Monday, April 22, 2024

It's Marvelous Middle Grade Monday with a review of The Climate Diaries: Book One: The Academy by Aaron Arsenault

The Climate Diaries Book One:  The Academy by Aaron Arsenault
  Friesen Press
Format:  E-ARC
Number of pages:   300 pages
Publishing:   April 22nd, 2024
Source:  Books Forward

Opening Line:  "Jax...Jax...Jax!  Mr. Clifford shouted from across the classroom."

Eleven-year-old Jax has been sent to detention twenty-eight times at school.  He just can't seem to avoid it.   "The Curmudgeon" and Jax have been at odds since the first day of school.  Frustrated by Jax's constant doodling in his notebook and always pulling stunts, his teacher destroys Jax's notebook.  What his teacher doesn't realize is that Jax's notebooks are precious to him; they're the place that Jax records all of his ideas on climate change and how to fix it.  Jax is obsessed with finding the answers to why the sea levels are rising and why there are so many forest fires?  His notebooks are filled with his brilliant ideas and plans for making a better world, including his models for predicting hurricanes and how to grow his own organic crops.  Following the "notebook shredding incident," Jax vows to defeat his enemy once and for all in an epic act of retribution.  

Unfortunately, Jax's latest stunt sends his teacher's car off of a cliff and his rebellious nature almost lands him in Juvenile detention.  Instead, Jax learns that he has been selected as a new recruit for the CAT (Climate Action Taskforce), a secret organization focused on combating climate change.  However, life at the Academy isn't going to be a walk in the park for Jax either. It's a two-month bootcamp without electronics or parental contact and the Academy has a grueling schedule of classes, to include learning about progressive climatology, environmental science, sustainable energy practices and all things climate change related.

Soon Jax is placed onto Team 19 with Grace, August and Kylie and he and Grace begin to butt heads. Grace is made Team captain and Jax becomes furious.  Once again, Jax is up to his old tricks, causing trouble and he even manages to get the whole team expelled from the Academy.  Just as they're leaving, a category 7 hurricane hits their vessel, and they crash land on an island.  The team now has to hope that the lessons that they had at the Academy will be enough to help them survive their latest obstacle.

Jax is such a rule breaker, troublemaker and rebel.  There isn't one moment that he isn't getting into trouble.  First in school and then in landing himself in the Academy.  He constantly pulls pranks on people.  At first smaller things like putting a spider in someone's locker and then his plans becoming increasingly more and more dangerous things.  His negativity and bickering with Grace add a lot of conflict to the team and takes up much of the last half of the book.  Grace is probably the only other character that stands out in the group as she seems to have a few of her own secrets.  Although her attitude can be a little off putting, but I still would like to know more about her past.   Hopefully, we'll learn more about the other members of the team in the sequel as well.  

Overall, I thought the story has a unique premise and liked how it addresses the real problems of climate change.  There were lots of interesting tasks for the team to complete, including building an ecofriendly tiny home and trying to determine a way to cut down on methane gas emissions.  Included in the author's note there were several tips for what the reader can do to minimize climate change, to include shopping smarter.  As well as a free activity guide for kids, and a link to the teacher's guide.  Although Team 19's time at CAT was short lived, and the story ended on a cliffhanger, everything is left pretty open in terms of what can potentially happen next.  It kind of felt like a mixture of Survivor and an Army bootcamp with cool gadgets like the personal locator beacon and windowless drones used for transportation.  I'm looking forward to seeing what is in store for the team next.     
** A huge thank you to Books Forward for the E-ARC and paperback**    

I hope you'll check out all the other Marvelous Middle-Grade Monday posts at Greg Pattridge's blog HERE        


  1. I'm also looking forward to Book 2 in the series. Maybe those character
    arcs for Jax and Grace will turn out to be positive. Have a Happy MMGM!

  2. This sounds like an interesting twist on a climate change story. I hope Jax and Grace's character arcs are more positive as the series continues.

  3. Sounds an original take - I am more used to secret magical schools! I like how Jax and Grace are set up for character arcs over the series. Tanks for sharing!

  4. A Climate Academy - cool! Definitely looking for this one

  5. Love the idea of a secret climate action school! Great way to make the topic interesting and engaging for kids. Also having a rebel as a main character helps. The title made me wonder if this was going to be a bit didactic, but from your review it sounds really fun!

  6. I haven't heard of this series at all, but it sounds awesome. A Climate Action Taskforce for kids is a great idea for a book. Thanks for sharing this!