A Tuesday Ten: Speculative Environmentals

Getting back into things after a busy holiday week with the kids!  Since today is Earth Day, I figure it’s only appropriate to focus on stories that have an environmental theme to them!


Jinx by Sage Blackwood (Katherine Tegan Books, 2013)

We’ll kick off the list with this fantasy from last year.  Jinx is a boy growing up in a magical forest, a place where the trees hold a kind of sentience, and it can be super dangerous to stray from the path.  Full of magic and danger, there’s an element of the green and growing world and not only the value it has, but the power it possesses.  This is the first book in a series with the second novel, Jinx’s Magic, published in 2014.


The Drought on Ziax II by John Morressy, illustrated by Stan Skardinski (Walker & Company, c1978)

A very obscure out of print science fiction story for young readers.  It’s appropriate for this list however, as the colonists on this faraway world have suddenly become faced with a severe drought–one that might threaten the human and native humanoid population.  Ultimately it’s discovered that the problems come from the fact that the humans have been killing off the only large animals around–and these creatures eat a certain water sucking grass.  Now that grass is growing out of control . . . and threatening the rest of life on the planet.  It’s a rather broadly painted look at how taking one element out of an environment can wreak havoc, but it certainly drives it’s point home.



The Endless Pavement by Jacqueline Jackson and William Perlmutter, illustrated by Richard Cuffari (Seabury Press, 1973)

My other obscure addition to this list is this 1970s story of a dystopian world of concrete and cars.  Humans are locked into wheeled vehicles from their earliest days and the world is one of endless smooth expanses for the wheels to travel.  But one solitary apple tree threatens to undo the whole grip that these machines have instilled on the people.  Strange and oddly illustrated, it nevertheless stuck with me through the years.


The Lorax by Dr. Seuss (Random House, c1971)

Perhaps the most famous of environmental texts among children’s books.  Seuss’s  direct warning of what happens when greed and profits are of more interest than the beauty, serenity and value of a landscape has been heard and repeated often. It’s caused it’s share of controversy over the years, particularly within the lumber industry, which has accused the book of being propaganda for environmental activists.   The Lorax is the fantasy–a creature that actually speaks for the trees–but his warnings go unheeded all the same.  A great book to begin discussion on this topic.


Dreamwood by Heather Mackey (Putnam Juvenile, Expected Publication: June 2014)

Now the ecological angle is a little lighter here, I suppose, but there’s still a sense in this book of the importance of respecting nature and the natural world.  In Heather Mackey’s alternate version of the US, this is especially true, since dark and wild spirits in habit the trees and stones and they do not take kindly to trespassers.  In the story, a precious resource is almost completely destroyed by  the humans who value it, and the consequences of their actions have led to a dangerous and deadly reaction.


The True Blue Scouts of Sugar Man Swamp by Kathi Appelt (Atheneum, 2013)

Down in the swamp, trouble is brewing.  A nasty bunch of tree tearing, cane crunching hogs have set their beady eyes on Sugar Man swamp, and it’s up to two racoon brothers to step them.  But there’s another danger for the swamp,  the man who owns the land is determined to sell it–to a celebrity who wants to pave it over for gator wrestling no less!  Now it’s a race to save the swamp and wake up the Sugar Man himself to help set things right again!  A light-hearted sort of story, to be sure,  but it still captures the sweetness of the natural landscape and the importance it has to so many–human and animal.


The Wump World by Bill Peet (HMH books, c1970)

The Wumps have a beautiful planet that they call home, happily living and grazing all together–until the Pollutians come to the planet and pave it over.  The poor Wumps hide deep in the caves until the Pollutians have created a right mess and leave in search of another planet.  The message is a tad heavy handed in the book, but  it’s still worth considering for the list.


Aviary Wonders by Kate Samworth (Clarion Books, March 2014)

A creative, but also alarming book that imagines what a catalog might be like in sixteen years or so.  A world in which birds are built and crafted commercially rather than existing in the wild .  It’s a reminder of the path so many things seem to be taking and can be considered an creative exploration of birds and a reminder of the losses humankind may face if we don’t seek to preserve the environment and the creatures that live in it.


The Cloud Spinner by Michael Catchpool, illustrated by Alison Jay (Knopf Books, 2012)

A fantasy picture book in which a young boy has the ability to weave clouds into the most amazing garments.  But when a king sees what the boy can do, he demands lots of amazing garments produced from clouds.  The boy agrees to make them, but the kingdom begins to suffer as they lose their clouds.  It becomes apparent that taking too much leads to an imbalance that harms everyone–a clever book with a happy ending!


The Real Boy by Anne Ursu (Walden Pond Press, 2013)

Young Oscar works as an assistant for a magician on an island full of magic and magical things.  Only something has gone desperately wrong with the magic on the island . . . and now villagers are ill and a dangerous beast is prowling the wood.  Oscar discovers that someone has been tampering with the great guardian trees that keep the island safe.  Like a lot of environmental books, this one pits human greed against the sanctity and balance of nature . . . and often mother nature packs a wallop!

So there’s my list!  What books can you add?

Comments welcome!



About Stephanie Whelan

I'm a children's librarian with a life-long love of all things science fiction and fantasy.

Posted on April 23, 2014, in General Posts, Lists and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

  1. Great list! I’d add Parched, by Melanie Crowder

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