The best middle-grade/young adult environmental fantasy books

Who am I?

I grew up playing in nature: body surfing the waves in Southern California, backpacking in the Sierra Nevada Mountains, swimming in rivers. For the past thirty years, I’ve lived in the redwoods of Northern California. Spending so much time in the peace and beauty of nature has filled me with joy and deep respect for the incredibly interconnectedness of living ecosystems. I’ve also had a lifelong passion for reading, especially fairy tales, fables and fantasies. Combining nature and fantasy in my writing allows me to explore ideas and inspirations about how we can live in harmony on our one beautiful planet.


I wrote...

Wind

By Ellen Dee Davidson,

Book cover of Wind

What is my book about?

Thrust by an earthquake into a world where trees are wise helpers, animals can guide us to safety, stories are gathered by the guardian of the deep sea, and greed becomes a place where everything turns to poison, Katie must learn to get along with an annoying alien boy, Za, in order to return home. But as Katie’s experiences test her environmental awareness, will she ever be able to develop her gifts of listening and communicating with the non-human realm? Will she and Za ever figure out the secret to finding the elusive Winged Ones – the only beings capable of taking them home?

The books I picked & why

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Heartwood

By Pollyanna Darling, Kirsty Chalmers (illustrator),

Book cover of Heartwood

Why this book?

A fable about forest creatures coming together and putting differences aside to save their home from the Smashbasher. This book is an early chapter book for 7-9-year-olds and includes beautiful illustrations. The trees have names and are inhabited by various creatures. Heartwood will bring children closer to the magic of the forest and nature. 

I recommend this book because I live in the redwood forest and love trees myself. The book captures the essence of the magic we feel when we enter an unspoiled forest, and how important it is to protect these sacred and life-giving places. The fact that the only way for the forest creatures to save their home is to find their similarities and work together strikes me as particularly relevant today.


Emma Oliver and the Song of Creation

By Susan Elizabeth Hale,

Book cover of Emma Oliver and the Song of Creation

Why this book?

Soon to be a musical, this enchanting story is about an eleven-year-old girl who doesn’t know she can sing until she gets to know an oak tree in her garden, Annie Oakly, who becomes her best friend and is actually a tree spirit. As the story unfolds, and Emma is confronted with family troubles, she learns of her own vital role in saving the trees; Emma must sing! 

I’m recommending this book because of my own love for both trees and music. In fact, I often sing to the redwoods where I live and sometimes imagine they are singing along with their rustling squeaks and creaks. The author tells a story grounded in everyday problems, such as living with a grandmother with dementia, while bringing the fantastical and magical world of nature vividly alive.


The Word for World Is Forest

By Ursula K. Le Guin,

Book cover of The Word for World Is Forest

Why this book?

Ursula K. Le Guin is one of my favorite writers. The story reminds me a bit of the movie, Avatar, in that a peaceful earth-loving society is being taken over by a group that enslaves them and exploits their resources. I love trees and so the title of this classic attracts me right off. Le Guin explores ideas of how to stand up to oppression and environmental and cultural destruction without losing the most precious parts of ourselves, our communities, and our natural environment. 


A Long Walk to Water

By Linda Sue Park,

Book cover of A Long Walk to Water

Why this book?

Living in California, where droughts are becoming increasingly common, I was deeply moved reading this story of a Sudanese girl, Nya, who has to walk two hours every day to a pond to fetch water. My heart was also touched reading about the second main character, a homeless boy named Salva who loses his parents to war. There are so many homeless people everywhere now, and Salva’s true story of courage and persistence gave me hope that with kindness and help, even the most challenging situations can be solved. 


My Side of the Mountain

By Jean Craighead George,

Book cover of My Side of the Mountain

Why this book?

This classic story of a boy running away to the Catskill Mountains and surviving on his own in the wilderness has stayed in my mind for years. Camping in the mountains of California with my comfortable sleeping bag and tent is so much different than reading about Sam Gribley, who brings only his knife, flint, and steel to light fires, some rope, and his ingenuity. Sam bonds with a falcon who helps him survive the harsh winter, which he spends living in a hollowed out log. 


5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in survival, trees, and wood?

5,888 authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about survival, trees, and wood.

Survival Explore 112 books about survival
Trees Explore 32 books about trees
Wood Explore 8 books about wood

And, 3 books we think you will enjoy!

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