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19 November 2022 TWO DEGREES by Alan Gratz, Scholastic Press, October 2022, 384p., ISBN: 978-1-338-73567-3


“No brakes, the engineer cries

The captain's gonna leave us when the temperatures rise

The needle's going up, the engine's gonna blow

And we are gonna be left down down below”

– Paul McCartney’s 2018 environmental song “Despite Repeated Warnings,” about Donald Trump and other climate change deniers


“‘We were a little worried to move to California, what with all the wildfires you’ve been having,’ Akira heard Sue’s dad say, and alarm bells went off in her head. She took a step toward the two dads, trying to think of something she could say to change the subject but it was too late.

‘You know, because of climate change,’ Daniel added. Akira froze. Oh no. Oh no oh no oh no, she thought. He said the words.

Akira’s dad laughed. ‘There’s no such thing as “climate change,”’ he told Sue’s dad. ‘I mean, the earth goes through hot and cold cycles, but humans don’t have anything to do with that.

Daniel looked taken aback. ‘You’re kidding, right? You don’t think the huge amounts of greenhouse gases we’re releasing into the air by burning fossil fuels has anything to do with the fact that the earth keeps getting hotter?’

Akira and Sue shared a worried glance, anticipating the coming storm. Even Dodger’s ears flicked toward the two men.

‘The earth is a huge ecosystem,’ Akira’s dad said, like he was explaining it to a dummy. ‘We’re just one tiny part of it.’

‘Dad–’ Akira started, but her father ignored her. Dodger danced nervously, sensing her anxiety. Their beautiful, perfect morning was going up in smoke.

‘All those gases trap the heat in our atmosphere,’ Sue’s dad said, ‘which causes droughts and melts the ice caps and raises the sea level. Climate change is real, and we’re causing it. Which means we have a responsibility to do something about it.’

‘Do you hear yourself?’ said Akira’s dad. ‘Look at these trees. How can you stand among these giants and think anything we do could change anything. The idea that we caused climate change, or could stop it if we wanted to, is the height of arrogance.’”


TWO DEGREES features four middle school-age kids whose lives are threatened by climate change-related natural catastrophes.


“‘Fire!’ Sue screamed, making them all jump. ‘There’s a wildfire down the other side of the mountain.’”


TWO DEGREES is the scariest, most gripping book I’ve read in 2022. It’s breathtakingly cinematic, and what befalls the four tween characters is so plausible, so real. Climate-induced natural catastrophes are coming at such a regular clip these days that “catastrophe” is rapidly losing its meaning.


Akira is a California girl who gets caught in a lightning-initiated forest fire in the drought-stricken Sierras. 

Owen and George, who live on the coast of Hudson Bay in Manitoba, are mauled by a hungry mama polar bear. The polar bear problems in their village have been increasing rapidly because climate-induced ice melt is preventing starving, post-hibernating bears from being able to go out on the ice and chomp on seals.  

Natalie, who lives in the Miami area, is dragged away by raging flood waters resulting from a killer hurricane that hits the city.


The story switches back and forth between these three settings. The drama of these kids fighting to survive, being compelled to make life and death decisions, really grabbed me. It’s a story in which people die, just like they are now dying from similar climate change-induced events in the real world.


Day after day, we see these calamities in the news. Just last month, Hurricane Ian killed over 200 in Florida. It’s becoming more and more of an issue–people having to figure out where and how to live a safe and healthful life on a far less safe and less healthy planet. 


I am petrified by the thoughts of my own grandkids being in the position of these characters.


There are also some memorable animal characters in the story: Dodger, Akira’s beloved quarter horse; Churro, the nasty little dog that accidentally becomes Natalie’s constant companion; and the polar bear mom who nearly tears off the boys’ heads.


I love how the story concludes with young victims of climate change, from all over the world, coming together in Washington, D.C. to raise their voices and demand action. Hopefully, before we reach the feared tipping point of two degrees of global warming, the younger generations will organize to save the planet. Because, as the t-shirt says, “There’s No Planet B.”


Richie Partington, MLIS

Richie's Picks http://richiespicks.pbworks.com





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