Sunday, September 25, 2022

Haven Jacobs Saves the Planet by Barbara Dee

Seventh grader Haven Jacobs is a worrier. And right now she's worried about planet earth and what's happening to it because of climate change. She's kept her thoughts to herself, right up until her science teacher Mr. Hendricks showed a film about how climate change was causing the Antarctic glaciers to being melting. After all, what would happen to the penguins if they lost their icy home? This all leads to a full on panic attack, and Haven can no longer hide her fears from her family and friends and frequently finds herself falling down the internet rabbit hole researching articles and videos about what climate change is doing to the world.

All these worries come to head when Mr. Hendricks announces their class project to study the local Belmont River. This is a project he does every year with his class. In fact, two years before Haven's brother Carter was in his class, and he tells her about all the frogs that were there. But when Haven and her class arrive at the river, not only are there no frogs, but there are not even pollution sensitive macros to be found, only macros that can tolerate pollution. 

At the same time, there is a new boy in Haven's class named Kenji, whose father is in charge of the new glass factory, Gemba, where Haven's father finally got a job after being jobless for two years. Her best friend Riley has a crush on Kenji and is also hanging out with another girl more that with Haven. And why isn't her oldest friend Archer speaking to her in person, only texting about the video game he's playing. Haven's life is beginning to get really complicated, and skipping social studies and not doing her homework doesn't help.

The results of the Belmont River project shows that this year it is indeed polluted, and Haven feels like she needs to do something to make a difference in the world, even if it is only cleaning up the river and finding out who is polluting it. With the help of Mr. Hendricks, Ms. Packer, her social studies teacher, her friends and family, a big river clean-up is organized. There's food, fun, and games, and people do volunteer to do river cleanup, and it feels like it is a success. But in the end, Haven realizes they have only contributed to pollution, and not made much of a difference at all. Is there anything Haven can do to have a impact on climate change?

One of the things about a Barbara Dee novel is that as soon as you begin reading, you are quickly pulled into the story and it's easy to continue to the end in one sitting and Haven's story is no different. Haven is an interesting protagonist, and you can really feel her anxiety and her need to do something. I imagine there are lots of kids today who have some degree of eco-anxiety and who will relate to Haven's feelings and her attempts to make a difference on a small scale. Haven's parents are concerned about her and after finding about what's going on in social studies, suggest she see a therapist, who does help her focus more. 

One of the other things I liked about this book is that the adults are presented in a positive, supportive and involved way, with the exception of Kenji's father. It was also nice to see Haven's relationship with her brother change amd mature over the course of the book. And for the most part Haven's friends are also supportive, although she has a hard time liking one of them, Em, until she learns her story. Even so, Em gives Haven an interesting way to help her control nail biting. 

Haven Jacobs Saves the Planet is an inspiring novel that should appeal to middle graders concerned about climate change and show hem that not everyone needs to be a Greta Thunberg to make a difference. 

I haven't done a MMGM in a long time and it's good to be back. You can see all of this week's wonderful MMGM books thanks to Greg at Always in the Middle


  1. I enjoyed this story too and also reviewed it today. Looks like we both agreed it's an important read and a good one. Thanks for featuring your post on MMGM this week.

  2. I love the environmental/pollution story with all the complications! Thanks for sharing!

  3. I wonder how many times the same book gets recommended on the same week? This title looks really good!

  4. This looks like a really good book. I'm happy to see more books taking on climate change as in important topic. I have this book on my TBR list. Thanks for the review.

  5. Glad to see this book getting attention. It's an important topic about how kids react to climate change. Love stories about kids making a difference!


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