Posts Tagged climate change

STEM Author Spotlight: Alison Pearce Stevens

I’m delighted to be highlighting some awesome middle grade STEM/STEAM authors on the blog!

The first up is Alison Pearce Stevens. Her new book, Animal Climate Heroes released March 5th. I’ve read the book and it is PERFECT for curious kids.

Here’s a bit more info:

Animal Climate Heroes book


Animal Climate Heroes by Alison Pearce Stevens (Author), Jason Ford (Illustrator)

           Godwin Books, March 5, 2024.   BUY it HERE 


Summary: In our left corner we have the meanest villain that’s ever existed. Responsible for rising seas and loss of biodiversity, it’s climate change ready to wreak havoc on the Earth. But in our right corner? We have four superheroes ready to save the day!
Forest elephants protect our forests by trampling trees.
Whales boost ocean health with their massive poo-nados.
Sea otters defend kelp forests from purple invaders.
And echidnas bury tons of soil to stop climate change.

But we can’t leave them in this fight alone. We need to protect our heroes who, in return, defend our planet. Get ready to learn all about these four legged, and two-flippered, creatures and how YOU can be a climate hero too!



“Along with explaining sometimes complex ecological cycles and patterns in easy-to-understand terms, the author highlights the role of microbes in decomposition, extolling the benefits of composting and leaving autumn leaves on the ground; she even describes the eco-devastation wrought by artificial lawn fertilizers and free-roaming cats. Ford’s engagingly informal ink-and-wash portraits and diagrams generally come with helpful captions and labels.”―Booklist

“Animal Climate Heroes is a captivating exploration of the Earth’s unsung champions in the battle against climate change. In this riveting narrative, author Alison Pearce Stevens introduces readers to four remarkable creatures who stand as mighty defenders of our planet’s delicate ecosystems. Each chapter is masterfully woven together through scientific insight with engaging storytelling, making complex ecological concepts accessible and intriguing for young readers. Not only will readers walk away informed, but they will also be inspired to take action to help safeguard our planet! Animal Climate Heroes truly promises to be an indispensable resource for curious minds eager to make a difference in the world outside their doorstep.”― Melissa Cristina Marquez, author of Mother of Sharks and Wild Survival

“Fun and fascinating! Animal Climate Heroes gives readers an inspiring look at what earth’s creatures are doing to help fight climate change, but also gives us a compelling reminder of just how amazing our planet really is―and why we ought to protect it. This book belongs on every animal lover’s shelf!”―Jess Keating, bestselling author, scientist, & nature artist


Alison, thanks for answering a few questions about your book and your writing.

JAS: This is such an intriguing way to approach climate change, how did you come up with it?

APS: During the Covid shutdown, I watched a lot of webinars, and during one of them, the presenter said that her favorite fact was that sea otters help fight climate change. I had also seen an article about the role of great whales in climate, and I knew it was a great angle for a book.

JAS: Can you give us a short explanation of how you relate climate change to animals?

APS: The key is to remove the carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. Animals don’t do this! But many animals, including the four featured in the book, help boost photosynthesis in trees, plants, and algae. (For anyone who hasn’t thought about photosynthesis in years, plants use the process to combine carbon dioxide and water to make food.) Exactly how the animals boost photosynthesis in their local plants or algae varies by animal and ecosystem, and the book goes into more detail about each one. The gist of it is that these animals are helping photosynthesizers get what they need to grow, whether that’s nutrients, space, or water, and that helps remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.

JAS: Can you give us a sneak peek of one or two of the animals that you highlight?

APS: Absolutely. Sea otters are helping to protect kelp forests. Kelp can literally grow up to two feet a day, and it sucks lots of carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere to make that happen. Forest elephants tend their forest like gardeners, planting seeds, dropping plenty of fertilizer, and pulling weedy trees. This reduces competition for the massive tree species, so they get enough water and nutrients to flourish. The bigger the tree, the more carbon it stores. Elephants are absolutely essential to maintaining tropical forests in Africa.

JAS: What do you want young readers to get out of your book?

APS: Two things: I want every reader to understand how incredibly important nature is to us. It’s not just about climate (even though that’s all we hear about in the news), it’s about protecting all kinds of natural systems. We need them as much as they need us. And I want everyone to feel empowered to take steps to reduce their impact on the planet. Yes, industries play a huge role in this, but each and every one of us can reduce our personal impact, as well. By taking some of the steps I recommend in the book, people can tread more lightly on Earth and help sway industries to make more sustainable decisions.

JAS: Can you list a few actions that everyone can take to reduce climate change?

APS: Ride a bike instead of driving—or at least turn off the engine instead of idling. Rethink your lawn care practices if you own a home or talk to your landlord about how the property is maintained if you rent and there are green spaces. Most fertilizers are products of the oil industry and applied excessively; they wash downstream along with herbicides and other pesticides. When they reach the ocean, they harm marine life (and there’s good evidence they’re harming us, too). Lawnmowers and leaf blowers release huge amounts of carbon dioxide and other pollutants, so making changes to lawn care practices can go a long way. Even replacing a showerhead with one that’s EPA Water Sense certified can cut your carbon footprint and reduce the amount of water you use. All of those changes save you money, to boot.

JAS: Do you have any tips for writers who want to break into nonfiction children’s books?

APS: Be persistent and work on your craft—attend conferences, workshops and webinars to really learn how successful authors create their stories. And get to know other people in the kidlit community. It’s incredibly supportive, and many of my writing opportunities arose from events I attended and the connections I made while I was there.

JAS: What are you working on now?

APS: I am planning a second research trip for THE WILD MILE. This MG NF will be part of Holiday House’s Books for a Better Earth collection. It features efforts to rewild cities—to re-create lost habitat in an effort to bring wildlife back into the concrete jungle. THE WILD MILE will look at these efforts in general and specifically highlight the Wild Mile project in downtown Chicago.


Thanks so much for joining us, Alison. You can learn more about Alison below. 

Alison Pearce Stevens Headshot

Bio: Alison Pearce Stevens has been chased by a trumpeter swan, bitten by a bronze-winged duck, and served as a climbing wall for geckos and baby bats. She used to be a beekeeper and still thinks pollinators are some of the coolest things on the planet. Once upon a time, she was Dr. Stevens, science professor, until life took her overseas, at which point she started writing about science and nature for kids, because she’s an educator at heart and had to find new ways to share cool things with the world’s most curious people.

Alison writes lots of fun nonfiction: articles, picture books, and middle grade books. All of her work is inspired by a love of science and nature. She a regular contributor to Science News Explores, Highlights for Children, ASK, and other kids’ magazines, and has co-authored four books for National Geographic Kids. Rhinos in Nebraska: The Amazing Discovery of the Ashfall Fossil Beds (2021) and Animal Climate Heroes! (2024) were both Junior Library Guild Gold Standard Selections. Rhinos also won three Nebraska Book Awards. Detective Dogs are on the Case will release in September 2024.

The Fifth Hero: Escape Plastic Island—An Interview with Bill Doyle

An interactive book that addresses climate change? I’m in! I had the pleasure of reading The Fifth Hero: Escape Plastic Island and interviewing the author, Bill Doyle. This is the second book in The Fifth Hero series and just came out January 30.


About the Book

Hi Bill! Thank you for sharing the new book in The Fifth Hero series: Escape Plastic Island with me. Can you give us a short summary about the book?

Hihi! Thank you for inviting onto your site. I love what you’ve done with the place. It’s gorgeous and so comfy here.

The Fifth Hero: Escape Plastic Island is a choose-your-own-adventure, interactive story of four kids who couldn’t be less likely candidates for heroes of the climate…and yet they find themselves thrust into the role of Earth superheroes. One has the power to talk to animals (though he’s freaked out by nearly every animal); one controls the ground and can cause earthquakes and other ground-breaking acts (but she doesn’t seem to get that Earth can be broken and sometimes human actions go too far); the third can manipulate the water (but isn’t a fan of swimming); and the fourth can control the weather (but “control” is the wrong word…because every time she tries, things spin out of control!). And…the read is The Fifth Hero, making decisions at critical points to shape the narrative and the story’s outcome. Each of the decisions are “small” ones that have to do with the environment and small everyday actions we can take to help make a difference. Readers will see firsthand in this non-preachy, action-packed story how even the tiniest changes in our daily routines can have a massive ripple effect.


I love that they of the kids has a superpower. Who would especially enjoy this book?

Kids who like choose your own adventures; kids who want to make a difference and be agents of change in the world around them; kids who like action stories with a touch of humor.


Would you classify this as science fiction or fantasy? 

I’d qualify The Fifth Hero series as science fiction. It takes place in the near-future and I tried to make all the innovations (like the gas-guzzling, disposable scooters) things that could actually exist soon. Yes, the kids gain superpowers by grabbing onto the spheres called the Four Ponies (yes, yes, like the Four Horsemen), but I still tried to keep everything based in science.


About the Author

How did your writing journey begin? Any other interesting jobs you have had?

Oh! I’ve ALWAYS wanted to be a writer. It’s the very first thing, seriously. I asked for a plastic toy typewriter when I was 7 or so, and I used to bang out stories on that. Along the way, I’ve been an editor with magazines, like Cat Companion (ha!), TIME For Kids, Sports Illustrated Kids, Kid City (aka Electric Company), and Scholastic News.


What authors (and/or books) would you say influenced your writing style and/or this book? [And did you read Choose Your Own Adventure books growing up?]

Yes, I did read Choose Your Adventures growing up, but, honestly, I wasn’t always crazy about them. Ugh. That sounds harsh, and I don’t mean to be. It’s just they often left me a little cold, and I wanted to have more connection with the character in the story. So I was determined in my books to make sure that I characters that kids will hopefully care about.

OK, and re writers who influenced me…get ready for name dropping! While I was getting my MFA in Dramatic Writing from Tisch at NYU, I had Arthur Miller teach me playwriting. Um. I know! Crazy, right? Plus, John Guar came in, and David Mamet, and John Patrick Shanley. One writer though who really affected me was a writer named Milan Stitt (he wrote the Tony-winning play The Runner Stumbles). He taught me something called The Major Dramatic Question. Anything worth reading has to have a Major Dramatic Question, he’d say…it’s the question the writer poses at the beginning of the story and maintains the tension around for the entire tale. It’s the reason readers want to keep turning pages, because they have to know the answer to the question.


Which of the characters in your book would you say you were most like growing up?

People might think I’d be most like Jarrett, who is a little more thoughtful and introspective than the other characters. But honestly, I think I was more like Agnes. I loved playing outside and being a little reckless…my brothers and I would try to have ski spills where we’d lose both skis and our poles (a yard sale, we’d call it) or we’d race backwards down the steepest hills on our skateboards. Agnes is brave, naively at times, when it comes to play, and I think I was the same.


Which power element would you want to possess?

Oh! I’d love to have the power to talk with animals, like Jarrett does. To know more about what my dog is think would be incredible!


Me too! What is something from your childhood that you snuck into the book?

For this book, I included a tiny bit of the feeling of a “crush” I think we all felt when were around 11 or 12. Just that wonderful feeling of liking spending time with someone.

Hi! This is me at around 8 on Lake Michigan reading The Hobbit. The first “grown-up” book I read on my own.


About Writing Series Books

Would you share the premise of the series?

Four 11-year-olds touch powerful spheres that are meant to destroy the world. The kids absorb the spheres and must harness their power to save the planet from the wicked family who wants to convince everyone to move up to the space hotels and colonies. The reader is the 5th Hero who must make decisions at crucial points in the plot to help save the day. 


How did you get the idea for a series that addresses climate change?

As Editor of Scholastic News magazine, I get bombarded with the same scary climate news that lots of kids are seeing. And I also get to visit lots of schools…so I could see the environmental issues are very important to kids. I wanted to find a way to empower kids, to show them that they can make a difference…even with very small changes to their daily routine.


Where did you get the idea for this particular book in the series?

The idea for Escape Plastic Island came from just seeing pictures of plastic islands in the ocean, and reading about how the largest one is bigger than the state of Texas. Holy moly. That image just stuck in my head, and I knew had to write about it.


Where in the journey did you decide it would be a series vs. a stand-alone book?

Hopefully the two books so far in the series can stand alone, but the idea for making it a series was baked in from the very beginning.


Can you share any tips for writing a series? [Especially for avoiding too big a recap at the beginning of each book]

When writing a series, I usually try to do the recap or “previously on…” during an action sequence of some kind. I sprinkle it around fast-moving descriptions, trying to make the medicine of the exposition go down more smoothly!



Did you always plan on involving the reader to make decisions, or is this something that came about later?

Empowering the reader with the superpower of changing the narrative was always part of the plan with this series. It’s something I love giving to kids. Normally that power is reserved for authors…only they get to control the story. But, thanks to time with screens, kids have come to expect a little more control in the stories they encounter. And they deserve that control too!


What research did you do for this book?

I actually got in touch with friend at, the world’s largest nonprofit that completely devoted to our oceans. They are true worldwide resource and I really, really recommend that people check out their work!


For Teachers

How can teachers make the most out of the message in this book?

Tackling stories about the environment in the classroom can be complicated, stressful, and, frankly, depressing. I hope my books and their positive message about the future can help with that. I feel like the message that kids can make simple, everyday changes in their routines to help out the planet is one that any student can grasp. I give specific examples of what those change might be in the books—and the ripple effect they might have on the health of our environment.


Are you doing school visits related to this book?

Yes! Yes! Definitely doing school visits. That’s one of my favorite things to do! I can make a school visit work with third graders all the way up through eighth grade. I usually do a fun, interactive writing workshop with the kids, so that by the time I go we’ve had a great time developing at least one new stellar idea for a series.


How can we learn more about you? 

So…the best way to learn more about me and to reach out to me is through my website: Please come visit me there!


Thanks for your time, Bill.

Be sure to check out The Fifth Hero: Escape Plastic Island!


 Several new books have come out featuring young people working for change in their communities and the world. Child leaders have emerged in almost every activist movement today. Though too young to vote, they organize, draw public attention to issues, and often can get laws and policy changed. The causes they champion directly impact the quality of their future lives. These include water rights, human rights, and especially climate change.
Here are some of the  books designed to inform and encourage young readers who want to make a difference. .
The Climate Book (2023) is by 19-year-old Greta Thunberg,  an internationally known and respected leader in the movement to combat climate change. This has been her focus ever since she demonstrated outside the Swedish parliament with a hand-made sign at age 15. In this book, she outlines the urgent need for accurate information and effective , and she provides both. She calls on the wisdom and knowledge of hundreds of scientists, indigenous leaders, historians, engineers, and mathematicians. Her book includes graphs and illustrations, and suggests paths for real step-by-step change. Also see Greta’s Story: The Schoolgirl Who Went on Strike to Save the Planet by Valentina Camerini (2019)

We Have a Dream: Meet 30 Young Indigenous People and People of Color Protecting the Planet (2022) is by Mya-Rose Craig.” Mya-Rose,    British Bangladeshi ornithologist who was awarded an honorary science degree from Bristol University at age 17. She has created “Black to Nature” camps to encourage indigenous people and people of color to fight for equal rights and environmental protection, since they are the most affected. This book profiles thirty young people around the world, including the US, who are already taking action.

Also see Young Native Activist: Growing Up in Native American Rights Movements  by Aslan Tudo. Alsn is  a 13 year old member of the Lipan Apache Tribe of Texas. When he was 8 and again at 11, Aslan went to South Dakota to join the protests of Lakota Sioux against construction of a oil pipeline at Standing Rock. In this book, he describes native American causes in which he continues to be active.

In Movement Makers: How Young Activists Upended the Politics of Climate change (2022), author Nicke Englefried interviews over 100 youth leaders.  She  tells the background story of how youth climate campaigns have drawn attention, changed the national discussion, and become a mass movement.

Saving Animals: A Future Activist’s Guide (2021), is by Catherine Kelaher, founder of New South Wales’ Hen Rescue.  Her organization  rehomes chickens and other animals from factory farms. This well-researched guide is full of  ideas about how to protect and make the world a better place for pets, farm animals & wildlife . It includes stories of empathetic young people who are doing just that.

Glimmer of Hope: How Tragedy Sparked a Movement (2018), is by the founders of March For Our Lives. On Valentine’s Day in 2018, a mass-shooter killed 17 students and teachers at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High in Parkland, Florida. Surviving students channeled their grief and anger into a youth movement to end gun violence.  The students of the movement provide a blueprint, showing how they took action in rallies, on social media, in voter registration drives, and with a march on Washington.

Tomorrow Begins Now: Teen Heroes Who Faced Down Injustice (2022) is by Ava Lorelei Deakin. It features stories, ranging from the 1950s to today, of 11 teens fighting for their civil rights and liberties. Their  issues include school segregation, sports equality, censorship, unjust deportation, and others.

Putting Peace First: 7 Commitments to Change the World (2018) is  by Eric David Dawson, who at age 18 founded a non-profit called Peace First.  Peace first is  based on the idea that young people can change the world now. Putting Peace First is his handbook for would-be peacemakers, with step-by-step explanations of how peacemakers have achieved their goals