A School Library Journal Best Book of 2022
From critically acclaimed author Barbara Dee comes a middle grade novel about a young girl who channels her anxiety about the climate crisis into rallying her community to save a local river.
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.
For sensitive seventh grader Haven, "things counted only when I knew how they added up, or how they ended." So when her science teacher shows the class a video detailing the impact of climate change on Antarctic glaciers, Haven can't stop thinking about the global crisis; gripped by nightmares and eco-anxiety, she becomes desperate to help. Drawing inspiration from a Martin Luther King Jr. quote about doing "small things in a great way," Haven advocates an investigation of changes to the town river, which a school science project reveals is newly acidic. As Haven wrestles with big issues, she also struggles with the social challenges of middle school, including changing friendships. A new company in town, which employs Haven's father and has recently revitalized the community, contributes nuance to a plot about environmental and social ethics. Though Dee (Violets Are Blue) offers no easy answers about how an individual can make a significant impact, Haven's endeavors are earnestly wrought, and her compassionate heart and interpersonal conflicts balance the book's environmental thrust. Ages 9–13. Agent: Jill Grinberg, Jill Grinberg Literary.