The best books using science, nature, and fantasy to keep Earth in the center of the story

Why am I passionate about this?

As a kid, being shy and often scared witless of monsters under the bed, books were my refuge. I especially loved fantasy and great story-telling, which, at first, just took my mind off of things. Then, sneakily, the stories began to teach me how to find courage when facing monsters, as well as to value hopefulness, invention, and the study of science and nature. The earth is in a pickle now. There are monsters under the bed. We need science to help us find the right tools. We need stories to fire our inventiveness and our courage. Here are some great books for that. They will suit young readers and beyond.

I wrote...

The Tiltersmith

By Amy Herrick,

Book cover of The Tiltersmith

What is my book about?

Inside these pages you will find old myths, new climate chaos, four bickering middle school friends, and a suspiciously charming goat-footed stranger who appears to be trying to knock the earth right off its axis. It’s a story for anybody who’s interested in the mysterious powers of friendship, science, and the world in the back of the world. The one we usually can’t see. All middle schoolers and beyond, welcome!

The Tiltersmith is a stand-alone novel to follow in the footsteps of The Time Fetch.

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The books I picked & why

Book cover of The Last Cuentista

Amy Herrick Why did I love this book?

If I had to choose my favorite odd behavior that makes humans, human, I’d choose story-telling. Not only is it entertaining, all of civilization has grown up upon it.

The spirited protagonist of The Last Cuentista is a fourteen-year-old girl who wishes to become a storyteller like her grandmother, but looming overhead is a comet that will destroy the earth. As Petra boards the spaceship with her parents along with a small colony of other scientists, she fears that storytelling will be of little value in the hard work ahead. But awakened 350 years later, she is horrified to discover that a sinister Collective has taken control of the ship and wiped out everyone’s memories of earth. Except, by accident, her own. Storytelling turns out to be her greatest secret weapon as she works to restore the lost memories of enough allies to fight the Collective and then inspire them to build a new world.

By Donna Barba Higuera,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked The Last Cuentista as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 10, 11, 12, and 13.

What is this book about?

An unforgettable journey through the stars, to the very heart of what makes us human. The incredible Newbery Medal-winning novel from Donna Barba Higuera.

"Gripping in its twists and turns, and moving in its themes - truly a beautiful cuento."

Habia una vez . . .

There lived a girl named Petra Pena, who wanted nothing more than to be a storyteller, like her abuelita.

But Petra's world is ending. Earth will soon be destroyed by a comet, and only a few hundred scientists and their children - among them Petra and her family - have…

Book cover of A Wrinkle in Time

Amy Herrick Why did I love this book?

If you haven’t read A Wrinkle in Time yet, I envy you the first-time experience! For me, it blew open new worlds and gave me the courage I needed in my early teens. 

The story begins on a dark and stormy night. Teenaged misfit Meg is in the kitchen with her mother and brother, silently wishing that her missing physicist father was with them. Her thoughts are abruptly interrupted by an odd tramplike person who has come out of the storm to deliver some startling news. Before the reader has time to catch a breath, the story is employing science, fantasy, celestial beings, and—for one of the first times in literature—wormholes! It remains an irresistible, noble-hearted story and it carries a warning about earth, as timely now, as it was then.

By Madeleine L'Engle,

Why should I read it?

15 authors picked A Wrinkle in Time as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 10, 11, 12, and 13.

What is this book about?

Puffin Classics: the definitive collection of timeless stories, for every child.

We can't take any credit for our talents. It's how we use them that counts.

When Charles and Meg Murry go searching through a 'wrinkle in time' for their lost father, they find themselves on an evil planet where all life is enslaved by a huge pulsating brain known as 'It'.

Meg, Charles and their friend Calvin embark on a cosmic journey helped by the funny and mysterious trio of guardian angels, Mrs Whatsit, Mrs Who and Mrs Which. Together they must find the weapon that will defeat It.…

Book cover of Hoot

Amy Herrick Why did I love this book?

There are lots of books now out about the environmental dangers facing our earth. They are full of doom and darkness. For good reason. But I firmly believe we’re also going to need optimism and humor and quick wits if we’re gonna make it through. Hoot is a great place to start looking! The story takes place in Florida and has a wonderful cast of very funny eco-warrior middle-graders, along with greedy developers, bumbling policemen, and a bag of poisonous water moccasins. Most important is the colony of tiny burrowing owls who are about to be bulldozed underground for the sake of a new Pancake House. So, if you are searching for a joy ride along with a big dose of hope for the world, here it is.

By Carl Hiaasen,

Why should I read it?

5 authors picked Hoot as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 12, 13, 14, and 15.

What is this book about?

This Newbery Honor winner and #1 New York Times bestseller is a beloved modern classic. Hoot features a new kid and his new bully, alligators, some burrowing owls, a renegade eco-avenger, and several extremely poisonous snakes.

Everybody loves Mother Paula's pancakes. Everybody, that is, except the colony of cute but endangered owls that live on the building site of the new restaurant. Can the awkward new kid and his feral friend prank the pancake people out of town? Or is the owls' fate cemented in pancake batter?

Welcome to Carl Hiaasen's Florida—where the creatures are wild and the people are…

Book cover of The Wild Robot

Amy Herrick Why did I love this book?

I am fascinated by stories of robots evolving into sentient beings. For a change, in this one, the robots do not rise up to destroy their masters. Instead, we are invited into a funny, tender, and exciting tale about a robot who finds herself castaway on a wilderness island and must learn what her purpose is and how to survive. As she and the animals who live there grow closer and closer together, she begins to find a home in the wilderness. A rich story that works on many levels at once. It is a tale about the interdependence of all things in nature, as well as about the perils and possibilities that technology is bringing to us. Best of all, it’s about kindness. 

By Peter Brown,

Why should I read it?

4 authors picked The Wild Robot as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 8, 9, 10, and 11.

What is this book about?

'An engaging tale that explores many important themes. We can only hope that Roz serves as the template for all future robots. Peter Brown's illustrations are as marvellous as ever!' Coralie Bickford-Smith, author of THE FOX AND THE STAR

When robot Roz opens her eyes for the first time, she discovers that she is alone on a remote, wild island. She has no idea how she got there or what her purpose is - but she knows she needs to survive. After battling a fierce storm and escaping a vicious bear attack, she realises that her only hope for survival…

Book cover of My Family and Other Animals

Amy Herrick Why did I love this book?

Some of it may seem fantastical, but Durrell claims it’s all perfectly true. Decide for yourself which bits are exaggerations, but this is the book I’d take if exiled to a distant planet.

In 1935, ten-year-old naturalist, Gerald Durrell, moves with his eccentric family from wet, gray England to the island of Corfu and finds himself in a sun-dazzled paradise of olive trees, animals, and insects. He spends his time collecting a zoo of tortoises, seagulls, toads, praying mantises and geckos, driving his family to distraction. The scorpion, he stores in a matchbox until someone opens it, looking for a match. The heat-stroked water snakes go in the bathtub, while a pair of baby magpies swoop around the house stealing food and family treasures. An unforgettable, hilarious tale of childhood and the preciousness of earth’s beauty. 

By Gerald Durrell,

Why should I read it?

8 authors picked My Family and Other Animals as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The inspiration behind ITV's hit family drama, The Durrells.

My Family and Other Animals is Gerald Durrell's hilarious account of five years in his childhood spent living with his family on the island of Corfu. With snakes, scorpions, toads, owls and geckos competing for space with one bookworm brother and another who's gun-mad, as well as an obsessive sister, young Gerald has an awful lot of natural history to observe. This richly detailed, informative and riotously funny memoir of eccentric family life is a twentieth-century classic.

Part of the Macmillan Collector's Library; a series of stunning, clothbound, pocket sized classics…

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A School for Unusual Girls

By Kathleen Baldwin,

Book cover of A School for Unusual Girls

Kathleen Baldwin Author Of Sanctuary for Seers: A Stranje House Novel

New book alert!

Why am I passionate about this?

Author Loves God Mother to Many Wilderness Adventurer History Enthusiast

Kathleen's 3 favorite reads in 2023

What is my book about?

A spy school for girls amidst Jane Austen’s high society.

Daughters of the Beau Monde who don’t fit London society’s strict mold are banished to Stranje House, where the headmistress trains these unusually gifted girls to enter the dangerous world of spies in the Napoleonic wars. #1 NYT bestselling author Meg Cabot calls this exciting historical series "completely original and totally engrossing."

A School for Unusual Girls

By Kathleen Baldwin,

What is this book about?

A School for Unusual Girls is the first captivating installment in the Stranje House series for young adults by award-winning author Kathleen Baldwin. #1 New York Times bestselling author Meg Cabot calls this romantic Regency adventure "completely original and totally engrossing."

It's 1814. Napoleon is exiled on Elba. Europe is in shambles. Britain is at war on four fronts. And Stranje House, a School for Unusual Girls, has become one of Regency England's dark little secrets. The daughters of the beau monde who don't fit high society's constrictive mold are banished to Stranje House to be reformed into marriageable young…

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