New list recognizes excellence in children’s environmental literature
The Evanston Public Library is proud to introduce the first-ever Blueberry List and recipient of the inaugural Blueberry Award. The Blueberry honors excellent children’s literature that strengthens kids’ connections with nature and fosters a greater appreciation for our environment. The Blueberry List is divided into one overall winner and 25 Honor books, plus six Changemaker books recognized for their outstanding achievement in educating and rallying kids to contribute to the environment in ways only they can.
The first winner of the Blueberry Award is How to Find a Fox by Kate Gardner, with contributions from photographer Ossi Saarinen. Gardner and Saarinen’s work, for kids 4 to 8 years old, was selected for its stunning visual impact as well as its inspiring and informative language. Find the entire Blueberry List here.
The Blueberry selection committee was organized by staff at EPL, and it includes not only librarians but also individuals with different scientific backgrounds. Library Assistant Martha Meyer, who spearheaded the creation of the Blueberry, said that in a world constantly threatened by climate change and ecological disaster, it’s crucial to give children the chance to form a positive relationship with the environment without upsetting them or burdening them with crisis.
“As a parent, the worst thing you can do is make your kids desperately fearful,” Meyer said. “The best thing you can do is equip them to have the knowledge to love the Earth and heal it.”
Meyer said that the selection committee picked so many Blueberry Honor books because it was so difficult to narrow a pack of such high quality books. Additionally, with such a wide berth of selections, books for many different younger age groups are represented in the award list.
“We want that fifth grader who’s really into science to be able to find a book, and we want that 3 year old to find a book that’s fascinating to them,” Meyer said. “That’s why we did 25.”
EPL Collection Development Manager Betsy Bird, who served on the Blueberry committee, said that to her knowledge there hasn’t been a children’s lit award with such a strong focus on environmental appreciation and stewardship.
“This is the kind of award we should have seen a long time ago,” Bird said.
There are many subpar and even misinformed books about the environment out there, Bird said, and it’s the duty of librarians to pick out the ones that will best support and enrich the readers of their community. The books on the Blueberry List are filled with pertinent and fascinating information that even some adults will probably find new, and most importantly, they respect kids as discerning readers who appreciate quality storytelling.
Curtis Manley, author of The Rescuer of Tiny Creatures, said he appreciated the recognition his book received as a Blueberry Changemaker.
“(Thanks to) the committee for not only deciding that The Rescuer of Tiny Creatures deserved to be a Changemaker book — but for realizing the need for an award like your new Blueberry Award and book list!” Manley wrote over email. “It’s a great idea and a wonderful list that will be a resource for many young readers and their caregivers.”
Find the full Blueberry List and other book lists for kids, teens and adults at epl.org.