Two Degrees by Alan Gratz

Two Degrees: A Planet in crisis. And time is running out.

Alan Gratz, Author

Scholastic Books, Fiction, Oct. 4, 2022

Suitable for ages: 8-12

Pages: 384

Themes: Climate change, Global warming, Survival, Adventure,  Science and nature 

Publisher’s Synopsis:

Fire. Ice. Flood. Three climate disasters.

Four kids fighting for their lives.

Akira is riding her horse in the California woods when a wildfire sparks–and grows scarily fast. How can she make it to safety when there are flames everywhere?

Owen and his best friend, George, are used to seeing polar bears on the snowy Canadian tundra. But when one bear gets way too close for comfort, do the boys have any chance of surviving?

Natalie hunkers down at home as a massive hurricane barrels toward Miami. When the floodwaters crash into her house, Natalie is dragged out into the storm–with nowhere to hide.

Akira, Owen, George, and Natalie are all swept up in the devastating effects of climate change. They are also connected in ways that will shock them–and could alter their destinies forever.

Bestselling author Alan Gratz is at the top of his game, shining a light on our increasingly urgent climate crisis while spinning an action-packed story that will keep readers hooked–and inspire them to take action.

What’s to like about Two Degrees:

I am an Alan Gratz fan and I feel he’s outdone himself with Two Degrees. It is a brilliant action-packed novel about the most important topic of this century — our rapidly changing climate. It is a breathtaking  read, but it will also have readers holding their breaths as they encounter many suspenseful moments and wonder what will happen next.  I felt a lot of energy in this novel that I am hopeful will energize readers to do something. 

This is storytelling at its finest.  It is a  necessary story with a harrowing and fast-paced plot that will keep readers engaged.  Just look at that gorgeous and engaging cover. It speaks to readers.  

Gratz did a remarkable amount of research in his thoughtfully penned novel. Although he focused his story in North America, he also addresses climate change worldwide. That’s why there are moments that are truly chilling as readers watch Akira, Natalie, Owen and George in survival mode outsmarting fires, rising waters and polar bears. Make sure you check out his author’s note at the end and learn about how he created each character. 

The story is written in three alternating stories, each ending with a big cliff hangar, which adds to the suspense. The characters are authentic and their engrossing stories are drawn from real-life situations that are particularly relevant with the recent wildfires in the west and fury of Hurricane Ian. All four characters are courageous, determined and committed.  And they are connected in ways they can hardly imagine in an over-the-top (crescendo) ending that will inspire and energize students to want to do something about climate change.  As Natalie realizes in the story “we can’t do it alone, it will take all of us doing something.”  

Gratz’s novel belongs in school libraries and would encourage interesting discussions in classrooms. Many readers will have already lived through wildfires, hurricanes, tornadoes, and droughts. Climate change can be scary and it is important that readers are in touch with their feelings. Next week I’m reviewing All the Feelings Under the Sun: How to Deal with Climate Change by Leslie Davenport. It pairs beautifully with Two Degrees.    

Alan Gratz is the #1 New York Times bestselling author of many highly acclaimed books for young readers include Ground Zero, Refugee, Allies, Projekt 1065, and Prisoner B-3087.  Alan lives in North Carolina with his wife and daughter. Look for him online at his website.

Greg Pattridge hosts Marvelous Middle Grade Monday posts on his wonderful Always in the Middle website. Make sure you check out the many links to see all of the wonderful reviews by KidLit bloggers and authors.

*Reviewed from a purchased copy.

 

 

Refugee by Alan Gratz

Refugee

Alan Gratz, Author

Scholastic Press, Historical Fiction, Jul. 25, 2017

Suitable for Ages: 9-12

Themes: Child Refugees, Immigrants, Germany, Cuba, Syria, Courage, Bravery

Synopsis: Josef is a Jewish boy living in 1930s Nazi Germany. With the threat of concentration camps looming, he and his family board the MS St. Louis, a ship bound from Germany to Cuba with 937 passengers. Isabel is a Cuban girl in 1994, with riots and unrest plaguing her country. She and her family set out on a home-made metal boat, hoping to find safety in America. Mahmoud is a Syrian boy in 2015. With his homeland torn apart by war, violence and destruction, he and his family begin a long trek through Europe to find “home.”

All three kids go on harrowing journeys in search of refuge. All will face unimaginable dangers — from drownings to bombings to betrayals. But there is always the hope of tomorrow. And although Josef, Isabel, and Mahmoud are separated by continents and decades, shocking connections will tie their stories together in the end.

Why I LOVE this book:

Alan Gratz had me sitting on the edge of my seat swiftly turning the pages of his powerful and heart-breaking story about three young refugees seeking safety from dangerous and life-threatening conditions in their countries. No matter what their country or culture, these three heroes share a desire for safety and a place they can call home. This is a difficult novel told with brutal honesty and sensitivity.

His storytelling is masterful as Gratz tackles past and current refugee stories and skillfully weaves them together to show their relevancy today. Each character’s story is told sequentially in alternating chapters. Gratz keeps readers turning pages because of powerful cliff-hangers at the end of each chapter. Readers won’t want to miss a moment of the story.

The characters are brave, courageous and resilient 11- and 12-year-olds, who are forced to grow up quickly and make life and death decisions that help their families survive. Josef becomes the man of the family when his father returns from a concentration camp emotionally damaged. Isabel sacrifices her beloved trumpet to purchase the gas needed to power their boat from Cuba to Florida, and she saves the boat captain when he falls out of the boat. When the raft Mahmoud and his family are riding in crashes into a rock and sinks, he makes the painful decision to save his infant sister by handing her to a woman in passing raft. He knows he may never see her again. Courage!

Refugee is well-documented. Even though the three main characters are fictional, their tales are based on true stories. The MS St. Louis was a real ship not allowed to dock in Cuba. The captain, the crew and many passengers mentioned were real. With food shortages in Cuba in 1994, Cuban president Fidel Castro did allow unhappy and starving to leave Cuba for five weeks without being thrown into jail. Many lost their lives at sea, while others call America their home. After six years of war, Syrians continue to flee their decimated country and their chapter in history is still being written on the world stage.

Refugee comes to a resounding conclusion, with the fates of the three protagonists revealed. It’s emotional and there are some unexpected reveals. This timely book can’t help but stir empathy among young readers and help them grasp their role as global citizens. Some readers may see their own family stories among the pages. Verdict: Refugee is a winner that should be required reading in school.

Resources: Make sure you read the Author’s Note at the end of the book that gives detailed information  about the research for each character.  There is also information about What You Can Do and maps that chart the routes of each child’s journey.

Alan Gratz is the acclaimed author of several books for young readers, including Refugee, Projekt 1065, Prisoner B-3087, Code of Honor, and The Brooklyn Nine. Visit Gratz at his website.

Check other Middle Grade review links on author Shannon Messenger’s Marvelous Middle Grade Monday post.