By Danielle Nierenberg, Katherine Walla and Hayly Hoch
This holiday season, we're highlighting 12 children's books that will educate and inspire future eaters, food producers and innovators. From stories exploring community gardens and ugly vegetables, to tales about feeding a hungry stranger and slaying "the climate dragon," these books discuss deep topics in a personalized and fun way. Happy holidays!
1. Amelia's Road by Linda Jacobs Altman, illustrated by Enrique O. Sanchez
Amelia's Road follows Amelia Luisa Martinez, a young girl who lives in a family that travels around the country as migrant farmworkers. Although her day-to-day is characterized by long work days, unfamiliar schools and bleak cabins, she one day finds an old tree that becomes a special place for her. Amelia's Road offers children a chance to reflect on the experiences of migrant farmworker families.
2. Apple Farmer Annie by Monica Wellington
This book tells the story of Annie, a young apple farmer. As she picks, sorts and sells her apples, she enlists the help of readers with some small, challenging activities such as counting, object-naming and money counting. Author Monica Wellington includes her personal recipes for applesauce, applesauce cake and apple muffins.
3. Community Soup by Alma Fullerton
Author Alma Fullerton tells the story of a young Kenyan girl, Kioni: her herd of goats followed her to school and began destroying the school's garden. Kioni and her friends join together to find a creative solution, making a tasty vegetable soup and saving Kioni's goats. Community Soup offers readers an uplifting story about the power of communal projects.
4. Green Green: A Community Gardening Story by Marie Lamba and Baldev Lamba, illustrated by Sonia Sanchez
Through charming rhymes, this book tells the story of a city's dwindling green space—and the neighborhood children who inspire the community to recover it. Authors Marie Lamba and Baldev Lamba playfully highlight the power of collaboration among people of any age who want to improve their communities.
5. Little Seeds by Charles Ghigna, illustrated by AG Jatkowska
As one of a four-part My Little Planet series, Little Seeds follows three children that celebrate spring by planting a seed. Readers find that while it is fun to garden, it is also fun to take care of the planet by doing activities like planting seeds.
6. Our Community Garden by Barbara Pollak
In Our Community Garden, Audrey Aubergine and her friends describe their favorite activities at their community garden. Together, the children get excited about everything from getting their hands dirty to exploring the bugs on their plants. The story offers children of all ages an opportunity to learn about the possibilities that can result from people who join to work—and have fun—together.
7. Plants Feed Me By Lizzy Rockwell
This book celebrates the plants that grow all around us: the trees, roots, bushes and stems that nourish our communities. Author Lizzy Rockwell takes readers to the farm, orchard and community garden to discover the various parts of plants humans eat, revealing food's beauty.
8. Stone Soup, a classic tale
Originally a French tale from the early 18th century, Stone Soup tells the story of a hungry man who approaches the house of a woman seeking food. While the woman turns him away for begging, the man tricks her into cooking by showing her a stone that makes soup with simply fire and a pot of water. The man tricks the woman by asking her to add vegetables and herbs throughout the process, ending with a fantastic soup for everyone to enjoy.
9. That's Not Fair! / ¡No Es Justo! by Carmen Tafolla and Sharyll Teneyuca, illustrated by Terry Ybáñez
Authors Carmen Tafolla and Sharyll Teneyuca tell the true story of Emma Tenayuca, a young Mexican-American girl in San Antonio in the 1920s. After watching her community work unreasonably long hours for low wages and struggle with hunger, Emma begins to advocate for Mexican-American workers, eventually leading 12,000 in a struggle for justice. The story offers parents a starting point to talk about each individual's role in making a more just food system.
10. The Curious Garden by Peter Brown
Authored and illustrated by Peter Brown, this book celebrates a discovery of a love for gardening. The main character, Liam, discovers a struggling garden, brings it back to life, and finds his efforts have a city-wide impact. The story opens the door for a conversation around the importance of green spaces in urban settings and the power of a single green thumb.
11. The Ugly Vegetables by Grace Lin
Author and illustrator Grace Lin tells the story of a young girl tending an ugly garden—one that lacks colorful flowers and stunning butterflies, yet produces the tastiest vegetables. Once the girl's mother harvests the vegetables for a tasty Chinese soup, the young gardener learns that everything has value: including ugly vegetables. Lin tops off the story with her recipe for ugly vegetable soup.
12. What's On Your Plate: Exploring the World of Food by Whitney Stewart, illustrated by Christiane Engel
This book, written by Whitney Stewart and illustrated by Christiane Engel, takes young readers around the globe, introducing them to new tastes and flavors in countries like Brazil, Ethiopia, Japan, Morocco and more. Each section includes an easy recipe for children to cook with a parent for an interactive way to learn about the diversity of ingredients each country and the role of culture in cuisine.
Bonus: Slaying the Climate Dragon by Kate Marvel
Although not a book (yet), this short story authored by Kate Marvel is a wonderful resource for starting a conversation with young children on climate change. The story's open ending allows space for youth to brainstorm the ways they can join the good fight to slay "the climate dragon."
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By Peter Giger
The speed and scale of the response to COVID-19 by governments, businesses and individuals seems to provide hope that we can react to the climate change crisis in a similarly decisive manner - but history tells us that humans do not react to slow-moving and distant threats.
A Game of Jenga<p>Think of it as a game of Jenga and the planet's climate system as the tower. For generations, we have been slowly removing blocks. But at some point, we will remove a pivotal block, such as the collapse of one of the major global ocean circulation systems, for example the Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation (AMOC), that will cause all or part of the global climate system to fall into a planetary emergency.</p><p>But worse still, it could cause runaway damage: Where the tipping points form a domino-like cascade, where breaching one triggers breaches of others, creating an unstoppable shift to a radically and swiftly changing climate.</p><p>One of the most concerning tipping points is mass methane release. Methane can be found in deep freeze storage within permafrost and at the bottom of the deepest oceans in the form of methane hydrates. But rising sea and air temperatures are beginning to thaw these stores of methane.</p><p>This would release a powerful greenhouse gas into the atmosphere, 30-times more potent than carbon dioxide as a global warming agent. This would drastically increase temperatures and rush us towards the breach of other tipping points.</p><p>This could include the acceleration of ice thaw on all three of the globe's large, land-based ice sheets – Greenland, West Antarctica and the Wilkes Basin in East Antarctica. The potential collapse of the West Antarctic ice sheet is seen as a key tipping point, as its loss could eventually <a href="https://science.sciencemag.org/content/324/5929/901" target="_blank">raise global sea levels by 3.3 meters</a> with important regional variations.</p><p>More than that, we would be on the irreversible path to full land-ice melt, causing sea levels to rise by up to 30 meters, roughly at the rate of two meters per century, or maybe faster. Just look at the raised beaches around the world, at the last high stand of global sea level, at the end of the Pleistocene period around 120,0000 years ago, to see the evidence of such a warm world, which was just 2°C warmer than the present day.</p>
Cutting Off Circulation<p>As well as devastating low-lying and coastal areas around the world, melting polar ice could set off another tipping point: a disablement to the AMOC.</p><p>This circulation system drives a northward flow of warm, salty water on the upper layers of the ocean from the tropics to the northeast Atlantic region, and a southward flow of cold water deep in the ocean.</p><p>The ocean conveyor belt has a major effect on the climate, seasonal cycles and temperature in western and northern Europe. It means the region is warmer than other areas of similar latitude.</p><p>But melting ice from the Greenland ice sheet could threaten the AMOC system. It would dilute the salty sea water in the north Atlantic, making the water lighter and less able or unable to sink. This would slow the engine that drives this ocean circulation.</p><p><a href="https://www.carbonbrief.org/atlantic-conveyor-belt-has-slowed-15-per-cent-since-mid-twentieth-century" target="_blank">Recent research</a> suggests the AMOC has already weakened by around 15% since the middle of the 20th century. If this continues, it could have a major impact on the climate of the northern hemisphere, but particularly Europe. It may even lead to the <a href="https://ore.exeter.ac.uk/repository/handle/10871/39731?show=full" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">cessation of arable farming</a> in the UK, for instance.</p><p>It may also reduce rainfall over the Amazon basin, impact the monsoon systems in Asia and, by bringing warm waters into the Southern Ocean, further destabilize ice in Antarctica and accelerate global sea level rise.</p>
The Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation has a major effect on the climate. Praetorius (2018)
Is it Time to Declare a Climate Emergency?<p>At what stage, and at what rise in global temperatures, will these tipping points be reached? No one is entirely sure. It may take centuries, millennia or it could be imminent.</p><p>But as COVID-19 taught us, we need to prepare for the expected. We were aware of the risk of a pandemic. We also knew that we were not sufficiently prepared. But we didn't act in a meaningful manner. Thankfully, we have been able to fast-track the production of vaccines to combat COVID-19. But there is no vaccine for climate change once we have passed these tipping points.</p><p><a href="https://www.weforum.org/reports/the-global-risks-report-2021" target="_blank">We need to act now on our climate</a>. Act like these tipping points are imminent. And stop thinking of climate change as a slow-moving, long-term threat that enables us to kick the problem down the road and let future generations deal with it. We must take immediate action to reduce global warming and fulfill our commitments to the <a href="https://www.ipcc.ch/sr15/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Paris Agreement</a>, and build resilience with these tipping points in mind.</p><p>We need to plan now to mitigate greenhouse gas emissions, but we also need to plan for the impacts, such as the ability to feed everyone on the planet, develop plans to manage flood risk, as well as manage the social and geopolitical impacts of human migrations that will be a consequence of fight or flight decisions.</p><p>Breaching these tipping points would be cataclysmic and potentially far more devastating than COVID-19. Some may not enjoy hearing these messages, or consider them to be in the realm of science fiction. But if it injects a sense of urgency to make us respond to climate change like we have done to the pandemic, then we must talk more about what has happened before and will happen again.</p><p>Otherwise we will continue playing Jenga with our planet. And ultimately, there will only be one loser – us.</p>
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