Books for Kids that Teach Environmental Responsibility
The Green Earth Lit award is sponsored by the Newton Marasco Foundation for books that either promote an inspired understanding of the environment, an awareness of environmental issues, or a celebration of nature; encourage the concept of environmental stewardship and the role each of us can play in nurturing, protecting, and defending our environment; and with environmental issues that are current and accurately portrayed. What are your favorite Green Earth picture, chapter or YA books? Please share!
Mallory Goes Green, published by Darby Creek [chapter book, ages 9-12]
Mallory McDonald is going green! As an official member of the Fern Falls Elementary Environmental Committee, Mallory is super excited to make her school and home more environmentally friendly. She’s even selected to be class representative for the all-school Green Fair. But the minute Mallory goes green, everything goes wrong. No one wants her “expert” opinion on how to help the environment. Her classmates don’t want to participate in the Green Fair project she’s created. And worst of all, by the time the fair rolls around, many of them aren’t even speaking to Mallory. Can Mallory find a way to save the planet and her friendships?
Ancient, Strange and Lovely by Susan Fletcher (Simon & Schuster Children’s Publishing) [Young Adult, Grades 7-10]
After her scientist mother mysteriously disappears, high-school freshman Bryn discovers among her mother’s research materials a large, peculiar egg, which hatches and reveals a baby dragon. Bryn is familiar with extraordinary circumstances; she can communicate telepathically with birds, and she discovers that her talent enables her to connect with the little dragon hatchling, too. After word gets out about the magical little beast, Bryn runs away and encounters dangers, including poachers, as well as unexpected allies. Featuring an appealing, well-drawn protagonist, this stand-alone title in the Dragon Chronicles series is set in the near future and blends suspense, fantasy, and familiar elements in an engaging, absorbing read. –Shelle Rosenfeld from BookList
A Place for Frogs written by Melissa Stewart and illustrated by Higgins Bond (Peachtree Publishers) [picture book, ages 4-8]
“The beautiful, realistic paintings are so lifelike that readers almost expect the subjects to jump off the pages.” —Booklist
Garbage Helps Our Garden Grow: A Compost Story by Linda Glaser with photographs by Shelley Rotner (Millbrook Press) [Non Fiction picture book, ages 4-8]
What is that garbage doing next to the garden? It’s not garbage. It’s compost! Amazing things happen inside a compost bin. In go banana peels, grass clippings, and even an old jack-o’-lantern. Out comes compost. The compost goes into the garden to make the soil rich for new plants. Compost is good for the earth. Composting also helps us make less garbage. In this book, you can watch as one family makes compost for their garden and also learn how to start your very own compost bin!
Get Real: What Kind of World Are You Buying by Mara Rockliff (Running Press Kids) [Non Fiction, grades 6-9]
This sturdy paperback points out plenty of practical ways for kids to impact their world by making different choices about what food to eat, what clothes to wear, how often to replace a cell phone, and more. Chapter by chapter, this gives specifics on topics such as bottled water, sweatshops, and toxic chemicals leaching from discarded electronic equipment into landfills; offers suggestions on how to make a difference; and follows up with titles of related books and films. Rockliff also discusses the limitations of recycling and warns about corporate “greenwashing.” Nicely designed, the book has colorful graphic elements on many pages, including photographs and eye-catching digital images incorporating photos. The extensive back matter includes a lengthy list of sources as well as lists of recommended books, Internet sites, and films. A clearly written guide for readers who want to translate social and environmental awareness into action. Grades 6-9. –Carolyn Phelan from BookList
Let’s Save the Animals written and illustrated by Frances Barry (Candlewick Press) [Lift the Flap Picture Book, ages 4-8]
Although there are plenty of children’s books about animals and wildlife conservation, Barry’s engaging entry brings young children into the conversation without sacrificing an ounce of kid appeal. Sporting a rounded cover, sturdy pages, and inventive die-cut flaps, this primer presents 10 endangered species in their natural habitats, including such favorites as the emperor penguin, African elephant, and orangutan. Barry’s superb, colorful paper-collage illustrations feature close-ups of friendly looking animals, and the book’s reinforced and cleverly constructed flaps reveal a second view of each creature and its environment. The simple text is filled with dynamic action verbs (“I’d save the polar bear, strolling across the ice / and diving into the Arctic Ocean”), while smaller type tucked into the illustrations details the environmental and human threats facing the animals. Endpapers feature a world map showing where each species lives, a sidebar of interesting facts, and a list of 10 things children can do to protect wildlife. Preschool-Kindergarten. –Kristen McKulski from BookList
Seeds Of Change: Planting a Path to Peace written by Jen Cullerton Johnson and illustrated by Sonia Lynn Sadler (Lee and Low Books) [picture book, ages 6-10]
Seeds of Change: Planting a Path to Peace brings to life the empowering story of Wangari Maathai, the first African woman, and environmentalist, to win a Nobel Peace Prize. Engaging narrative and vibrant images paint a robust portrait of this inspiring champion of the land and of women’s rights.
Ship Breaker written by Paolo Bacigalupi (Little Brown Books for Young Readers). [Printz Award Winner, Young Adult Lit]
*Starred Review* This YA debut by Bacigalupi, a rising star in adult science fiction, presents a dystopian future like so many YA sf novels. What is uncommon, though, is that although Bacigalupi’s future earth is brilliantly imagined and its genesis anchored in contemporary issues, it is secondary to the memorable characters. In a world in which society has stratified, fossil fuels have been consumed, and the seas have risen and drowned coastal cities, Nailer, 17, scavenges beached tankers for scrap metals on the Gulf Coast. Every day, he tries to “make quota” and avoid his violent, drug-addicted father. After he discovers a modern clipper ship washed up on the beach, Nailer thinks his fortune is made, but then he discovers a survivor trapped in the wreckage—the “swank” daughter of a shipping-company owner. Should he slit the girl’s throat and sell her for parts or take a chance and help her? Clearly respecting his audience, Bacigalupi skillfully integrates his world building into the compelling narrative, threading the backstory into the pulsing action. The characters are layered and complex, and their almost unthinkable actions and choices seem totally credible. Vivid, brutal, and thematically rich, this captivating title is sure to win teen fans for the award-winning Bacigalupi. Grades 8-12. –Lynn Rutan from BookList
The Magic School Bus and the Climate Challenge written by Joanna Cole and illustrated by Bruce Degen (Scholastic Press) [picture book, ages 4-9]
A note from Joanna Cole: While I was writing The Magic School Bus and the Climate Change Challenge, all I could think about was the kids who will read it. I wanted to give them hope. More than that, I wanted to tell them how their own actions as children can help solve the crisis of global warming. You will see a real blueprint for this in the book.
Other Great Books
Arthur Turns Green by Marc Brown [picture book, ages 4-9]
The very popular Arthur series tackles becoming more Green, and, as always, does a great job teaching small lessons about big things. My husband and I got great tips from this book even though we thought we were doing all the right things at home!
The Glaciers are Melting by Donna Love, illustrated by Shennen Bersani [picture book, ages 2-6]
This topic never fails to stress me out. While this book has a story line that builds and repeats as animal by animal that lives on the glaciers gets introduced and expresses his concern. The end is very moving and motivating: “There are too few of us, so there nothing we can do.” So Peter Pika asked, “Then who?” Who indeed?! Read the book to become one of the converted.
A Place for Fish by Melissa Stewart, illustrated by Higgins Bond [picture non fiction book, ages 5-10]
This is a really nice series that introduces the chain of events that leads to why and how our natural environment gets polluted. Along the way, there are great sidebars with information about fish including the Masked Angelfish, Hammerhead Shark, Northern Pike, Smallmouth Bass, North Atlantic Swordfish, Lined Seahorse, Yellow Tang, Smalltooth Sawfish, Lahontan Cutthroat Trout, and Atlantic Salmon.
Recommendations from Readers
Thank you to Gerry for:
Do Recyclable Materials Go? by Sabbithry Persad
Operation: Reuse It! by Sabbithry Persad
Thank you to reader Owen for The Lorax by Dr. Seuss.
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