When 12-year-old Demetra “Mimi” Laskaris moves from Massachusetts to Wilford Island, a small island off Florida’s Gulf Coast, she hopes to continue her two favorite hobbies: Mimi competes as a competitive concert pianist and also loves gardening. Although her family’s new single-family home means that she can practice piano any hour of the day or night, the soil in Mimi’s new yard is different from the dirt in the community garden plot she and her dad planted in Massachusetts—and her dad has been so busy getting their family’s new restaurant up and running that he hasn’t had time to help set up their new planting beds.
With more free time than usual, Mimi begins exploring the beaches near her house. Along with seashells, she discovers trash—plastic bags and bottles, scraps of Styrofoam and more. When Mimi’s science class learns about environmental activists their own age, the lesson immediately resonates. Soon, Mimi is noticing single-use plastics everywhere and launches a campaign to ask residents of Wilford Island to commit to using only paper or reusable bags. Carmen, the most popular girl in school, becomes an early ally but a complicated new friend. Mimi also finds support from the owners of local bookstore the Dusty Jacket, who tell her about a monthly beach cleanup group and offer her advice and encouragement.
Author Elaine Dimopoulos’ respect for young people shines on every page of Turn the Tide. Mimi’s concerns about the climate crisis and the impact it will have on her future are grounded and relatable, as are her feelings of frustration at the slow pace of progress and her despair that she’ll ever make a real difference in a global problem. But Mimi finds hope by learning more about real-life young role models, including Melati and Isabel Wijsen, who successfully campaigned to ban plastic bags from their home of Bali, Indonesia; Isra Hirsi, who co-founded the U.S. Youth Climate Strike; and Autumn Peltier, an Anishinaabe water activist in Canada.
Although Mimi’s story is fictional, Turn the Tide includes a notable amount of resources for readers inspired to take action, beginning with Melati Wijsen’s rousing foreword. Dimopoulos contributes more than 20 pages of back matter, including a fascinating timeline of plastic bag activism, a directory of youth-oriented environmental organizations, an explanation of how to conduct a weeklong personal waste audit and more.
Written in lyrical and accessible free verse, Turn the Tide is an encouraging and stirring reminder that change is possible when we work together.