Hello, and thanks for joining us at Tundra Telegram, the column where we simmer on topics that we’re all stewing on, and recommend some scalding stories to generate further discussion.
Much of Europe and North America and several provinces in China are in the middle of a massive heat wave. And while that sounds like fun and a good excuse to get ice cream, this is not the fun kind of heat. This is catastrophic heat that’s breaking records, cancelling rail travel, killing people, and contributing to massive wildfires in what some are calling a “heat apocalypse.”
The best course of action, should you be in the middle of a heat wave (and many of you reading this are), is to stay hydrated, limit your exertion, and – if needed (and possible) – get to a local cooling station. But if you want to read some books that are just as sweltering as the weather (the same kind of rationale as drinking coffee in the heat), get ready to sizzle – we’ve got hot books, books about how the earth is heating up, and books with the hottest summers ever recorded – so far.
If you think you’re hot, imagine what it would be like in this heat as a long-haired dachshund! That’s the predicament the hero of Hot Dog by Doug Salati faces: this is a wiener pup who is overheated and overwhelmed. He’s had enough of a sizzling city summer, so his owner hails a cab and finds them so relief on the beach!
A book of value to anyone in a heat wave is Too Hot? Too Cold?: Keeping Body Temperature Just Right by Caroline Arnold and Annie Patterson. In easy-to-understand writing, young readers will discover the many different ways humans and animals adapt to heat and cold. Have you ever wondered why you sweat when you’re hot? Or why dogs pant in the heat? These burning questions and more are answered within.
How can young readers prevent this summer’s heat wave from being the first of regular occurrences? Climate Action: The Future Is in Our Hands by Georgina Stevens and Katie Rewse has a few ideas! Not only does this book outline for young readers the causes of climate change and how it is affecting our world, it provides some innovative ideas for tackling climate breakdown, inspired by the positive stories from young people effecting change all around the (currently very hot) globe.
CHAPTER BOOKS & MIDDLE GRADE
If you’re looking for books about the causes of the incredible heat and how climate change contributes to it, but for a slightly older reading level, there are several great books to choose from. What Is Climate Change? by Gail Herman and John Hinderliter presents all sides of the climate change argument in this fact-based, fair-minded, and well-researched book that looks at the subject from many perspectives, including scientific, social, and political. And it has a polar bear on the cover, who we currently envy (even if its ice floe is looking mighty small!).
Once you’ve figured out what climate change is, and want to do something about it, you’ll want to read This Book Will (Help) Cool the Climate by Isabel Thomas and Alex Paterson, which offers 50 different ways to “cut pollution, speak up, and protect the planet” from bartering to assigning school some eco-homework. (No word on if anything will immediately turn the temperature down, but every bit helps!)
Want more ammunition on cooling the climate? Naomi Klein and Rebecca Stefoff’s How to Change Everything has what you need. As the book notes, temperatures are rising all over the world, leading to wildfires, droughts, animal extinctions and ferocious storms (and that’s just this week). Using examples of change and protest from young activists around the world, Klein shows we can help make things better – if we’re willing to change everything.
For something (mostly) fictional in the same vein, try Carrie Firestone’s The First Rule of Climate Club, in which eighth grader Mary Kate Murphy starts a podcast on climate activism and rallies her friends to create lasting change in their small suburban town. (It’s like the kids in this book read How to Change Everything!)
You may identify with the protagonist of our next book: Penelope March Is Melting by Jeffrey Michael Ruby. Set in a frozen town, Glacier Cove, that sits atop a literal iceberg, it seems like the book’s resident bookworm Penelope March need not worry about heat waves. But when the iceberg begins to melt, Penelope and her friend Miles must set out on an adventure.
And it wouldn’t be a heat wave without deadly forest fires. Cue Canadian Iain Lawrence and his forthcoming novel, Fire on Headless Mountain, in which eleven-year-old Virgil is separated from his siblings in the midst of a disastrous forest conflagration, and must use his wits and mother’s lessons to survive on his own.
Moving from forest fires to another kind of heat, Kasie West’s YA romance Sunkissed finds Avery spending a hot summer at a family resort, with – surprise, surprise – an even hotter resort staff member, Brooks. This swoony love story won’t give you heat exhaustion, but it will make you sweat.
And Say Yes Summer by Lindsey Roth Culli emanates a similar heat, as Rachel Walls spends a sweltering summer saying “yes,” to everything – yes to new experiences, yes to spontaneous road trips with crushes. Let’s just hope she also says “yes” to drinking plenty of fluids and finding shade.
Summer Fires by Giulia Sagramola is a graphic novel that depicts summer heat so well in its color palette and its characters languid movements, you’d think you’ve been transported to southern Italy. The book, translated from the Italian, follows two sisters faced with impossible choices of teenaged life, which mirror the massive forest fires (again!) in the surrounding hillsides of the town. Turn on the ceiling fan and dive in!
Speaking of forest fires, Julie Buxbaum’s Year on Fire uses fire season in Wood Valley as a backdrop for changing friendships as a single kiss with new boy Rohan shakes the foundation of the connection among twins Arch and Immie and their best friend, Paige. There’s even an arson in the school bathroom, if you need more heat!
There are few things better to beat the heat than ice cream. Melt with You by Jennifer Dugan is a funny and heartfelt queer YA rom-com about two girls on a summer road trip in an ice cream truck. Former best friends Fallon and Chloe haven’t talked since a fateful summer they hooked up. But a year later, a series of unfortunate events mean they’ll be working an ice cream truck together through a heated road trip. Not since the Smashing Pumpkins’ “Today” music video has an ice cream truck been filled with such angst!
As Bruno Mars noted in “Uptown Funk,” there’s not much hotter than a dragon’s breath – at least we think that’s what he’s talking about when he croons, “Too hot. Make a dragon wanna’ retire, man.” E.K. Johnston agrees, as her book The Story of Owen: The Dragon Slayer of Trondheim combines the heat of dragon fire with the heat of climate change. See, sixteen-year-old Owen is training to be a dragon-slayer in modern-day Canada, so he (and his friend and bard Siobhan) can protect his rural town from dragons who feed on fossil fuels. Yes, in this world dragons feed on carbon emissions (!).
Sure it’s hot now, but is it horses-combusting-into-flame hot? Then you need to read Ashlords by Scott Reintgen, an epic fantasy story about three “phoenix riders” who compete in a multi-day horse race in which the horses, made of ash and alchemy, are summoned back to life each sunrise with uniquely crafted powers to cover impossible distances and challenges before bursting into flames at sunset. (Kentucky Derby, time to up your game.)
Stay cool, stay hydrated, and enjoy some hot reads!