In celebration of Earth Day (22 April), we’ve compiled a list of books for children that are about doing good things for the earth. Some are specifically environment-friendly focused, and some are more generally about being kind to the planet. It’s important to teach our children early about the beauty of nature, and the need to be kind to our earth.
Baby Loves Green Energy by Ruth Spiro, illustrated by Irene Chan.
I really love the Baby Loves Science series, and this is another fantastic title. This book introduces concepts like the atmosphere, greenhouse gases, and renewal energy, all in ways that are accessible to the youngest readers and Planeteers. This is my favourite environment book from this list.
The EARTH Book by Todd Parr
This board book is a great beginner environmentalism book for babies and toddlers. It provides simple ideas for children: “I love the fish and I want the oceans to stay blue.” The illustrations intentionally look like a child drew them. The end gives 10 ways young children can help the environment, making this a happy and helpful environmentalism primer.
Hello Honeybees by Hannah Rogge, illustrated by Emily Dove.
We discussed this one in a book club recently and it’s a favourite of ours. Mostly because of the dangly bees that are fun to play with. This is a great interactive board book that introduces bees to little ones: what they do, how they find pollen, make honey, and create a hive. Bees are massively important to the environment and economy, so it’s great to have a book that depicts them as useful, friendly creatures that should be friends.
Follow That Bee!: A First Book of Bees in the City by Scot Ritchie
Another bee book! This one is for slightly older children, but discusses some of the same things–like waggles! In this bee book, a group of children help a beekeeper–Mr. Martin–take care of the bees he keeps in his backyard. He discusses the parts of bees, why bees are important, how beehives work, and more. I appreciate children’s books where I can learn too. The end of the book describes ways a child can help “Bee a good neighbor” to their fellow bees. I’ll admit, I’m scared of bees, but I don’t want to pass along that fear to Marian, so I’m glad to have this informative and fun book to share with her.
The Puffins Are Back by Gail Gibbons.
This is a picture book aimed at older kids, and is a non-fiction account of a puffin colony in Maine that was in decline but, thanks to the work of some dedicated scientists, is thriving once again. This book offers a good introduction not only to puffins but also to how conservation can work, and how scientists do their jobs.
The Earth Gives More by Sue Fleiss, Illustrated by Christiane Engel
This book is an ode to all the beautiful and wonderful things the earth gives us: “Run barefooted through the grass. Watch the clouds change as they pass.” The last few pages give a call to action to help and protect the earth around us, and the pictures show children cleaning up litter and planting a garden. I love the simple and clear message, and I also love the inclusive art. I’ve reviewed another book written and illustrated by Christiane Engel before, and I really appreciate the diverse characters in a book that’s not about diversity. Books about diversity are important too, but it’s also important to see diverse children in books about, say, protecting the environment.
A Prayer for World Peace by Jane Goodall, illustrated by Feeroozeh Golmohammadi.
This one isn’t strictly about the natural environment, but it is about being kind to the earth and everything on it — animals, plants, other humans. Jane Goodall is a conservationist and the UN Messenger of Peace, and this book is a beautiful prayer for the world. It is a prayer for kindness, compassion, hope, and peace; a children’s book technically but one that many adults could also take to heart.
Spring After Spring: How Rachel Carson Inspired the Environmental Movement by Stephanie Roth Sisson
Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring may be the most important and well known environmentalism book. I read it first when I was around twenty, and it started me thinking about how the things I do affect the environment. I’ve since read some of her lyrical essays about the sea. I’m so happy to have a children’s book biography to introduce Rachel Carson and her work to Marian long before she’s in her twenties. It begins with her childhood, as she notices the birds and insects and animals around her, and comes to love nature. It ends with the publication of Silent Spring and Congress passing legislation based on her book to protect the environment (sadly, not enough). I highly recommend owning this one.
Forest Dream by Ayano Imai.
This isn’t specifically about one particular environmental issue, but the message at its heart is environmentally focused. The quote, ‘The best time to plant a tree was twenty years ago. The next best time is now’ embodies what this fantasy picture book is about. A boy follows a rabbit into a field, and sees all sorts of creatures planting seeds. He falls asleep, wakes up, and a beautiful forest has grown around him. A lovely book about how tiny things we do now can have a big impact in the future.
Grow by Cynthia Platt, Illustrated by Olivia Holden
A little girl has an idea, an idea to grow a community garden where she lives in the city. The illustrations tell as much of the story as the words do. At first, it’s only the little girl planting a seed, but as the story continues, more and more people from her neighborhood join her, until the page is full of people working the the garden, and then once the garden has bloomed, people gather together. It’s a beautiful idea, and the pastel, soft-hued art is lovely. I have a community garden within walking distance, and when Marian is a little older, I hope to volunteer there.
My Forest Is Green by Darren Lebeuf, Illustrated by Ashley Barron
This little boy may live in the city, but he loves the forest nearby, and goes everyday to collect leaves and bark and grass to make art with. I love this one because it shows a child falling in love with the outdoors, and combining two of his passions. The art is bright and vibrant and emulates the collages the little boy creates. This book is about how we can all appreciate forests.
Seasons by Philip Giordano.
This one isn’t about an environmental issue either, but rather is an introduction to the seasons. It’s a large interactive board book with wheels to turn and objects and colours to find and point out. This would be a good one to share with little ones who enjoy going outside and spending time in nature (and for those who live in places where there actually ARE seasons, unlike Southern California…).
Do you have a favorite children’s book about the environment?