HAVEN JACOBS SAVES THE PLANET
By: Barbara Dee
Published: September 27, 2022
I really loved Dee’s VIOLET’S ARE BLUE, a seventh grader struggling with getting used to having divorced parents and adjusting to a new school, new friends, and stepping out of her comfort zone. Haven Jacobs is also in middle school and struggles with anxiety and worry. She tends to let the fear take over her thoughts which takes away her focus on school work, time with her friends, and sleep.
Haven’s family has been stressed due to her dad being out of a job. A new company has come to town and started a new glass factory. Now the daycare where her mom teaches has kids and her dad is back to work at the new factory, Gemba.
In science class, Haven learns about glaciers melting and how it is hurting the sustainability of penguins, She can’t stop stressing about it and wondering why no one else is concerned about the changing climate. When a new science project takes her class to the Belmont River, Haven realizes that the glaciers aren’t the only thing to worry about.
Haven’s best friend since childhood, Archer, has suddenly started acting different around her and there is a new boy at school, Kenji, whose dad is Haven’s dad’s boss. There are a lot of social dynamics that Haven also has to manage with her anxiety about climate change. All of this builds up and leads to Haven missing homework, biting her fingernails, and losing her cool.
I think this book is so relatable. I can’t imagine taking a bunch of middle schoolers to the local river for science experiments. Exactly what Dee describes happening is what I would imagine as well, lots of splashing and messing around instead of evidence collecting. I think she also puts the reader in Haven’s mind. As an adult, I have a hard time understanding her obsession with climate change, yet I can see how young people feel that passionately about something.
Haven’s eco-anxiety may be extreme, but I also believe that kids feel anxious about lots of things…family issues, relationships, school work, money, and yes…maybe even climate change or other political hot topics. I think teens will relate to Haven’s feelings and maybe even learn some appropriate ways to handle their anxiety. The story is compelling and has an ending that will leave the reader satisfied and hopeful for the future of the Belmont River.
Barbara Dee is the author of twelve middle-grade novels including Violets Are Blue, Haven Jacobs Saves the Planet, My Life in the Fish Tank, Maybe He Just Likes You, Everything I Know About You, Halfway Normal, and Star-Crossed. Her books have earned several starred reviews and have been named to many best-of lists, including The Washington Post’s Best Children’s Books, the ALA Notable Children’s Books, the ALA Rise: A Feminist Book Project List, the NCSS-CBC Notable Social Studies Trade Books for Young People, and the ALA Rainbow List Top Ten. Barbara lives with her family, including a naughty cat named Luna and a sweet rescue hound named Ripley, in Westchester County, New York.