United Nations Sustainable Development Goal 13: CLIMATE ACTION

Take urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts

[Jeremy Willette, Shanghai American School, China]

Climate change impacts every person and every thing on our planet. Our choice to address or ignore climate change literally means the difference between life and death for us as a species as well as millions of other lifeforms on this beautiful planet that we all call home. Consequently, each of us has a responsibility to take action and safeguard our future, making this one of the most important United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) of all. Because it is so important, I definitely felt a huge responsibility of my own when I chose this particular SDG as my focus for this Global Literature in Libraries Initiative project – contributing as a guest blogger at: International School Teacher-Librarians and the 17 United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

The SDGs are all interlinked and depend on each other’s successful completion in order to become fully realized. For example, when climate change creates storms that ravage people’s homes and livelihoods, how can we be successful at combating No Poverty, SDG 1? When crops are destroyed because of floods, drought, and unprecedented temperatures in both directions of the thermometer, how can we ensure Zero Hunger, SDG 2? Likewise, the success of combating climate change rests in part on other SDGs. Upon achieving Goal 7: Affordable and Clean Energy fossil fuels will not be contributing to greenhouse gases. Goal 15: Life on Land protects forests that are so important to carbon dioxide levels and we know that is key to combating our climate crisis.

For this month’s blog challenge, international school teacher-librarians were tasked with sharing 10 books that help promote awareness and the ideals behind a particular SDG of their choice. But, how to choose only 10 with so many great books on this important topic out there?! This, however, was not the only fun, exciting part of our challenge. We were also asked to choose from a body of global literature, only selecting books by non-American and non-British authors – two nationalities that already have very strong representation in the publishing world and on most of our shelves. While I was familiar with some multicultural resources out there, many that first came to mind were American or titles British such as The Lorax by Dr. Seuss, The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein, and even more recent favorites such as Here We Are: Notes for Living on Planet Earth by Oliver Jeffers and Dry by Neal Shusterman. There are many other voices out there, and since no part of the globe will escape climate change, it is important to help provide these voices a platform to share their stories.

So, what are some of the books that I’ve chosen? I am sharing 10 here below,  ok, actually a few more than that, and sneaking in a few more honorable mentions because I am in love with books. So, without further ado, here we go…Drum roll, please…

Wangari Maathai: The Woman Who Planted Millions of Trees by Franck Prévot, illustrated by Aurélia Fronty (2015) / France / Translated by Dominique Clément 

Perhaps the ultimate environmental activist, Wangari Maathai was an exceptional human being. I wish I had half the courage that she possessed. When you realize how many obstacles she faced throughout the course of her whole life and that she not only overcame them, but went far beyond what most of us ever accomplish is truly heroic and amazing. While there are several books out there on Wangari Maathai, also affectionately known as Mama Miti (“Mother of Trees”), this is probably by far my favorite. The pictures are absolutely stunning and mesmerizing. Those alone make this book worth buying and sharing with students. Moreover, I also really love the amount of detail about her life that is presented. The author does a great job connecting moments from her childhood and upbringing to her goals and accomplishments as an adult. This is especially important because our students are in the early phases of their lives right now and they can see that they too can make a difference and go on to achieve great things. These years are important in helping to shape their dreams. 

With the world recognizing International Women’s Day also this month, it should not go unmentioned that Wangari Maathai was not initially allowed to attend school because she was female. Her ability to get an education was instrumental in helping her become the person she did and this book reminds us that all students, regardless of their gender, should have this fundamental human right (a big shout-out to SDG 5!). Sadly, this was by far not the only obstacle she faced. She faced racial discrimination in British-colonial Kenya because she was black and she experienced this when she went abroad as well. She saw that black people were discriminated against in the United States as well and that people’s fight for equality was a universal struggle. Upon return to her native Kenya, Wangari Maathai faced other forms of oppression, such as poverty and political corruption. She ended up in prison and even received death threats. Nevertheless, she held true to her convictions. 

Realizing that things would only change if she made them happen, she started the Green Belt Movement in 1977. Wangari Maathai was East Africa’s first woman to earn a PhD and in 2004 she became the first African female to win the Nobel Peace Prize. Millions of trees now exist because of Wangari Maathai and our planet is so grateful. Nĩndauga nĩ wega, Mama Miti! 

I think everyone will enjoy reading this inspirational story about perseverance, one that hits so many of the SDGs and which truly speaks to our power as individuals to create positive, long lasting change. A timeline, photos, and a map also help provide more helpful features in understanding her life.

Seeds of Inspiration: Books for Children and Young Adults about Wangari  Maathai ~
Unbowed: a Memoir by Wangari Maathai (2006) / Kenya

Also…If you are looking for something a little more #ownvoices, don’t forget to check out Wangari Maathai’s autobiography, as well as her book Replenishing the Earth: Spiritual Values for Healing Ourselves and the World (2010).

Speaking of #ownvoices as well as a modern day climate change champion, who can forget the young Swedish activist, Greta Thunberg? Here’s a book by her just for you!

No One is Too Small to Make a Difference by Greta Thunberg (2019) / Sweden
Greta Thunberg – by María Isabel Sánchez Vegara (Spanish), illustrated by Anke Weckmann (German) (2020)

There are now several kids books about Greta Thunberg, including one in the cool Little People, BIG DREAMS series, which covers a ton of inspirational people for kids and a wide range of them too. Note the publisher provides this teacher’s guide for Greta Thunberg.

But, as for actual books by Greta herself, you will just find one. No One is Too Small to Make a Difference is a collection of her speeches given to the powers that be across the world. What started out as a strike at school has led to an increase in international awareness and a movement of young people everywhere against the climate crisis. Although her powerful speeches have been given to organizations and governments, they are a call for all of us to act before it is too late. While some of the speeches might seem repetitive to some in terms of language, it does not bother me at all. Total props to her! Her strike was in 2018 and her commitment to protecting the environment has already made her an international household name. She sends her message loud and clear – climate action starts with us and the time to care is now. As Greta mentions, science already knows how to solve this problem, we just need to do it and not just wait for political action. One quote of hers that I particularly love is “I want you to act as if our house is on fire. Because it is.” 

Greta’s interest and passion for saving the planet started at a young age when she was eight. Honoring young people’s interest in this issue and empowering them with voice is so important. Such is the case in this next fictional story about a little girl, Sophia.

The Tantrum that Saved the World by Megan Herbert (Australian writer-illustrator) and Michael E. Mann (American climate scientist) (2018) / Available in English, Italian, Korean, and Turkish

Climate refugees start ringing the doorbell at the home of our main character, Sophia. First comes a polar bear which decides to stay at her house because it has no other place to go. That is already a little too much for Sophia to handle, but it doesn’t stop there. The doorbell continues to ring and each time it does, more and more guests show up. There is a displaced family from Kiribati who has fled to Sophia’s house because of rising water levels. A turtle comes. Birds do too. We even have a tiger. There is a farmer and a fisherman, both there because their livelihoods are in danger. Sophia doesn’t know what to make of it all. She hasn’t personally been impacted yet by any climate change disasters and she kind of wishes they would all just go away and let her be. At first she retreats to her room, but that doesn’t do the trick. When she comes back out, she sees that her new house guests are making signs. Sophia gets an idea.

Sophia and her new friends head to City Hall. However, they get the run-around. They are repeatedly ignored, neglected, and dismissed.  Anybody who has been at the mercy of bureaucracy will definitely appreciate their plight and you can seriously feel the frustration growing. Sophia cannot take it anymore and gets angry. Realizing that she can’t wait around for officials to make a difference, she takes matters into her own hands. 

Sophia was handed a problem she didn’t want and had to somehow fix it. I think this mirrors what we will leave for future generations if we are not careful. They will inherit what we left behind. Told in rhyme, this book also practices what it preaches – it is made out of more Earth-friendly materials, which I love. The book includes an action plan too with 10 things kids and adults can do to make a difference.

Part of the power of this book for me is that Sophia encounters animals and people from far, far away who she had never met before. Sophia lived in a state of ignorance-is-bliss until the polar bear arrived, but she started to care once she met those personally impacted by climate change. These types of people, however, don’t regularly show up on our doorstep every day. Hence, the amazing job of authors who bring us into other people’s worlds and show us lives, places, and things that we wouldn’t normally get to see otherwise. This is the case of Mr. Singh below in India.

The Grass Seeker by Uddalak Gupta, photographs by Ruhani Kaur (2020) / India /  Read free on Storyweaver / Available in English, Hindi, Kannada, Marathi, and Telegu

Before going into this book, I also want to say that you all need to check out Pratham Books, which I’ve loved for years. I’m really glad that our group’s SDG 8 post for this month also highlighted them as well. You can buy print copies of their books for less than $1 USD (or buy books for other schools too through their school donation program or even sponsor a library!). They have books available in 21 Indian languages and many of them are free as ebooks through Storyweaver. For a list of more books on Storyweaver that link to this SDG #13: Climate Action, take a look here or check out all their lists.

One thing that I love about The Grass Seeker is that it is a true story happening right now about climate change’s direct impact on an individual and his way of life. Having lived in India for eight years, I personally love that this book takes place there. This nonfiction picture book captures the annual trek that Room Singh, a Gaddi shepherd, makes in the state of Himachal Pradesh each year with his 300 sheep – literally, in search of greener pastures. Kids will see that these treks are not for the faint of heart. Mr. Singh packs enough supplies to last him up to four months away from his family, including 40 kilograms of salt that he needs for his animals. He has to traverse 60 kilometers of rocks, ice, and water at an elevation of 13,000 feet in order to feed his sheep. While the photographs are in a breathtaking location, one that very few people get to experience, the story does not stop there. 

The snow that has supported this way of life for multiple generations over hundreds of years is disappearing as the world continues to heat up. In the 40 years he has been doing this route, he has seen these surroundings change first-hand. Glaciers are shrinking. This in turn has created a chain reaction. Less snow and ice mean less rivers. Less rivers mean less grass. Less grass means less healthy sheep. Less healthy sheep mean less quality wool. Less quality wool means less products that his family is able to make and earn for money. He has had to go to more difficult places with his sheep in order to make ends meet, but that too will not hold out forever. This is not a case of “one day in the future” – this is now and in our lifetime.

While it’s noted that this man leaves very little footprint in terms of his own land use, it is clear that other people’s actions, possibly even those far away, have clearly made an impact on him. As our climate changes, people become displaced and cultures are impacted. Mr. Singh laments that his own son and grandson have already moved to the city. As we know, as more people seek economic opportunities in cities, that creates more urban development. That leads to new problems and perpetuates the cycle of what happens to communities like Mr. Singh’s.

In fact, with an increase of migration to cities, urbanisation and overdevelopment definitely make significant contributions to climate change. Clearing forests to make way for cities and people’s overconsumption is a big part of the problem. It seems that message is hard for some people to understand since this still continues. However, don’t worry…here is a fantastic book that sends the message home in a super clever, yet such simple way. I really, really love this one.

Where’s the Elephant? by Barroux (2016) / France

OK, I know that I should probably pick a different country than France since the author of my Wangari Maathai book selection is also French and I am going for global diversity, but I just can’t help myself with this one. This one is just too awesome and having done elementary library previously for eight years, I don’t know how I only came upon it this school year. This book really is super brilliant! In this book the reader is presented with three animals: an elephant, a parrot, and a snake. When you turn the page you are presented with a beautiful jungle full of trees. In a Where’s Waldo?-esque type of experience, kids are invited to search for and find the elephant, the parrot, and the snake. It’s already fun! But, here is where the environmental conceptual work is about to kick in. When kids turn the page, they notice three tree stumps and a couple of logs. There are still plenty of trees and kids will still have to hunt for the animals. At first, kids may not know why the trees were cut down, but on the next page a predictable tale starts to unfold. There are more logs, a house, and far less trees. The animals are still hiding, but it’s a little easier to spot them. You can guess what happens on the next page. Yep. And, kids can too. As you continue to turn there are less trees and a lot more buildings. The animals’ habitats shrink until there is just one tree. What happens on the next page is so totally true in real life…and sad. You’ll have to see for yourself (no spoiler)! Luckily though the story ends on a happy note, with animals taking back what’s theirs. Other than the three animal vocab words at the beginning and the author’s note at the back, the book is entirely wordless, but it accomplishes so much. This is a great book for deforestation and urban development, which of course as we know directly impacts…climate change!

It is completely worth mentioning that in another book by the same author Starfish, Where are you? (Où est l’étoile de mer?), Barroux continues his use of search-and-find animals, but this time it takes place in the sea and with trash. This is a fantastic companion to the first book, but has an even greater ending – this time sea animals get some revenge on the humans who have put them in their predicament.

While we are on the topic of water, let me introduce a book that is all about water – not the kind that is good. This is all of the water from those polar ice caps that finally melted. You know, the water that everybody warned you about? Welcome to the 22nd century…

Escape to the Moon Islands / Flooded Earth by Mardi McConnochie (2016) / Australia / #1 in the Quest of the Sunfish Trilogy / Middle grade dystopia

McConnochie transports us over 100 years into the future, to approximately the year 2140. Kids now communicate with each other using their “shells” and we find out later in the book that humans have finally figured out to get animals to talk using collars. However, to say those are the biggest changes which await us would be a total understatement. The book takes place a few decades after a major flood that ravaged our planet and the world no longer resembles what it does right now. Due to climate change, sea levels have risen so much that many former coastal areas no longer exist. There is now a scarcity of resources and society has completely changed. New regions are created. Annalie and Will are from the lowlands of Dux, an area completely damaged by water and which was never really repaired. As you can imagine this creates huge social disparity. Those whose homes and land weren’t destroyed are affluent, while those who weren’t so lucky are destitute. I’m glad that the author made this link here because of the interconnectedness of the SDGs. Climate change is one cause of poverty and it will disenfranchise people even more if we don’t take steps soon. 

This dystopian novel comes with all that you would expect. There is an evil force in the world that our protagonists, two children whose father was kidnapped, are trying to outwit and overcome. With the world in chaos after the flood, the Admirality had to step in and save the day, but they continue to control everything and everyone. The children set out on a boat with their very comical parrot to find and rescue their father. A couple of other kids join them as well, including a boy who was enslaved by pirates. They run into a few big dangerous obstacles along the way. Will they reach their destination? 

But, wait! We’re not done with Australia! Here’s another great cli-fi book from Down Under. 

How to Bee by Bren MacDibble (2017) / Australia / Suitable for ages 8+
Dog Runner by Bren MacDibble (2019) / Australia / Middle grade novel

Peony dreams of one day becoming a bee when she is older. However, not in the same sense of what we know as a bee today. Real bees no longer exist in the future. This is why children take on the job of bees, climbing up fruit trees with pollen in order to pollinate them. This doesn’t go without any danger to the children who can fall from the trees and get hurt. As she is still not old enough though, her job is to pick insects off of fruits. Peony works on a farm and although she is surrounded by fruit all day, she can’t afford to eat it. Fruit is only for the wealthy, a luxury now that bees are gone and fruit has become more rare. Climate change, human development, and pesticides have changed the future as well as the food chain. Once again, class struggle and poverty due to climate change rears its ugly head. Peony experiences this first-hand when she joins her mom in the city to work for a wealthy family. In fact, this is such a good book for looking at the issue of poverty, that it was also included as part of Zero Poverty for this month’s SDG 1 post. On an extra side note, Peony’s mom is in an abusive relationship and the book does explore the theme of domestic violence.

MacDibble wrote another great environmental dystopian book that was pretty good too. Definitely check out her book The Dog Runner if you get a chance! This takes place in Australia as well and is connected to plants once again – this time to crop destruction. A powerful fungus has killed off any type of grass crop and of course a ripple effect ensues. This in turn impacts an important food source for animals and soon people start to go very hungry. The world becomes very dangerous. Two kids set off with their dogs to try and find family members, all the while trying to keep themselves safe and their dogs from being eaten.

Dystopian presents us with the chance to imagine the worst of what’s to come, which one many scenarios could play out. But, the reality is that if we don’t turn things around and advocate for climate change, it could be far worse than anyone of us has imagined. Many dystopian books focus on a particular facet of world change, such as flooded communities in The Flooded Earth or a major interruption to the food chain as in How to Bee. However, as everything is interrelated, in reality there would be so many ripple effects and we would not have the opportunity to isolate them so neatly into a story. That reality may come sooner for some, such as in the case of our next book. It’s time for some realistic fiction…

Under the Weather: Stories about Climate Change edited by Tony Bradman (2010)/ UK and the Philippines / Google Books Preview here

This is a collection of eight short stories set in different parts of the globe all connected to the theme of climate change. While most stories are by British writers, the first is by Filipino author, Candy Gourlay. In her story “How to Build the Perfect Sandcastle,” 12 year-old Ben discovers that his beloved beach is quickly disappearing because the reefs surrounding his island are either dead or are about to die. They no longer protect his island from storms. Not only does this threaten the pocket money he earns from tourists who admire his amazing sandcastles as they walk along the beach, it also puts the entire livelihood and way of life of the island’s inhabitants at stake.

I think in some ways Ben’s sandcastle is a symbolic reminder about fragility, not just of the infrastructure and lives that we’ve built, but also of the foundation – our planet – that we’ve built those things upon. When we are not careful, those things can be wiped away. In another book about building, this time a picture book, we can see evidence of how construction can lead to some big changes.

Moletown by Torben Kuhlmann, translated from German by Andrew Rushton (2015) / Switzerland / German author

Moletown is a fun picture book to look at and offers a unique perspective of what can happen when development in the spirit of progress goes awry. While many environment-related books place humans as the root cause of climate change, this one uses moles to depict wrongdoings stemming from corporations, over-industrialization, and adverse impacts of technology. As this really is the perfect book to explore Industry, Innovation, and Infrastructure, it is no wonder that this book was also included in this month’s SDG 9 post. 

When a mole moves into his new surroundings, he is all alone and green fields are to be found. However, as more moles arrive and construction takes place underground to accommodate them all, the fields start to transform. By the time it has grown into a full city with bustling activity, life above ground looks quite different. There is only a patch of grass to be found. This sends the message that although we don’t always see the immediate consequence of our actions, an impact can still be felt elsewhere. In the end, the moles transform smog back into greenery using things like planting trees and wind power. This book is almost entirely wordless, but conveys so much! Animal characters are often fun to read and they even seem a little less harmless than the humans whose characteristics they are personifying. They can get us to take a closer look at ourselves as humans without directly pointing the finger.

Die Klimaschweine [The Climate Pigs] by German author/illustrators Till Penzek and Julia Neuhaus, is one such example of a book that comes to mind. In this book pigs wear human clothes, over-consume, and live in the lap of luxury at the expense of the penguins’ environment and happiness. In Moletown, animals were the perpetrators and ultimately their own victims until they made a change for the better. Sometimes though animals don’t personify humans – they just get to be animals. This just puts them on the receiving end of climate change, as in our next book…

Drops of Life by Esko-Pekka Tiitinen, illustrated by Nikolai Tiitinen (2014) / Finland / Translated by Emma Claret Pyrhönen

A picture book from Finland with lovely watercolors, this is a climate change fable! When a dove is misplaced far, far away from its tree in Africa because of a sandstorm, an owl tries to help it return home. They are assisted on their journey by a friendly whale who helps take them the rest of the way since they can’t make it across the ocean on their own. They discover upon arriving that four other whales have beached themselves in protest to let humans know they exist. Luckily the whale and his bird companions have reached early enough to help the whales stay hydrated and return to the water before it is too late. He notes “We’ll have to find other ways to make the humans understand.”

The dove sadly discovers that its forest is now desert. It wants to replant trees so the forest can grow back. Others come to the rescue to try and help. First comes the wind. It takes the dove’s message to all corners of the globe and a variety of animals – a koala, a panda, a gorilla, and a puma representing different continents – all come with seeds to help in the process of afforestation. The animals dig a hole. They have the help of the sun, but no rain. The animals cry. Hearing them, a small boy arrives with a clay pot of water to help the seedlings grow. I particularly found the following lines from the text of the book beautiful: 

“Just then a little seedling lifted its head from the sand, looked at everyone and said merrily: ‘Morning.’ 

‘Many happy returns, little one,’ the Pigeon and the Owl sang joyously. ‘It’s your birthday today.”

While an author and illustrator from a northern country set this book in Africa, our next book presents a similar author-location-different-book-setting combo, albeit somewhat reversed. This time, a South African author and illustrator have teamed up to write about a northern habitat.

The Sunburnt Polar Bear by Andrew Newman (South African), illustrated by Liesl Bell (2020)

The plight of polar bears in the face of climate change is introduced through rhyming verse. Polar bears share their worries about the temperature, their families, and getting food. One image for thought includes a polar bear squirting on sunblock to protect itself from the sun’s harmful rays. Meant as a way to spark awareness and action, the book includes a letter idea that kids can mail to their legislators as a way to stand up for climate action. Tips are also featured in the book, such as planting trees, walking and riding bikes, using rechargeable batteries, and encouraging everyone to reduce, reuse, and recycle. (Produced by Conscious Stories.)

If you like this kids’ book or just happen to love kids’ books in general on this topic, you may also really like this next book. This one is aimed at some of our youngest readers.

Climate Change for Babies by Chris Ferrie (Canada), illustrated by Katherina Petrou (Australia) (2020) / Board book

Because climate awareness and action can never start too young, check out this scientist’s board book using simple text and illustrations. As the title suggests, it introduces young children to the science behind climate change. It uses kid-friendly comparisons to help explain important concepts such as the Earth being shaped like a ball and the Earth feeling well or unwell. An important comparison is the Earth’s atmosphere being a blanket. Venus’ blanket is too thick and Mars’ is too thin, but Earth’s is “just right.” However, Earth’s blanket might not continue to be just right if humans continue to do things that make it too hot. The book offers a couple of solutions we can do to help, such as taking care of forests and not wasting energy.

Chris Ferrie is known for his Baby University books, which are board books explaining very complex topics in very simple language, e.g., Quantum Computing for Babies and Bayesian Probability for Babies, which even secondary school libraries should own. Read this August 2020 Medium post where he explains the background to this latest one on climate change.

There are also a couple of exciting things that just came out or are coming up to be on the look-out for. I can’t wait to get my hands on these!

Palm Trees at the North Pole: The Hot Truth About Climate Change by Marc ter Horst, illustrated by Wendy Panders (2021) / The Netherlands / Translated from Dutch into English

I haven’t been able to read this one yet since it only comes out at the end of this month for the first time in English (and I don’t speak much in terms of Dutch)! Written by the Netherlands’ Marc ter Horst and illustrated by Wendy Panders, Palmen op de Noordpool: het grote verhaal van klimaatverandering, whose title is being translated as Palm Trees at the North Pole: The Hot Truth about Climate Change for the English version, is apparently the ultimate climate change book. I’ll definitely be reading it when it comes out. I’m excited to see what you think too. If you read it, please leave comments further below!

Canadian author, Naomi Klein, who already has eight books to her name on global environmental issues has just come out with a new book. What makes this one different though is that this one is for young people. It’s called How to Change Everything: The Young Human’s Guide to Protecting the Planet and it just came out on February 23! The book is divided into three sections: “Where We Are,” “How We Got Here,” and “What Happens Next.” It features the stories of young leaders around the world, which particularly makes me want to read it. It’s gotten great reviews, but I can’t personally review it since I haven’t read it…yet. It’s in my next library cart already!

Saving Planet Earthly by Juan Pablo Arrellano, Ghislaine Fandel, and Claire McPhee/ Mexico and Canada / Set in South Africa

OK, I absolutely have to have this too! This free ebook, Saving Planet Earthly from ClimateScience, was spot on and I cannot wait for the rest of this series. Check it out here and see what is coming up. Just look what’s there! All about protecting the Earth, this series especially looks like it is going to honor human diversity too at the same time. Did you look yet? No? Do it now. Seriously! ClimateScience also has a fun 30-minute crash-course that students can take about climate change!

Design like Nature: Biomimicry for a Healthy Planet  by Kim Ryall Woolcock and Clendenan, Megan (2021) / Canada
Upstream, Downstream by Rowena Rae (2021) / Canada

New books in the Orca Footprints Series! The collection already has 24 books out, with the 25th one Design Like Nature: Biomimicry for a Healthy Planet comes out TODAY (3/16/21!). The 26th one Upstream, Downstream is set to come out later in September. These books are great! Written by eight different Canadian women, this series puts many environmental issues in the spotlight. Some of these contribute directly to climate change, while others are issues that climate change directly impacts in return. The volumes cover deforestation, energy, waste, population growth, invasive species, sustainable food, bees, clean water, and more. Causes and solutions are discussed through interesting factoid boxes, colorful photographs, and many examples. I particularly like that they include many parts of the world in the books to get a more global view of problems and what action is taking place. This series even comes with a teacher’s guide

There are so many great books out there and enough to keep reading for days and days. I could continue to go on about many more, but I’m afraid this may already be too long and I don’t want to scare people away because of length. But, that being said, let me just do a quick shout-out to a few other books that I am familiar with in case you are interested in adding them to your collection. As a language lover and someone who is passionate about building home language collections for our libraries, I’d love to share these titles. These are not translated in English, but may be of interest to students who speak these languages.

Mats Möwe auf grosser Klimamission by Dr. Denise Müller-Dum and illustrated by Kathrin Lauckner (2020). / Germany / Available in German only

This book has climate skeptic characters! Mats is a seagull who believes in climate change, but he knows three seagulls who don’t. They take off around the world to see who is right, traveling to places like Bangladesh, Hawaii, and the North Pole. There the seagulls see that climate change is indeed taking its toll on the people who live there, such as the melting of Arctic ice, an increase in carbon dioxide levels, and flooding. The book shares Earth-friendly tips to fight climate change, such as eating a more plant-based diet, reducing use of plastics, and saving energy. 

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Um Dia, Um Rio by author Leo Cunha (Brazilian) and illustrated by André Neves (Brazil). Available in Portuguese only.

This is a beautiful picture book told in poetry form about the beauty of rivers and all of the ways they support nature and people’s lives. It also shows what happens to rivers and the people and animals who depend on it when they are negatively impacted. After an environmental disaster occurs, there is now just sadness and daily activities have ceased to exist. There are no animals left to tell its story. While this can be applied to any endangered river, this book was written in response to the 2015 Rio Doce disaster – when a dam broke and released millions of cubic meters of iron waste into the river and ocean, creating Brazil’s largest ecological disaster. While at first this may not seem directly connected to climate change, the activity that caused this disaster…mining…definitely is! As mentioned earlier, there is a lot of interconnectedness to these issues and here is just one more example.

¿Qué le pasa al planeta? by author and illustrator Eva Clemente (2017) / Spain / Available in Spanish only.

Earth is not feeling well and the animals are noticing. Animals in the North Pole, the Amazon, and the Pacific Ocean begin asking “What’s happening?” Kids start asking too and try to guess what is wrong with the Earth. One suggests it could be chickenpox, another a bite from a large mosquito. But, they discover contamination, deforestation, resource depletion, and factories are part of the problem. Here the author makes a link between production and overconsumption, the fossil fuels that go into them, dirty rivers, and waste. Children want this to stop and begin taking small steps in the book to make a difference. While these seem to be small differences as individuals, collectively they make a big difference when they add up. In the end the Earth begins to feel better.

This list won’t come out until World Book Day this year (April 23), but the UN is going to feature African books dealing with SDG themes! It is also going to highlight books in multiple languages, so this has gotten me even more excited! There will certainly be some books on there to help combat change, so check it out!!!

Lastly, don’t forget that Earth Day 2021 is just around the corner as well: https://www.earthday.org/earth-day-2021/ Here you can find events near you and those going on around the world, and even discover events online. There are chances to get involved, hear people’s stories, donate, and become more educated on climate change needs and solutions.

Getting to be part of this month’s International School Teacher-Librarians and the 17 United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) project has been such an honor. Thank you for letting me share just a few of my favorite climate change books with you. As this topic is so important, I hope that this post about climate change books may have helped you discover some new favorites to share with your students. 

I know many of the librarians who were part of this month’s initiative and I have had the chance to work with a lot of them in some capacity. It’s exciting to be part of a global coalition of readers and researchers, together in teacher librarianship! I’ve enjoyed seeing the books highlighted on the SDGs this month and am glad to see we have many of these books already at my school. It’s also a wonderful chance to discover some new great gems to order for my school community. 

As book warriors, let’s help each other continue the good fight against climate change! I am excited and interested to see what else you love that is missing from this list. Please share your favorite global literature books about climate change and activism for students in the comments below.


Originally from Maine in the United States, Jeremy Willette received his Master’s in Library and Information Science from Florida State University. He is an international school teacher librarian and has worked as an educator in the United States, Brazil, Hungary, India, and now China. Currently a Secondary School Librarian at Shanghai American School, he has also previously worked as an elementary school librarian. He is Chair of the ECIS Library Committee, a group that offers professional development for librarians and other educators around the globe. Jeremy is actively involved on his school’s Diversity, Equality, Inclusion, and Belonging (DEIB) team, a passion of his which he brings to the library. He also has a strong interest in the development of home language collections in the library, promoting the ideals of access to reading and information for everyone regardless of language. Twitter: @libraryjet

Note: all the books highlighted during this month of SDGs can be found on this GLLI Goodreads shelf.

What are your favorite books for SDG Goal 13: Climate Action? Please share them in the comments. Let’s make this a conversation and work on the goal together.

5 thoughts on “United Nations Sustainable Development Goal 13: CLIMATE ACTION

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