Monday, September 19, 2022

HAVEN JACOBS SAVES THE PLANET by Barbara Dee – a story about climate and eco-anxiety

Caucasian girl sitting on the ground drawing the title with her finger and small plants around her
Why this book?

I was interested in reading this story because of my own growing awareness about the impact we are having on our climate and environment. The anxiety that the main character, Haven, feels is something more and more people are becoming aware of and maybe are even experiencing. 

While this story might be seem a little intense for children already grappling with anxiety, it may also be helpful to show that they are not alone in their anxious feelings and behaviours. I’m really glad that this story showed me a window into the feelings that Haven was experiencing as well as showing her getting counseling help.

I really enjoy the realism of Barbara Dee's characters. Haven wasn’t a perfect student and I appreciated how she had an understanding teacher to encourage her to complete her work. Haven’s river project gave her a chance to use problem-solving skills, collect data and speak out about something important to her. I loved the message that small steps are important in bringing about change.

Connections: eco-anxiety, climate, environment, data collection

Activities for students:

Social-Emotional Learning – A lot of times we can feel anxious about things happening that are beyond are control. Encourage students to regularly practice mindfulness or calming strategies such as one of the many techniques in the book, Breathe Like a Bear by Kira Willey (Rodale Kids, 2017).

Literacy – After reading, students could discuss the climate problem and solutions Haven tried, or represent the information in a graphic organizer. 

Literacy & Art—Design a poster Haven might have created to advertise her project.

Math/Science—Explore a climate related issue such as pollution by considering trash around your school yard. For example, collect data to monitor the amount of trash collected weekly in your school yard. How could you increase awareness of the issue?


Description from the publisher: 

Twelve-year-old Haven Jacobs can’t stop thinking about the climate crisis. In fact, her anxiety about the state of the planet is starting to interfere with her schoolwork, her friendships, even her sleep. She can’t stop wondering why grownups aren’t even trying to solve the earth’s problem—and if there’s anything meaningful that she, as a seventh grader, can contribute.

When Haven’s social studies teacher urges her to find a specific, manageable way to make a difference to the planet, Haven focuses on the annual science class project at the local Belmont River, where her class will take samples of the water to analyze. Students have been doing the project for years, and her older brother tells her that his favorite part was studying and catching frogs.

But when Haven and her classmates get to the river, there’s no sign of frogs or other wildlife—but there is ample evidence of pollution. The only thing that’s changed by the river is the opening of Gemba, the new factory where Haven’s dad works. It doesn’t take much investigation before Haven is convinced Gemba is behind the slow pollution of the river.

She’s determined to expose Gemba and force them to clean up their act. But when it becomes clear taking action might put her dad’s job—and some friendships—in jeopardy, Haven must decide how far she’s willing to go.

Haven Jacobs Saves the Planet by Barbara Dee was published by Simon & Schuster in 2022.

Friday, September 9, 2022

MAGGIE’S TREASURE by Jon-Erik Lappano & Kellen Hatanaka - a book about treasure collecting and community

Girl pulling a wagon loaded with small treasures

Why this book?

My students are always finding all kinds of treasures, so I know they will love this book! I especially connected with the idea of noticing the small or unused things in the world and thinking about how they could be used or re-used. The illustrations are bold and colourful with a fun, distinctive style. 

My thoughts as a creator:

There are some lovely phrases in this story. One of my favourites is, “Maggie saw the sparkle in everything.” A nice book to study when thinking about using your observations of the world to add details to a story.

My thoughts as an educator:

The theme of helping the community is always great to promote activism and encourage students to create their own projects!  It would be interesting to discuss the main ideas in this story in comparison with the picture book Maybe Something Beautiful by F. Isabel Campoy and Theresa Howell with illustrations by Rafael Lopez.

Ages: 4 - 7

Grades: K - 3

Connections: re-using materials, collections, helping the community


Active Play & Math – Go on a hunt outside (or inside) to find treasures. Encourage children to sort their “treasures” in different ways. Listen as they explain their reasoning for how they sorted them.

Building Community: What might happen if everyone in the class brought one toy or book they didn’t want any more? Could they be given to others or exchanged with each other?

Community Art Project: Encourage everyone in the class to bring in one “treasure” to glue onto a large board or canvas to create a class art project to display in the classroom.

Create – Give children a small collection of “treasures” such as paper scraps, wood scraps, buttons, pieces of cloth, and string or yarn and some glue and drawing materials. What can they make? A prompt question might be: Can you make something useful? Another creative project might be for everyone in the class to bring in one “treasure” to glue together into

Social-Emotional Learning – Brainstorm with children and help them make a list of things they can do to help someone else. Choose one project to work on together.

Classroom Tip: Keep a “scrap bin” of interesting paper bits that children can use for creating at a Maker’s Centre or when finished their work.


More resources:

Child Central Station has a fun Trash to Treasure art activity to try.

Description from the publisher:

Maggie finds treasure wherever she goes. Whether it’s a button, a feather or a shiny stone, she picks it up and takes it home. At first the neighbors and city workers are grateful to Maggie for cleaning up; the mayor even gives her an award. But over time Maggie’s collection grows bigger and bigger, until it spills out of her house and garden in an unsightly mess. Her parents tell her “Enough treasure!” and eventually even Maggie realizes that something must be done. Finally, inspired by a bird outside her window, she finds a way to share her treasure that enchants and transforms the entire neighborhood.

Maggie’s Treasure by Jon-Erik Lappano and Kellen Hatanaka was published by Groundwood Books in 2020.


For more wonderful picture books, visit Perfect Picture Book Friday at Susanna Leonard Hill's website