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Books with Environmental Themes

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My interdisciplinary team of teachers is working on a learning unit for 7th graders called Stewardship for a Small Planet.  It explores global climate change as well as other ways in which humans impact the environment, with a focus on stewardship and social action.  I'm looking for suggestions of books we might want to include or at least have available for independent reading during the unit. 

I'd love to hear about your favorite middle grade and YA novels that deal with themes of environmentalism, sustainability, and social action.  We also use picture books with our kids from time to time, so I'd love suggestions for those, too.  Thanks!
#1 - August 13, 2007, 10:41 AM
www.katemessner.com

OVER AND UNDER THE SNOW, Chronicle
MARTY MCGUIRE
CAPTURE THE FLAG
HIDE AND SEEK -Scholastic '13
WAKE UP MISSING- Walker, Fall '13

eryan75

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I use The Missing Gator of Gumbo Limbo by Jean Craighead George.  Lower level than middle school IMO, but a great Everglades related eco-mystery.  I also use these cyber guides for projects and tweak them as needed.  http://www.sdcoe.k12.ca.us/score/cyberguide.html
Enjoy!
#2 - August 13, 2007, 10:45 AM

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Hoot by Carl Hiaasen
#3 - August 13, 2007, 10:50 AM

Wordbender

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Alas, my story would fit the bill, but it isn't published yet.   :banghead:

But I agree about Jean Craighead George.  And, of course, HOOT is all about saving a group of owls from being wiped out by human development.




Oops, 1846 beat me to it while I was writing.  ;D
#4 - August 13, 2007, 10:53 AM

As far as pbs:  The Great Kapok Tree is a really good one.  There's a book about endangered animals called Bringing Back the Animals, and another called Will We Miss Them?

Joann Ryder's books and Lynne Cherry's books usually have earthy stewardship themes.

There are lots and lots of books out there for starting school gardens (I did it in my school, and still do) and school-wide compost programs.  For a list of resources, check out the National Gardening Association's website.  They even have a catalog just for kids.  Here's a list of their contact information from an e-newsletter I receive:

Contact NGA:
Administrative Offices: 888-538-7476
Customer Service: 800-538-7476, ext 143
Web Site: http://www.kidsgardening.com

© 2007 National Gardening Association
1100 Dorset Street
South Burlington, VT 05403
 
Good luck with your unit!  It sounds wonderful!


buglady
#5 - August 13, 2007, 11:31 AM

One of my favorite picture books is Just a Dream by Van Alsburg.  That would be a great book to kick off the unit with older kids.   
#6 - August 13, 2007, 11:34 AM

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For your stronger readers, FIRESTORM, by David Klass, http://www.amazon.com/Firestorm-Caretaker-Trilogy-Book/dp/0374323070.
#7 - August 13, 2007, 11:39 AM
http://www.whbeck.com
MALCOLM AT MIDNIGHT (HMH, 2012)
MALCOLM UNDER THE STARS (HMH, 2015)
GLOW: ANIMALS WITH THEIR OWN NIGHT-LIGHTS (HMH, 2015)

tamigirl

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Me, All Alone, At the End of the World by M.T. Anderson is a lovely picture book that works for younger and older kids.
#8 - August 13, 2007, 11:57 AM

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Thanks so much, everyone!  Great suggestions!  Keep 'em coming if you have any more thoughts.

(My teacher friends are in awe of this magical board where you post a question and get instant, fabulous help.  I love it here!)
#9 - August 13, 2007, 12:29 PM
www.katemessner.com

OVER AND UNDER THE SNOW, Chronicle
MARTY MCGUIRE
CAPTURE THE FLAG
HIDE AND SEEK -Scholastic '13
WAKE UP MISSING- Walker, Fall '13

SimplyFi

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Diane Haynes' FLIGHT OR FIGHT  http://www.wildliferescueseries.com/flight-or-fight/

She's Canadian so you might take a little looking south of the 49th.
#10 - August 13, 2007, 01:56 PM

ecb

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This may seem like an odd suggestion, but what about THE LORAX?  We actually watched the film in 7th grade social studies... and although I think we'd all seen or read it before, it definitely still made an impact at that age.  I think it has the sort of strength of parable about it.
#11 - August 13, 2007, 03:19 PM

Wordbender

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The Lorax is a perfect one.  We used to read it to the grade-school kids at the nature center I worked at.   Don't know how it would go over with 7th graders, but the message is a good one.   
#12 - August 13, 2007, 03:40 PM

lindsay

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also Flush by Carl Hiaasen
#13 - August 13, 2007, 04:10 PM

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The Lorax -- it's also on DVD

Tom Chapin and  Peter Seeger - if you want to add music to your unit - have environmental songs  Seeger was founder of The Clearwatr festival - you might be interested in that
http://www.clearwater.org/revival/aboutfestival.html

for nonfiction - Al Gore's Inconvenient Truth was adapted to a book for teens this year



#14 - August 13, 2007, 04:24 PM

Liz
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Any of the  YA books by Carl Haison are set in Florida and discusses the impact of building, tourism impact, litter on the beaches and animals.  They have a great element of humor, intrigue and suspense.  They also are a lot like his adult books.

There is also a series of mysteries by I believe National Geographic - I will have to go look up the name of the author, but it is a family that travels to the National Parks, while Mom who is a wildlife vet specialist tires to figure out what is going wrong and Dad who is a Wildlife photographer who assists his wife, a brother and sister usually run into the mystery from the other end while roaming the park on their own.  I read the one set in Yellowstone about a man claiming a wolf killed his dog and it was the old ranchers vs the park in protecting the wolves.  A great book for whether or not to let wild animal survive in the wilderness near man, good debate material.  

Liz  :cuccoan:
#15 - August 13, 2007, 04:29 PM
You must do the things you think you cannot do.  Eleanor Roosevelt

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Liz
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oh gosh the series is called MYSTERIES IN THE NATIONAL PARKS  :faint:  by Gloria Skurzynski and Alane Ferguson

HTH

Liz   :cuccoan:
#16 - August 13, 2007, 04:36 PM
You must do the things you think you cannot do.  Eleanor Roosevelt

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The Lorax is a perfect one.    

I don't know why I didn't think of this immediately, it's one of my favorite read alouds.  I recall reading that Dr. Seuss wrote this in part because of excessive development on the mountain near La Jolla where he lived.

I was quite disturbed when one of our classroom teachers asked me to read the book aloud to her class, and I used her copy.  (My copy was from the original printing when the book first came out.)  I discovered there was a line missing!

"So I'm sending them off, oh, their future is dreary.
They'll walk on their fins and get woefully weary
in search of some water that isn't so smeary.
I hear things are just as bad up in Lake Erie."

In the current printing, that last sentenced is GONE!  Just plain gone.  Censored.  Who cares about rhythm, meter, you name it, not to mention that we've erased one of the great doctor's sentences altogether without so much as an attempt to replace it!  Did the Lake Erie lobby get to Random House and have this taken out?  It's like censoring Shakespeare.  (I know, that's been done, too.)  I know Lake Erie has been considerably cleaned up since the book was written, but it still doesn't seem right.  I'll always make sure I read from my own copy after that.
#17 - August 13, 2007, 07:31 PM

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"Uglies" by Scott Westerfield - genetically engineered white orchids crowd out other species and turn huge acreages into wastelands.

I'll put in a plug for having your students research the subject in question from whatever novel you're looking at, especially if the novel was written some time ago. I find that fiction often skims over what things are really like, how people really handle things. Take the above example in Uglies. It's really not very realistic, because in fact nature is incredibly resilient and you wouldn't get one monoculture for hundreds of years, especially from a small plant like that. you could get problems for sure, just not how it's described (at one point a character says maybe nature would finally come back in 1,000 years...). But you could read that book, and then look at how introduced species are causing problems, because they do, like kudzu in the southeast U.S., or tamarisk in the desert southwest along the Rio Grande, where it sucks up water and competes better than other trees, or fish in the Great Lakes (forget the species). Some of the biggest impacts are actually economic. Kids tend to see things as black and white, and fiction doesn't explore the complexities of the science, or even of the regulations in place or who is fighting for what and why. Improper disposal of hazardous waste used to be a huge problem, but now it isn't really, because there are very good laws in place, and people can go to jail (the problem now is dealing with haz waste that was dumped 40 years ago, but that's a different issue - one of cleanup and who pays for it when you don't even know who dumped it).

All that said, I think fiction can be a great jumping off place to look at issues - just don't leave them thinking fiction is true.

I'm off my soapbox. Have fun with the project!
#18 - August 13, 2007, 07:47 PM
http://rt19writers.blogspot.com/
AMAZING KITCHEN CHEMISTRY (Nomad 2008)
EXPLORE ROCKS AND MINERALS (Nomad 2009)
MAPPING AND NAVIGATION (Nomad 2013)

I have some other suggestions, though they may take some extra support for 7th graders to fully grasp their content:

 - John Muir's essay collections (the language is beautiful and compelling, and has a lot to with why Roosevelt established national parks)

 - articles about humans having to build fish ladders to bring back Salmon populations after humans caused changes to their natural habitats

 - Eve Bunting's The Terrible Things (which is really an allegory of the holocaust, but it's also an extended metaphor about the consequences of apathy, and brings tears to my eyes every time I read it...)

- Rachel Carson's controversial book, Silent Spring


buglady
#19 - August 13, 2007, 10:26 PM

Frezedriedelvis

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"Last Chance to See" by Douglas Adams is a really good book for kids that age, I think.  It balances humor with the seriousness of animals facing extinction.
#20 - August 14, 2007, 07:00 AM

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GREEN BOY, by Susan Cooper. Not her greatest book (preachy) but an interesting setting (the Bahamas) and it certainly gets the message across.
#21 - August 14, 2007, 10:15 AM
AROUND AMERICA TO WIN THE VOTE
ANYTHING BUT ORDINARY ADDIE
MESMERIZED
GINGERBREAD FOR LIBERTY!
THE GRUDGE KEEPER
more at mararockliff.com

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CITY OF EMBER and CAR TROUBLE Jeanne Duprau

UGLIES, PRETTIES, and SPECIALS by Scott Westerfeld

#22 - August 19, 2007, 07:12 AM
The Safest Lie in stores now
The End of the Line - VOYA Top Shelf & YALSA Quick Pick
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FEED!!!

Amazing amazing wonderful!
#23 - August 19, 2007, 08:25 AM

kellyr

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Tracking Trash by Loree Griffin Burns is a nonfiction book about scientific tracking of trash in the world's oceans.
#24 - August 19, 2007, 09:18 AM

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HOOT   :bat:   :bat:   :bat:

and

FLUSH    :toilet     :toilet    :toilet


Isn't it cool that Carl Hiaasen has icons just for his books?
#25 - August 19, 2007, 09:27 AM
ANTIQUE PIANO & OTHER SOUR NOTES
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ara

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Isn't it cool that Carl Hiaasen has icons just for his books?

Ha! Too cute.   ;D

I agree--he's such a great writer, so funny while creating well-crafted prose with an important message hidden in a great story.
#26 - August 20, 2007, 07:41 PM

Liz
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There are also some books by Will Hobbs, while some of them may not have the environment as the main them, it is a major part.  The MC some how has to deal with the wilds of the northwest and in some with his Indian culture.  In Bear Dance, a boy helps to save to Grizzly cubs and teaches them to stay wild.  In Far North to boys; one Dene, one white, learn from a Dene elder how to survive in the winter wilderness of Upper Canada.  He has several others, these are the only two I can remember the plots for that show a real environmental and also a ethnic theme - a loss of the old ways. 

Liz :cuccoan:
#27 - August 21, 2007, 06:01 PM
You must do the things you think you cannot do.  Eleanor Roosevelt

http://www.lizstrawwrites.com/

The Gaia Girls series by Lee Welles.
#28 - August 31, 2007, 01:41 PM

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