Sunday, September 25, 2022

The First Rule of Climate Club and Haven Jacobs Saves the Planet

Firestone, Carrie. The First Rule of Climate Club
July 1st 2022 by G. P. Putnam's Sons
E ARC provided by Edelweiss Plus

Returning to the same community in which Dress Coded was set, we follow Mary Kate, who is a year younger than Molly, who took on the school principal and defied the unfair dress code. Molly has been accepted into a special class at school addressing climate change, run by Mr. Lu. Each student had to write an essay to be accepted, and these essays are included in the book. Mary Kate, whose parents are much older, is struggling because her best friend, Lucy, is very ill but doctors cannot determine what is wrong with her. Mary Kate is also dealing with the fact that her older sister has had a baby, whom she calls Sweet Pea. Letters to her neice are also included. The climate class has projects, and Mary Kate gets paired with Shawn Hill, who is from nearby Hartford and open enrolled in the Holly Hill district, which is primarily white. They are investigating composting options for their lunch room, and apply for a town grant. Because Shawn is not a resident, their application is denied, a move which most people think is racist. The town mayor is heard making questionable comments, and the grant goes to a project on the golf course. Mary Kate is determined to get Lucy the help she needs, work for composting in her school, and is also incensed about the social injustices that she sees. Will she be able to make a difference with letters, podcasts, and protests?
Strengths: This is on trend with many different social issues, and it's good to see Mary Kate wanting to make a difference. She also cares deeply about her best friend, and stands by her even when Lucy won't talk to her. I've not seen a middle grade book center on PANS/PANDAS syndrome, which is brought on by tick bites, so this was interesting to see. The issue of older parents was also something unusual and intriguing. I liked that the characters from the previous book appear in this. 
Weaknesses: As in Dress Coded, the evil adults were almost cartoonish in their evil, which diluted the effect of the injustices. It also seemed unlikely that librarian Mr. Beam would have allowed Mary Kate to hang out in the library. How did he have so much time to spend on his phone on Facebook, and why on earth would he let Mary Kate know information about the other teachers? 
What I really think: This will be a popular choice with teachers and librarians who want to promote social justice issues, and there are a lot packed into this. I wish that there had been a more streamlined plot arc, focusing more on the climate club itself. 

Dee, Barbara. Haven Jacobs Saves the Planet
Published September 27th 2022 by Aladdin
E ARC provided by Edelweiss Plus

Haven lives in a small town with her brother Carter, who is a high school freshman, her mother, who runs a preschool, and her father, who has just gone back to work at Gemba, a new glass factory, after being out of work for over two years. Haven struggles with anxiety, especially when her science teacher shows the class videos about climate change and how it is affecting Antartica. Haven has already stopped eating meat, and wants to do something to help change the world around her but isn't quite sure where to start. It doesn't help that Carter makes fun of her, her parents seem stressed and tired, and her friends Riley and Em think that she should be concentrating more on not chewing her fingernails and not being "weird". There is a new boy in class, Kenji, on whom Riley has a bit of a crush, and Haven is struggling with the fact that her long time friend, Archer, would rather hang out with other boys who are rather Jerky. When Haven't science class does their yearly science unit studying the local river, they find that there are few animals and insects in the water, which has become much more acidic. Wanting to do something, Haven organizes a river festival. It's successful in that people come and help clean up the river, but Haven is upset that a reporter interviews herr in an unflattering light and makes it sound like she is blaming Gemba. But is her father's company to blame? Kenji, whose father is in a supervisory position, doesn't want to irritate his father, but knows that something must be done. Armed with information from a local scientist, Haven and her class make a presentation to the town council. Will they be able to find a fix for at least one environmental problem?
Strengths: There need to be more people like Haven who recognize the planet and do something about it. Unfortunately, this often leads to more anxiety; it was good that Haven's parents suggest therapy and Haven's experiences with this are shown in a positive light. I liked how she looked up to some younger environmental activists and was inspired by them to try to do something about the local river. Her relationship with her brother was very realistic-- how many of us fought constantly with our siblings when we were completely capable of getting along if needed? The friend drama is always a good addition.  
Weaknesses: While I really like the way that Haven't friendship with Archer was handled, there were so many other things going on in the story that it didn't get quite the coverage that it could have had. 
What I really think: I'll definitely purchase this; my students love Dee's titles. I have been working on environmental issues for years and have always tried to share strategies with students. It's good to see that Haven is shown worrying, but also doing things that are concrete. Walking to work, being vegetarian, not buying new clothes, and conserving energy are things that everyone can work on!

No comments:

Post a Comment