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Middle Grade Climate Fiction Book Review: "The Climate Diaries, Book One: The Academy" by Aaron Arsenault

Book cover: Middle grade climate fiction novel, The Climate Diaries

In March 2024, I received The Climate Diaries, Book One: The Academy from Corrine Pritchett, a publicist at Books Forward—"a full-service author publicity and book marketing firm." When I asked if my niece, Launa, could read the book too, Corrine was thrilled! Since Launa is the target demographic for The Climate Diaries, it just makes sense. Wait until you read my niece's favorite scene!

Author of The Climate Diaries, Book One: The Academy, Aaron Arsenault

The author of The Climate Diaries is Aaron Arsenault, "a citizen of Mother Earth," just like the rest of us. Where Aaron differs, though, is in his background. He "worked in the climate-tech industry for a long time" and worked on The Climate Diaries for five years before completing it recently. Since I've now read the first book in The Climate Diaries series, I can tell you that the time, effort, and care put into this book comes through on every page.

The author also chose a fabulous illustrator, Adrienn Harto, who created wonderful illustrations of the main and supporting characters, which complement the story in a way that middle-grade readers will love!

Middle grade climate fiction novel, The Climate Diaries, illustration by Adrienn Harto

The artwork on the cover and within this pulse-pounding adventure novel are exceptional! I asked my niece if the pictures throughout the book helped to capture the story well. She said yes and explained that they "helped her imagination so she could picture the different scenarios."

Middle grade climate fiction novel, The Climate Diaries, illustration by Adrienn Harto

The stakes are high in this middle grade climate fiction novel, and they become increasingly higher for our main character, Jax, with every turn of the page. Jax is a smart eleven-year-old boy, who some might even dare call a genius; however, he's also a troublemaker, and he's not really a team player, which puts a damper on building friendships. When teammates Kylie, Grace, and August are introduced to the story, the stakes get even higher, and not just for Jax anymore.

Hijinks abound in this unputdownable action adventure novel, all courtesy of our main character, Jax. There are readers in the target demographic who will, undoubtedly, identify with him—this story is for them. Though, readers of all ages will enjoy the interweaving of adventure and environmental consciousness. Moms, dads, and other guardians, this means you! I am the mother of a teenager, and I thoroughly enjoyed the first book in The Climate Diaries series. Though the main character, Jax, gets into a lot of trouble, he has redeeming qualities, as do most little troublemakers. And, Jax is as smart as they come! This kid knows computer code and is keenly aware of our climate crisis. He even has some really cool ideas on how to make the earth more sustainable.

Though it's fast-paced, and the adventurous nature of this story had me turning pages quickly, I also slowed down and reread some content, and I'm glad I did because I learned a lot. For instance, what Charlie says on page 166 makes me really think. "The next time you eat a hamburger, just remember it took over 600 gallons of water to get that burger to your plate. Cows drink a bathtub full of it every day." Now, there's some food for thought. Pun intended. But that's in poor taste, so let's move on.

My favorite character is Charlie, a thirty-something man, who lives at the academy and is in charge of all new recruits, including Jax and his teammates. Charlie is a surfer and just a cool character overall. He can be kind, understanding, and empathetic, but he's also stern when needed. I have a feeling that Charlie will be extremely influential in Jax's growth throughout the series, and that Charlie's character will also see some positive changes as the story progresses in the books to follow.

Child reading middle grade climate fiction novel

My niece, Launa, will be ten years old in July, and she is a voracious reader. She also reminds me of Jax in certain ways. For these reasons, I asked her to read book one of The Climate Diaries and let me know what she thinks.

First off, whereas I see some of Jax's character traits in Launa, my niece identifies more with Grace. She says it's because she likes the way Grace mocks Jax throughout the book. Grace mocks all of her teammates, unfortunately.

Child reading middle grade climate fiction novel

One of my niece's favorite scenes in this middle grade climate fiction novel is "when the cows pooped and there was poop everywhere! Jax, August, Grace, and Kylie were flipping out!" Indeed, they were. It was a poopfest, and the man in charge was not too pleased about it! This is definitely the most memorable scene in the book! Launa is still laughing about it!

My last question for Launa was, "How did you feel about the ending? What do you think happens next?" Launa responded with "Kind've good" and continued to say that she found it funny when Jax thought Grace was going to smash his face. Parents and guardians, don't fret. Grace was kidding, which is what makes this scene comical, and to me, a little refreshing as well. By the end of the book, we finally see a side of Grace we thought we'd never see.

I can't give you Launa's answer to what she expects happens next, but what I can say is that my answer is pretty much the same, and then the question becomes how? You'll see.

Author Aaron Arsenault has assured fans that there will be more books in The Climate Diaries series. I am thankful for that, and so is my niece. Remember how I said earlier that the stakes are high in this book? Well, they're at an all-time high by the time you reach the last page. Book two can't come soon enough!

Middle grade climate fiction novel, The Climate Diaries, illustration by Adrienn Harto

The book release date for

April 22, 2024.

If you'd like to read other reviews first, head over to Goodreads.

Disclaimer: I was not paid to write this review; nor do I receive any affiliate commission for it. It's just a great, relevant story for our time, and I am honored to have been asked to write this review.

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