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Biblio File, Stuff for the Teen Age

Great Graphic Books for Tweens, Teens & Adults to be “Green”


Environmental thinking should go beyond Earth Day. One holiday a year isn't enough time to celebrate the beauty of nature, help improve the planet or find out more about climate change and other environmental issues.

So, if you would like to make Earth Day every day or just broaden your eco-knowledge, try this list of suggested graphic novels and illustrated books. 

Climate change

Basher Science: Climate Change,  by Dan Green, illustrations by Simon Basher

Not sure how climate change works? Want to understand how the Earth is being impacted and options we have to help the environment? Think of this book as a picture dictionary; earth science terms, environmental effects, scientific observations and theories are turned into cartoon characters, each with a short summary of what they do and the role they play in regulating or altering the planet.  Find out the definitions of the carbon cycle, a carbon footprint, carbon trading and more.  

The Cartoon Introduction to Climate Change

The Cartoon Introduction to Climate Change, by Grady Klein and Yoram Bauman

Climate change can be confusing. It is a complex topic and graphic artist Grady Klein and economist Yoram Bauman use humorous black-and-white cartoons and vivid imagery to provide a simple, precise primer on the history of our planet, the scientific mechanics of how global warming is observed and works, and the related ecological and economic impacts. The technical aspects of different environmental "solutions" are explored, and readers get a better picture on how a climate agreement, carbon taxing and cap and trade systems could work.

The book uses many great visual puns and metaphors throughout to explain things — a coal-powered railroad train and pieces of cake stand in for human consumption/carbon pollution. In another pointed illustration, the Earth's slow response to energy and environmental shifts is a large snail. The book's most important takeaway lesson is the effects of climate change will last well beyond 2100 and the best insurance we have to avoid the most dire climate predictions is to change our own lifestyles to reduce carbon dioxide emissions and other greenhouse gases. 

Luz sees the light

Luz Sees the Light, by Claudia Davila (first book in The Future According to Luz series)

Energy can be fickle. One minute, Luz is partying at home, dancing to music videos and microwaving brownies. Then, a wave of blackouts hit Petroville and everyone’s sweltering in the summer heat. On top of that, gas becomes too expensive for trips to the mall and fancy, imported goods.  This twelve-year old girl (whose name means “light” in Spanish) takes action. Over the course of this graphic novel, Luz learns how to become more eco-friendly in her daily activities and she even creates a special community project. Young teens will be inspired by her story and her commitment to help the environment and neighborhood.


Luz makes a splash

Luz Makes a Splash, by Claudia Davila, (second book in The Future According to Luz series)

A record-breaking drought hits Petroville and all city residents are weathering electricity brownouts and water restrictions. Luz is concerned about how the heat and lack of rain is damaging plants and wildlife at the local swimming pond. Through this experience, Luz, her family, friends and young book readers learn about water conservation and environmental activism.




Primates: The Fearless Science of Jane Goodall, Dian Fossey and  Biruté Galdikas, by Jim Ottaviani, illustrated by Maris Wicks

The experiences and work of primatologists Jane Goodall, Dian Fossey and Biruté Galdikas are highlighted in this graphic novel along with their mentor, famed anthropologist Louis Leakey. Their research into the lives of chimpanzees, gorillas and orangutans, respectively, take these scientists deep into the mountains, jungles and rainforests of Kenya, Rwanda and Indonesia. Readers will learn about the difficulties of fieldwork, the wonders of watching primates in the wild and the need for wildlife protection and habitation conservation.



Trashed: A Graphic Novel, by Derf Backderf

Garbage workers get no respect. Day after they, they toil away at one of the most important jobs in the world – waste removal. Follow the misadventures of young garbage man J.B. over the course of a year while he drives around the village cleaning up after other people’s messes. Trashed also takes a closer look at the bigger ramifications of our garbage, such as there isn’t enough room in the world to store all of it and the massive amounts of pollution and environmental damage created by garbage left on roadsides and dumped in landfills. This book will change how you look and think about waste and help you gain a new understanding of how problematic trash is.

Note: this graphic novel is more appropriate for mature teens and adult readers since it contains some crude adult humor and language.


World without fish

World Without Fish, by Mark Kurlansky, illustrations by Frank Stockton

Picture a world without fish. Go out on a boat, and instead of catching tuna, flounder or fluke, there are swarms of jellyfish. Oceans turn orange from algae. Birds, dolphins and whales who survive on seafood have disappeared and scuba divers and snorkelers see nothing but dead coral and brown slime.

This apocalyptic view of the future could come true within fifty years if humans continue to overfish, pollute the seas and ignore/deny climate change. Our oceans and many fish stocks are at a tipping point, and writer Mark Kurlansky explains how we got into such a precarious situation. The book provides information on the history, politics and industrialization of fishing and examines the economic collapse of certain fish species (such as the orange roughy) and fishing regions (such as the Great Banks and Newfoundland, Canada).  Readers will learn more about the limited options we have to stop the damage and find out ways to become more environmentally-active and conscious.


47 things you can do for the environment

47 Things You Can Do for the Environment, by Lexi Petronis with environmental consultant Jill Buck

Teens and tweens who want advice on how to be more eco-friendly can flip through 47 suggestions on how to cut back on energy use and waste, be "green" at school or while traveling, and get involved with environmental programs and initiatives with friends and the greater community. Some suggestions are simple - such as eating locally-produced foods or drinking tap water instead of the bottled variety. Other suggestions take more creativity, time and initiative - such as starting a fundraiser to benefit environmental projects, growing a garden or volunteering for green organizations. The tips are practical for anyone who want to be more environmentally-conscience and the book contains a list of many other environmental organizations and resources for "green" news, grants and information. 

Climate changed

Climate Change: A Personal Journey Through Science, by Philippe Squarzoni

Part memoir, scientific-explainer and philosophical rumination about Earth and life, French graphic novelist Philippe Squarzoni’s book chronicles his ever-growing education in environmental issues. Squarzoni distills complex scientific concepts with his stark black-and-white illustrations and provides a forum for several climate science experts and economists to discuss the impact global warming has on the planet and the people, such as rising sea levels, disease outbreaks, overpopulation and extreme weather resulting in massive droughts and floods. Readers will end up questioning how their lifestyle choices are destroying the globe and wondering about our future world.  


Oil and water

Oil & Water, by Steve Duin, illustrations by Shannon Wheeler, introduction by Bill McKibben

The Deepwater Horizon/BP oil disaster of April 2010 was one of the worst environmental catastrophes in history with 11 people killed, 17 injured and 4.9 million gallons of oil spilled, damaging the Gulf of Mexico and other waterways and shorelines of Louisiana, Alabama, and Mississippi all the way to parts of Texas and Florida. Countless numbers of birds and sea creatures were hurt or killed and the livelihoods of many people in the Gulf states were damaged or destroyed.

Oil & Water puts a human face to the devastation by following a group of Oregon journalists, environmentalists and activists as they go on a ten-day tour throughout the region in August 2010. While the Oregonians seem well-intentioned, though naive, the real heart of the graphic novel is the true-life stories told by local fishermen and residents, some of whom consider the oil spill and Hurricane Katrina of 2005 the "one-two punch." Locals talk about the pain of having their neighborhoods turned into disaster-tourism pit stops or the struggle to stay in business when massive numbers of shrimp, crabs and fishes died out because of the oil pollution.

In informative sidebars, Oil & Water describes the short-sighted, unsafe cost-cutting measures BP took when it created the oil rig and the deadly effect the oil spill had and will continue to have on wildlife and the ecosystem for generations to come. The book also briefly touches on the topic of environmental discrimination by mentioning how the disasters disproportionately impacted some communities of color, such as African Americans in New Orleans and the Atakapa-Ishak tribe.

The underlying problem brought up by the graphic novel, as environmentalist Bill McKibben wrote in the introduction, is "our addiction to oil and the havoc it wrecks everywhere" and "all that it means in our economies and our lives."

Note: Oil & Water is another graphic novel more appropriate for mature readers since it contains some adult language and situations. 


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