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The books in this section all have a theme of conservation, raising environmental awareness and/or championing green issues.
October 2020 Book of the Month | A Julia Eccleshare Pick of the Month October 2020 | Award-winning Oliver Jeffers will capture the hearts and minds of children and adults alike with this story of a father and daughter making plans to build a world that will keep them safe in the future. Brimming with hope but not ignoring the possibilities that the world and what happens next in it will present challenges, What We’ll Build is founded in the mundane (almost!) as the father and his daughter assemble building tools including a hammer, saw and drill – and a pig! What they go on to build including a place to store love, a hole to hide in, a wall to keep enemies out and a gate to let them, a tunnel to anywhere, a road to the stars and much more and the reasons why they may need them it is summed up in the briefest of texts and Jeffers magical, vividly coloured story- telling illustrations. Inspired by becoming a father, What We’ll Build is a childhood classic that will be shared over and over again.
October 2020 Book of the Month | This new episode in The Unmapped Chronicles series plunges readers head-first into heart-stopping adventure deep in a rain forest closely modelled on the Amazon, but thrillingly, magically different. Twins Fox and Fibber Petty-Squabble (fabulous names are one of the hallmarks of Elphinstone’s writing) find themselves in Jungledrop, one of the Unmapped Kingdoms, and in a vital race against time with the thoroughly villainous harpy Morg; for the first time in their eleven years, the two siblings will have to work together if they’re going to secure the future of two worlds. This is a hugely satisfying fantasy adventure filled with everything that makes the hearts of young readers sing. Readers who enjoy Jungledrop should look out for Jessica Townsend’s Nevermoor series or Dominique Valente’s sparkling Starfell books.
Beautifully told and illustrated this luminous allegorical adventure describes how one little girl’s dark and lonely existence is lit up by the arrival of ‘one spark’ in the form of a book – ‘faint and fading in the dark’. The spark’s embers glow and catch light and we see the girl follow them through an extraordinary world, brightened always by books, falling Alice in Wonderland-like from the sky, sprouting flowers and always shining in the dark. Enrolled at school, her heart’s delight, her story takes flight again from the pages of a book to transform another lonely girl’s life. There’s lots to wonder at, but the overall message is clear – the transforming, empowering, joy-bringing importance of books and education. The rhyming text carries readers along and the illustrations seem lit up from within. A book that deserves a wide audience and one that will start both dreams and discussions.
Interest Age 8+ Reading Age 8 | This gripping story of kidnap and escape burns with outrage at damage being done to the Amazon. Carlos’ mother is a member of the Special Forces Group of IBAMA, Brazil’s environment agency, which suddenly makes him a target for ruthless men illegally mining in the rainforest. Taken as a hostage to force his mother to turn a blind eye, he manages to escape and survive with the help of a boy his age, whose life has already been devastated by the men’s actions, even as the world burns around both of them. Powerful and absolutely gripping, this is both a terrific adventure story and a wake-up call for young readers about the urgent need to protect our world. Published by Barrington Stoke, it’s accessible to all readers including those reluctant, struggling or dyslexic.
Interest Age 5+ Reading Age 5 | Sally Gardner has a unique imagination and a special ability to create fresh, sparkling fairy tales for today. This new series introduces us to the utterly delightful little Tindims who, like the Borrowers, make their home out of things we humans – or Long Legs as they know us – throw away. ‘Rubbish today is treasure tomorrow’ is their motto, though from their floating home of Rubbish Island, they do worry just how many plastic bottles they can recycle. In this episode they are preparing for their Brightsea Festival, when Ethel B Dina is swept away. They save her of course – the Tindims are always going to find their happy endings. Children will love them and their recycled world, and these stories are beautifully accessible and perfectly illustrated by Lydia Corry. Printed in dyslexia-friendly font with pictures on every page and perfect for the reluctant reader.
Meg and Ash, two magpies, build a cosy nest in the tallest tree for their four bright blue eggs. But they then start to get worried ‘their nest/ Needed more stuff to make it the best.’ Written in rhyming verse, we stare in amazement at all the things the magpies collect to add to their nest – until there is no hope of seeing the nest, and we can only see the teetering heap of things that have been added on top! Disaster strikes as the tree gives way! Happily, all the animals around help to clear the mess – and create useful homes and shelters out of all the rubbish! A gentle, funny and very beautifully illustrated poem, with a little frisson of anxiety when the tree collapses, about waste and recycling – a good way to introduce children to the idea of recycling useful things. As ever with Emily Gravett – there is a great deal going on in all the illustrations – lots to see and talk about, all beautifully laid out across the double-page spreads. The end papers are particularly fun, containing adverts for some of the items in the book – and also an advert for libraries! I particularly liked the 4 ‘R’s of Recycling right at the back of the book! This will become a class and personal favourite for many people – children and adults alike – and could provide the basis for class projects on recycling, too.
With a simple narrative and eye-catching spreads, this picture book delivers a powerful and timely message. Meera and her mum are enjoying a day at the seaside, when suddenly a giant approaches them – a huge, blue giant that comes out of the sea and is actually a wave. It has a message from the ocean: ‘We need your help.’ Sailing out, mother and daughter find the sea is full of rubbish and start to clear up. Next day, Meera goes back to the beach and piles up as much litter as she can. Friends join in, and friends of friends, and when everybody helps out: ‘even the biggest messes can be fixed.’ The final pages make suggestions for ways we can all cut down on plastic and while the story doesn’t dodge the size of the problem we face, it does provide hope and encouragement. With its rich, painterly seaside and deep-sea scenes, this is very beautiful, and very memorable. For more books with an eco theme visit our Green Reads collection
Cookie is one of those characters who have the best intentions, but just can’t help getting into scrapes and mix ups, and readers will love her all the more for it. In this new adventure, her plans for a plastic-free birthday party are overtaken by circumstances and before we know it, she’s accidentally become best friends with Suzie Ashby, got a detention, upset her friend Jake, and handed over £25 to take part in Woodburn Primary’s very own F Factor, which turns out to be not what she expected at all. Cookie being Cookie, it all works out in the end and everyone, the reader included, has lots of fun along the way. Konnie Huq clearly remembers what it is to be a ten year old very well indeed and Cookie’s fast flowing, tangent-embracing, stream of consciousness narrative is a delight. Huq’s own black and white illustrations are the perfect complement to the text, giving us even clearer insight into what’s going on in Cookie’s head. A fast, fresh and very funny read.
A thrilling, ecological adventure that starts in Wales but mostly takes place in the Amazon jungle, My Name is River demonstrates just how connected we all are, to each other, and our planet. Dylan is devastated when he learns the family farm that he loves so much is going to be sold. He can’t imagine a life anywhere else. His only hope is to speak to the CEO of the company that’s buying the land and try and stop the sale, even though that means flying to Brazil. He’s helped by his friend Floyd, whose father and little brother are coincidentally also in Salvador. In the best fiction of course, coincidences are always significant, and the two boys discover some strange things going on at the company’s secret jungle laboratories, and that Floyd’s father is in real danger. With courage, conviction and the help of an equally brave and principled street kid, Dylan learns that you can save what matters, and that the world is both bigger and smaller than he’d realised. A satisfying, thoroughly engaging adventure, recommended for fans of Cloudburst or The Girl Who Stole an Elephant. You can find more books on this theme in our selection of Ecological and Environmental Fiction.
So, so readable, Of Ants and Dinosaurs with the lightest and brightest of touches, made my brain itch with its creativity and klaxon alarm. Perfect for readers from young adult on, this sets itself as a “satirical fable, a political allegory and ecological warning”. In a time long long ago ants and dinosaurs joined forces to build a magnificent civilisation, when doom threatens will the dinosaurs listen to the ants? Cixin Liu is China’s number one science-fiction writer and his The Three-Body Problem was the first translated novel to win a Hugo award. I just love the cover, and the ants marching across the chapter pages had me smiling. As soon as I started to read my attention was well and truly caught. The prologue sets the scene with wonder and I read and believed without a moments doubt. While portraying the ant and dinosaur alliance, there is very much a warning to the human race here. Deceptively simple and brilliantly clever, I simply adored it.
With the pizzazz and humour that make his Dragonsitter books so popular, Josh Lacey tells the story of one girl’s efforts to save the planet. Like many ten-year olds Hope Jones is worried 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. There are great illustrations throughout, and it all makes for a fast, entertaining and positive read. Hooray for Hope Jones!
April 2020 Debut of the Month | There’s a classic painterly feel to this picture book but its message is very contemporary. Clem loves exploring along the seashore and collecting treasures in her bucket. These include shells and pebbles and pieces of glass, as well as brightly coloured plastic lids, bottles and netting. She befriends a little crab, caught up in a bit of netting and it hitches a ride home with her. Clem knows the crab belongs on the beach, but will he be safe there? Then a trip to the aquarium inspires her class to protect the ocean and together they clean up Clem and Crab’s beach. It’s a lovely story, and an important one, told so effectively in Fiona Lumber’s carefully chosen words and beautiful illustrations.
A Jack Courtney Adventure : with Chris Wakling | Young readers who want to be gripped, challenged, informed and entertained – this exciting new adventure series is just what you’ve been waiting for. Fourteen-year-old Jack is on a safari holiday in the Democratic Republic of the Congo with his parents, the wealthy founders of a conservation charity. His friends Amelia and Xander are on the trip too – so far, so idyllic (though he could do without his arrogant cousin Caleb), but then his parents are kidnapped by mercenaries. Jack has already experienced one family tragedy, he’s determined he’ll prevent another. This is a taut, tightly plotted thriller which puts young people firmly in the driving seat, but there’s lots about family and relationships too. Moreover, the authors will inspire a fascination about the wildlife of the region in readers, and alert them to the threats facing it. Fast-moving adventure with heart and a message. Jack is as appealing a hero as Anthony Horowitz’s Alex Rider, but the books will also appeal to fans of Gill Lewis’ animal adventures, Gorilla Dawn and The Scarlet Ibis. ****Read a Q&A with Wilbur Smith on his inspiration behind Cloudburst and the different challenges of writing fiction for children.
A Julia Eccleshare Pick of the Month March 2020 | March 2020 Book of the Month | The wonder of nature and in particular the growth cycle of a tiny seed are beautifully captured in Britta Teckentrup’s luminous illustrations and simple text which, more widely, celebrates finding your own way in the world whoever you are. What happens when one tiny seed takes a long time to get growing? It soon discovers that the faster growing seeds have taken all the space and light. Undaunted, and guarded first by ant and ladybird and later by more and more creatures of the woodlands, the tiny seed begins its own journey seeking out spaces that enable it to flourish and fulfil its potential. It’s a joy to dwell on the illustrations and to let message sink in.
Longlisted for the UKLA Book Awards 2021 | Readers of all ages will pore over the pages of this spectacular book. Its enticing die-cut pages encourage exploration as its poetic text celebrates everything Earth does for us, all the while reminding us to be a good friend in return.
Following the success of The King Who Banned the Dark, Emily Haworth-Booth has created another timely, beautiful and enthralling fable. As the best stories do, it starts ‘Once upon a time …’ A group of friends looking for somewhere to live choose a peaceful forest, but the longer they live there, the more trees they cut down, and the loss of the trees leads to all sorts of problems. Fortunately, the children of the settlement choose to quietly protect the last tree, and from there rebuild a caring and happy society for themselves and their parents. The artwork, mostly retro green and black, feels timeless and deliberately child-like, but the story is urgent, contemporary and thought-provoking, and will speak direct to readers of all ages.
February 2020 Debut of the Month | Debut novelist Nicola Penfold has talked of inspiration from reading about what author Richard Louv called “nature-deficit disorder”. Her strong belief that humans need a connection with nature to be truly happy shines through this powerful story and the creation of the nightmare world that Juniper and her little brother, Bear inhabit. They live with their grandmother in a walled city from which nature has been banished, following an apocalyptic tick-borne disease released by ReWilders willing to sacrifice humans to save the planet. Fifty years on nature flourishes beyond the walls. Within them humans struggle to artificially create what they need to live. Juniper and Bear have always known they have a resistance to the disease, just as they know that their parents are still living in the wild. Juniper always planned their eventual escape, but they must leave urgently when the authoritarian regime reveals a dangerous scheme to farm their blood. What follows is a thrilling and utterly convincing escape and a perilous journey. The rigours of outdoor living and survival are not glossed over- the reader really fears for these characters and feels every setback. Success is won through bravery and persistence and the sibling relationship is beautifully conveyed. Bear is a very recognisable six-year old boy who both frustrates and astonishes his sister. There are no easy solutions to problems and no miraculous happy ending. This is powerful and believable storytelling which will keep readers gripped and inspire lots of discussion about the vulnerability of nature and what humans are doing to the planet. An outstanding debut, beautifully written and utterly compelling.
Michael Foreman’s dazzling watercolours bring the beauty of the natural world into readers’ hands in this outstanding picture book, reminding us all how precious our planet is, and how we need to care for it. A little girl watches the sun rise and then the moon as it follows, and thinks of all the creatures under the sky. With her brother, she explores the seashore and together they create a mini-world in a rockpool. This shows them just how fragile nature is, and the threat it faces from pollution. Together brother and sister clean the pool and determine to ask other children to help. First published thirty years ago, One World is recognised as a classic, and its message is even more important today. A beautiful, inspiring and timely book.
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