Nature in Young Adult Lit

The image is full of acorns. One in the center still has a cap. The acorns are long and narrow and a variety of browns.

This may be a strange slightly rambling post, but one thing led to another. As I bicycle to work each day, there are several oak trees to pass which means that lately there are many, many acorns to dodge. Recently on Threads, author Jen Ferguson [Those Pink Mountain Nights] mentioned having a load of acorns raining down on the roof. This got me thinking about the chapter in Braiding Sweetgrass when the author’s grandfather gathers up pecans during a year with an extraordinarily large crop. That story is a good one and may be found here. From there I leapt to thinking about nature and young adult lit because that’s what my brain does.

The title font has the same color as the sweetgrass that is being braided in the middle of the cover. There are two hands weaving three sections of sweetgrass together.Obviously, Braiding Sweetgrass: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge, and the Teaching of Plants by Robin Wall Kimmerer and Monique Gray Smith was the first young adult book that came to mind. It’s a beautiful memoir with a look at Indigenous science and the natural world. The illustrations by Nicole Neidhardt are fantastic and make it an excellent book to pour over. See our review here.

Book cover. Two faces are nose to nose. The outside edges of the faces make the shape of butterfly wings. Above them is a bit of a sun. There is a fire below. This led me to thinking about Firekeeper’s Daughter by Angeline Boulley. In it, the main character has learned about nature through Indigenous teachings, but also through schooling and texts. There were parallels between Kimmerer’s lived experience and the fictional account of Daunis. You can learn more about the book in our Group Discussion.

Pink cover with tall evergreen trees in the background on the left. A smiling young Black man and woman carrying backpacks are walking closely on the right side of the cover.Highly Suspicious and Unfairly Cute by Talia Hibbert is a book that that involves the outdoors and romance. We had a Group Discussion for this one too. In that discussion, Jessica mentioned Alexis Nicole Nelson, also known as The Black Forager. Looking at the acorns around me I wondered if she had done a video about them and yup, that is a thing she’s collected and talked about. I don’t know if she will be writing a book for young adults anytime soon, but for now, there is an incredible amount of video content on Tiktok, Instagram, and YouTube including the relatively new Crash Course Botany class.

Reflecting on nature, there is an awful lot of things that can go wrong so there are also quite a few dystopian and sci-fi books that are concerned with the environment, disasters, and climate change.

A young black woman is staring ahead. We only see half of her face on the right side of the cover. She has locks and a large gold earring. There are flames behind here and everything has an orange fiery glow to it. The Parable of the Sower: A Graphic Novel Adaptation is based on Octavia E. Butler’s novel of the same name and is by Damian Duffy and John Jennings. The story follows a young girl as she navigates a world that is in severe distress. She is not only trying to survive, but she is contemplating faith and what it means to her and what it could look like for others.

Two young women have their eyes closed and are leaning their heads on each other. There are clouds above and waves below them.The Ones We’re Meant to Find by Joan He is another survival type of story in the midst of natural disasters due to climate change. The story revolves around two sisters.

The cover of want. There is a young man and it seems that there is something wrapped around his head though it is clear. There are images from a computer screen surrounding him. Want by Cindy Pon really digs into the economic disparities in relation to climate change and environmental issues. It’s set in Taipei not too far in the future. You can read more about this awesome book in our Group Discussion.

From the back we see a young woman in a dark space looking out on the city of New Orleans filled with water. Orleans by Sherrie L. Smith is an older title, but also delves into some of these issues of the environment and economic disparities. Here is our review.

Are there other books about nature and the environment that you think we’ve missed or should watch for in the future?