Our favorite children’s books starring mother nature. Most of these can be found at your local library — stock up, and you’ll have plenty of books on-hand as inspiration to plan Earth Day family activities.

The Lorax by Dr. Seuss  The classic book to start Earth Day conversations. The narrator tells a young child of how long ago he discovered a paradise of Truffula trees and other wonders, and how his greed destroyed its ecology little by little until its last hope rested in a single seed he had saved.
Best for: preschool and early elementary age
Giving Thanks: A Native American Good Morning Message by Chief Jake Swamp  A beautiful message encouraging us to give thanks for the earth and all it provides for us, written by an Iroquois chief. It mentions the parts of our world/universe large (the sun) and small (berries), forces such as the wind, other inhabitants (animals), and reminds us what an honor it is to be a human being on our earth.
Best for: any age
The Curious Garden by Peter Brown In a city devoid of greenery, Liam stumbles into a staircase leading to an abandoned elevated railway. There he unexpectedly finds a few plants struggling to survive. He tends to them, and they begin to take over the entire railway. Others join in until the city is transformed into a city garden. This is one of my son’s favorite books. He loves comparing the aerial map of the “dead” city in the front of the book with the transformed city in the back.
Best for: preschool and early elementary age
Frog Belly Rat Bone by Timothy Basil Ering
A young boy searches for treasure and discovers instead a box of seeds. With the help of a conjured friend and a band of thieves, they grow their own treasure.
Best for: preschool and early elementary age
Emeraldalicious by Victoria Kann
Victoria Kann returns with her beloved Pinkalicious character (and her brother) to restore their favorite childhood park that has become a junk heap to a verdant oasis.
Best for: preschool and early elementary age
My Great-Grandmother’s Gourd by Cristina Kessler + Walter Lyon Krudop  A Sudanese village is thrilled with their new well pump, but Fatima’s grandmother is saddened that nobody is preparing the baobab trees to collect water during the time of rain. Though the villagers ridicule Fatima as she alone helps her grandmother prepare her “great-grandmother’s gourd”, they are later grateful when the well unexpectedly breaks at the height of the dry season and Fatima’s grandmother offers to share her tree. A great story for sparking conversations about our reliance on water and how different communities deal with this issue.
Best for: elementary age
Energy Island by Allan Drummond The inspiring story of how the island of Samso in Denmark became energy-independent by harnessing wind power. The book touches on the challenges Soren Hermansen faced as he tried to galvanize the community against the pushback of naysayers, until one night when a storm knocked out power to the entire island. Only two residents had power: those who had erected wind turbines. Soon everyone wanted to know how they could make their own power! Great for elementary age, with sidebar facts that older children could appreciate.
Best for: elementary age to upper elementary age
Mama Miti: Wangari Maathai and the Trees of Kenya  The story of a Kenyan woman who encouraged her fellow countrywomen to plant a specific kind of tree to solve each of their problems. Once again, a beautifully illustrated book — I love the color and pattern — poetically written.
Best for: elementary age
A Seed is Sleepy by Dianna Hutts Aston + Sylvia Long  A fantastic book that combines truly interesting facts about seeds with large, detailed, visually appealing illustrations (your child will want to look at them again and again). The information is presented in a way that makes you want to read on: “A seed is sleepy…” Why? you wonder. Read on to learn about seeds that have germinated after a thousand years!
Best for: preschool and early elementary age
What Happens to our Trash? by D.J. Ward + Paul Meisel  Part of the “Let’s read and find out science” series (always a big hit in our house!), this book explains in an engaging way how landfills are made, what happens to different kinds of trash, and how we can help keep things out of the landfill. Fun illustrations, lots of great information presented in a conversational way.
Best for: elementary age
The Fantastic Undersea Life of Jacques Cousteau by Dan Yaccarino  The illustrations make this book! Jacques Cousteau’s life from boyhood on, conveying his struggles, dreams and accomplishments in text simple enough for a preschooler but interesting enough for an early elementary child. Beautiful, colorful, artful illustrations.
Best for: preschool and elementary age
Life in the Ocean: The Story of Oceanographer Sylvia Earle by Claire A. Nivola  Another inspiring story to pair with the Jacques Cousteau book, with a little more detailed text. We see Sylvia’s utter dedication and bravery as she searches for, observes, and ultimately connects with creatures from the undersea world.
Best for: preschool and elementary age
Yucky Worms by Vivian French + Jessica Ahlberg A boy learns from his grandma just why “yucky worms” are so great for her garden. My son loved the underground view of the worms’ world and their thought bubbles.
Best for: elementary age
These Bees Count by Alison Formento + Sarah Snow An introduction to beekeeping and the role of the bee in our ecosystem, coupled with a counting book (numbers from 1-10). The tour of the bee farm may appeal to early elementary children, while the counting pages are more appropriate for a preschooler.
Best for: preschool age
The Tree by Dana Lyons + David Danioth A stunningly illustrated book from the perspective of an 800-year-old Douglas fir, about all it has seen. Although the simplicity of its text (one sentence per page) would aim it toward preschoolers, the content gets a bit heavy for that age — the tree hears chainsaws coming, fears it will soon be dead, and wonders who will provide all it does when it is gone? The ending is happy, though, and the book concludes with information about the Pacific Northwest temperate rainforests. A great book for starting conversations about what would happen without trees.
Best for: preschool and early elementary age
The Listening Walk by Paul Showers + Aliki A father and child set off to walk their dog. They are silent on the way, listening to the sounds all around them. The book is full of whirring, percussive, and other fun sound effects to create aloud with your child.
Best for: preschool and early elementary age
The Earth Book by Todd Parr  A simple book of tips for the youngest children on how to be earth-friendly at home and take care of our planet. Some may require more explanation by the parent, such as conserving energy because “I love the polar bears and want the snowmen to stay cool.”
Best for: toddler/preschool
Tracking Trash: Flotsam, Jetsam, and the Science of Ocean Motion by Loree Griffin Burns  An exploration of how ocean currents work, using as an example the five containers of Nike sneakers that spilled from the Hansa Carrier in 1990. A great book for older children — packed with information, maps, and photos of the ocean’s flotsam and jetsam.
Best for: middle school age

What are your favorites?

flower-black-lines

%d bloggers like this: