ceesay from the Gambia is also featured, spreading the message about the damaging consequences of plastic waste and educating women in local communities about recycling. 

Other women profiled in this colourful and informative book include Wangari Maathai, founder of the Green Belt Movement in Kenya; Anita Roddick, founder of environmentally-friendly beauty brand The Body Shop; and Eileen Kampakuta Brown and Eileen Wani Wingfield. These Aboriginal leaders led a campaign in the 1990s to stop the Australian government from building a nuclear waste dump near their home.

The book ends with a helpful glossary of words that children of this age group might not have come across before, such as “deforestation”, “natural resources” and “refugee”.

There’s a Rang-tan in My Bedroom by James Sellick (Author) and Frann Preston-Gannon (Illustrator), Mother, Wren & Rook, 2019. Hardback £12.99 

There’s a Rang-tan in My Bedroom is based on Greenpeace’s Rang-tan video. Beautifully illustrated and written in a rhyming poetic cadence, this is an excellent book for younger children.

A young girl must reckon with an uninvited baby orangutan in her bedroom, who eventually explains (after causing some havoc) that humans are destroying trees and burning the forest for palm oil, which is used in chocolate and shampoo. 

The final pages contain information about orangutans, palm oil, and what young people can do to help. Best of all, it concludes with top tips for writing a campaign letter.

Greta and the Giants by Zoë Tucker (Author) and Zoe Persico (Illustrator). Quarto Kids 2019. Paperback £6.99 [Greta Thunberg asked to share profits from this book with Greenpeace]

Greta and the Giants transforms the story of Greta Thunberg into a fable. Greta lives in a beautiful forest with many plants and animals. “The Giants” – adults who are busy working, building houses and cutting down trees – are destroying their home. The animals come to ask her for help, as she is the only one not afraid of the Giants.

Greta mounts her solitary protest with her placard, until she’s joined by a young boy and then many other children. When confronted, the Giants are embarrassed and promise to try harder.

The final two pages provide an explainer about climate change for a younger audience. The book emphasises that while this story has a happy ending, in reality Greta-style activism is still necessary. 

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