Nature’s Best Hope: Young Readers’ Edition

“We just have to change the way we think about plants” (69).

Nature’s Best Hope: How You Can Save The World in Your Own Yard (Young Readers’ Edition) is a nonfiction book for middle grade students on “how to create a yard that is a real part of the natural world” (8). An adaptation of a New York Times bestseller, Nature’s Best Hope consists of 15 short chapters that provide background information and framework to inspire readers to rewild their yards, protect native species and combat the effects of climate change. Chapters 1 to 5 offer a brief history of the concepts of wilderness, conservation, milestones in environmental thinking, the threat of shrinking habitats—for plants, animals and pollinators—and conclude by describing one key challenge for biodiversity that can also be a solution: the omnipresent lawns. Chapter 6 introduces Dr. Tallamy’s citizen science project, the Homegrown National Park: a vision of transforming twenty million acres of private land, mostly lawns, into “a functioning part of the natural world” (72). The remaining chapters describe the benefits of the Homegrown National Park—for humans, plants, and animals. They explore what plants to choose, how to limit human impacts, and how to best support local wildlife, especially insects, bees, and weeds. The author gives readers the tools and steps to conservation starting in our own homes. The book ends with two chapters of tips and answers to most-asked questions, further readings, and websites. 

Nature’s Best Hope is a practical guide geared towards middle grade audiences on a key aspect of climate literacy: restoring biodiversity and ecosystems health. Centered on conservation, youth activism, and advocacy, the book stresses that “we are a part of the natural world” (227). It communicates that almost everyone can make small but significant steps towards mitigating biodiversity loss and species extinction. In turning our yards into wildlife and pollinator habitats, children reconnect with nature, learning biology, ecology and the scientific method. For example, Tallamy introduces the notions of carrying capacity, native species, human impacts, ecosystems health, besides dozens of species names for plants, insects, and birds. Through a question-and-answer segment, readers are able to see that rewilding and regeneration can be accomplished no matter where you live; city or suburbs. The author shares ten ideas children can do to mitigate biodiversity loss and reverse the effects of ecocide. The importance of community and a team working together through collective action is emphasized as central to the notion of the Homegrown National Park: the more yards full of native species, the bigger the impact.

This book can be used in an English class as a multimodal project where students first read the book or selected chapters and then create an action project. The project can be a Powerpoint report on how students have applied this at home or a podcast where the students discuss the main takeaways from the book, for example. Nature’s Best Hope is great for a range of hands-on interdisciplinary projects connecting Science and English to learn about the impacts of biodiversity loss on the planet, while exercising the skills of reading and writing. It also provides specific STEM ideas that can be applied to any location, including for those living in the Midwest.

©2024 ClimateLit (Maya Symonanis)

Check out the Homegrown National Park website:

Publisher: Timber Press, 2023

Pages: 239

ISBN: 978-1643262147

Audience: Questers (8-13), Rebels (14-older)

Format: Nonfiction

Topics: Advocacy, Bees, Biodiversity, Biodiversity Loss, Biology, Birds, Carrying Capacity, Citizen Science, Climate Change, Climate Literacy, Collective Action, Conservation, Ecology, Extinction, Habitat Loss, Human Impact, Insects, Lawns, Native Species, Nature, Nearby Nature, Plants, Pollinator Habitats, Regeneration, Rewilding, Scientific Method, Suburbs, Urban Environments, Weeds, Wilderness, Wildlife, Youth Climate Activism