Welcome back from the weekend, and happy Earth Day! Before you run outside to enjoy the sunshine, and celebrate environmental protection, here are a few audiobooks that will get you thinking about the beauty (and occasional terror) of nature. You can listen on a walk in the woods, a roll in the grass, or however you see fit to celebrate the wonder and preservation of the natural world.
Fun fact for all you James Cameron/Dr. Seuss fans out there: When the movie Avatar was re-released in theaters as a ‘special edition’ with an additional eight minutes of footage, THE LORAX (the book) made a heavy-handed appearance—an old copy was found in an abandoned schoolhouse. Considering that the plot of the movie was about the destruction of a natural paradise so a mega-corporation could drill for resources, one could say that the plot of Avatar had more than a few similarities to Theodore Geisel’s classic cautionary tale. In audio, Ted Danson of Cheers fame lends his voice as narrator—he’s a little less gruff than Danny DeVito, who voiced the Lorax in the 2012 movie. THE LORAX is a must for children and adults everywhere!
In a similarly-themed vein, HOOT tells the story of a middle-school boy named Roy who fights to stop the building of a pancake house in Coconut Cove, a Floridian swampland that is home to endangered burrowing owls. Roy finds a strange friend in ‘Mullet Fingers,’ a boy who alerts Roy to the impending destruction of the owl’s habitat–unless they can stop Mother Paula’s All-American Pancake House Corporation from building another restaurant. HOOT was Carl Hiaasen’s first novel for young readers, and it won a Newbery Honor award when it was released in 2003… not to mention it’s a great listen on audio.
While nature can be a beautiful thing, it can also be a scary maze of woods where you have to fight for your life. HATCHET by Gary Paulsen has become a mainstay in school curriculums, and is one of the best examples of a genre you could call “Young Adult wilderness survivalism.” HATCHET was a Newbery Honor winner when it came out in 1987, and proved to be so popular that it was followed by four sequels. As a group, they are now referred to as ‘Brian’s Saga,’ named after the main character. If you’ve never heard (or read) HATCHET you are in for a treat—let’s just say it’s about a thirteen-year-old who has to survive in the woods with nothing but a hatchet. Tying into the danger-of-nature theme, HATCHET and two of the sequels are read by appropriately-named narrator Peter Coyote.
Before HATCHET explored what happens to children when they are left alone to fend for themselves in the wild, there was ISLAND OF THE BLUE DOLPHINS, a novel based on the true story of a Native American girl who was stranded on an island off the California coast for 18 years. In Scott O’Dell’s 1960 Newbery Medal-winning book, the girl is named Karana, and she is abandoned when the rest of her tribe decides to look for new land. Over the years, she learns to become self-sufficient, adopting a feral dog and exploring parts of her home island she never knew existed. On its surface, ISLAND OF THE BLUE DOLPHINS is about survival, but it is also a story about the natural world and self-discovery. A true classic to re-experience on audio.
Have a great Earth Day, and don’t be afraid to hug a tree!