Book Review: The First Rule of Climate Club by Carrie Firestone
An eighth grader starts a podcast on climate activism and rallies her friends to create lasting change in their local community and beyond, in this companion to Dress Coded.
When Mary Kate Murphy joins a special science pilot program focused on climate change, the class opens her eyes to lots of things she never noticed before about her small suburban town: Kids waste tons of food at school without a second thought. Parents leave their cars running in the pick-up lane all the time. People buy lots of clothes they don’t really need. Some of her friends who live in the city and are bused to her school don’t always feel included. And the mayor isn’t willing to listen to new ideas for fixing it all. Mary Kate and her friends have big plans to bring lasting change to their community and beyond. And now is the time for the young people to lead and the leaders to follow—or get out of the way.
So the other day I was outside for about nine hours painting our fence. I like painting. I listened to Judge John Hodgman and Office Ladies. It was a nice, cool Minnesota day. The fence looked great. Then I went in to shower and discovered that while I’d mindlessly been itching at myself all day, chiggers had gotten under my clothes and gone to town. Not only did I have roughly 40 giant bites, but I then did my body’s favorite thing and had an allergic reaction to them. As I type this, it’s 3 days after this incident and I’m covered in creams, full of allergy medicine, and have an ice pack tucked into the waistband of my shorts to help numb my desire to rip my skin off. So why am I telling you this somewhat disgusting story? Because the main character’s best friend spends the book very, very sick and is eventually diagnosed with multiple tick-induced illnesses. Our house backs up to a woods and we are no strangers to ticks. And my anxiety loves nothing more than making a HUGE deal out of everything, so when I found myself absolutely annihilated by bites, I started to panic that I’d somehow become home to every tick in the great St. Paul area. So there I was, itching, miserable, paranoid, and reading this book that really should have made me want to set it down because my brain did NOT need any ideas about illnesses from bugs. BUT. This book was just so good, I plowed through it. Given that I have to cut teachers off at school whenever they start to tell me about someone in their class with lice, because it immediately makes me freak out and itch, it was pretty miraculous that this book’s appeal could overrule my anxious brain.
That’s a long lead in. I know. But I also mentioned one of the most significant, to me, things about this book: a character really struggling to get a diagnosis for a mysterious illness. That, to me, felt as important as the powerful messaging about climate change, youth activism, and environmental awareness. Lucy has so many strange symptoms and doctor after doctor attempts to untangle them to find a diagnosis and some help, but it’s not easy. She misses school and activities, she’s frustrated, she is so, so exhausted, and, eventually, she gets help. That storyline provides important representation and may really comfort readers going through some sort of medical mystery of their own.
The kids in this science class are amazing. They are all invested in helping change the course our world is on for different reasons. By getting to read their application essays and learn about their projects for the class, we really get to know them and why they are passionate about various environmental causes. They are so smart, so determined, and so supportive of each other as they learn more about pieces of climate change they’ve maybe never considered. Hand this one to social justice-minded readers who will be inspired by the actions of these incredible kids.
Review copy (hardcover) courtesy of the publisher
Publisher: Penguin Young Readers Group
Publication date: 07/05/2022
Age Range: 10 – 12 Years
Filed under: Book Reviews
About Amanda MacGregor
Amanda MacGregor works in an elementary library, loves dogs, and can be found on Twitter @CiteSomething.
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