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Books for Youth: Garden, Sustainability, and Climate Justice

Updated: Feb 23, 2023

Book suggestions for all ages on topics of gardening, the environment, climate change, and food justice! These books are great for a garden reading circle.

Picture Books (Prek - all ages!)

The Tiny Seed by Eric Carle

Carried from its flower home by the autumn wind, a tiny seed travels around the world, weaving in themes of perseverance and hope.

Lola Plants a Garden by Anna McQuinn, Illustrated by Rosalind Beardshaw

Book-loving Lola is inspired by a collection of garden poems that she reads with her mom. They check out books from the library and grow their own flower garden! Also available in Spanish as Lola planta un jardín.

Tokyo Digs a Garden by Jon-Erik Lappano, Illustrated by Kellen Hatanaka

Tokyo lives in a small house between giant city buildings with his family and his cat, Kevin. When an old woman offers Tokyo seeds, the city becomes overrun with lush plants.

The Gardener by Sarah Stewart, Illustrated by David Small

Set during the Great Depression, a young girl is sent to live with her uncle in the big city to help make ends meet when her parents lose their jobs. During her time there, she plants an ambitious and secret rooftop garden.

Wangari’s Trees of Peace by Jeanette Winter

A picture book based on the true life of Wangari Maathai, an environmental and political activist in Kenya and winner of the Nobel Peace Prize in 2004 who sets out to replenish her country's forests.

Call me Tree / Llamame Árbol by Maya Christina Gonzalez

In this bilingual English/Spanish book, a child develops as an individual comfortable in the natural world and in relationships with others. Young readers will be inspired to be as free and unique as trees.

City Green by DyAnne DiSalvo

Right in the middle of Marcy's city block is a littered vacant lot. Then one day she and her neighbor have an idea to transform the lot into a garden along with their whole community.

In the Garden with Dr. Carver by Susan Grigsby, Illustrated by Nicole Tadgell

Set in rural Alabama in the early 1900's, Dr. George Washington Carver shows up to help the grownups with their farms and the children with their school garden. This story teaches plant science as well as social studies.

Climate Change Books for Young Readers

What Is Climate Change? by Susan Grigsby, Illustrated by Nicole Tadgell

A fact-based book that looks at the subject of climate change from many perspectives, including scientific, social, and political.

What a Waste by Jess French

This environmental book will teach young ecologists about how our actions affect planet Earth. As well as explaining where we’re going wrong, What a Waste shows what we’re doing right and what can be done for the future!

The Magic School Bus and the Climate Challenge by Joanna Cole and Bruce Degen

Ms. Frizzle boils down the facts of why our planet is getting warmer, and brings a new, improved understanding to climate change, engaging kids and empowering all.

Young Adult Fiction Books

Esperanza Rising by Pam Muñoz Ryan

Grades 6-8

Set during the Great Depression, Esperanza and her mother must flee from their ranch in Mexico to become farmworkers in California. Interweaving American history, promoting cultural understanding, and portraying a side of the food system not always seen, the novel deftly tells the tale of a young girl facing challenges still relevant today.

Hoot by Carl Hiassen

Grades 6-8

A tale of how middle schooler Roy Eberhardt, new kid in Coconut Cove, learns to love South Florida, as he and his two new friends create a resistance to the land developers in order to save the endangered owls living in the land.

Flush by Carl Hiassen

Grades 9-12

Noah's dad is sure that the owner of the Coral Queen casino boat is flushing raw sewage into a Florida harbor. It’s up to Noah to prove the illegal sewage dumping and put the polluting casino out of business.

Seedfolks by Paul Fleischman

Ages 13 and up

Newbery-winning author Paul Fleischman uses thirteen speakers to bring to life a community garden's founding and first year. The book's short length, diverse cast, and suitability for adults as well as children have led it to be used in countless one-book reads in schools and in cities across the country.

Young Adult Non-Fiction

Grades 7-12 (and up)

Drawing from her experiences as an Indigenous scientist, botanist Robin Wall Kimmerer demonstrated how all living things—from strawberries and witch hazel to water lilies and lichen—provide us with gifts and lessons every day in her best-selling book Braiding Sweetgrass. Adapted for young adults by Monique Gray Smith, this edition reinforces how wider ecological understanding stems from listening to the earth’s oldest teachers: the plants around us.

Food Justice by Robert Gottlieb and Anupama Joshi

Grades 9-12 (and up)

Gottlieb and Joshi recount the history of food injustices and describe current efforts to change the system, including community gardens in Holyoke, Massachusetts, youth empowerment through the Rethinkers in New Orleans, farm-to-school programs across the country, and the Los Angeles school system's elimination of sugary soft drinks from its cafeterias.

Imaginary Borders by By Xiuhtezcatl Martinez, Illustrated by Ashley Lukashevsky

Grades 9-12 (and up)

Earth Guardians Youth Director Xiuhtezcatl Martinez (first name pronounced “Shoe-Tez-Caht”) is a nineteen-year-old indigenous climate activist, hip-hop artist, and powerful voice on the front lines of a global youth-led environmental movement. In this personal essay, Martinez visualizes a future that allows us to direct our anger, fear, and passion toward creating change.

Taking on the Plastics Crisis by Hannah Testa, Illustrated by Ashley Lukashevsky

Grades 9-12 (and up)

In this personal essay, youth activist Hannah Testa shares with readers how she led a grassroots political campaign to successfully pass state legislation limiting single-use plastics and how she influenced global businesses to adopt more sustainable practices.

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