I’ve traveled to the island of Kauai in Hawaii and Costa Rica, but I’ve never been to the rain forest areas of those regions. Like Annie in The Magic Tree House, I don’t relish the bugs. Her brother Jack persuades her to take a trip to the Amazon by saying, “… the rain forests are being cut down. Don’t you want to see one before it’s too late?”
Rainforests of the World. Image from A Level Geography
Is it going to be too late soon? Is there anything we can do to prevent this catastrophe. In reading these children’s books, it’s a relief to find that there are simple choices you and I can make every single day to help save the rain forests!
Layers of a rainforest. Image from A Level Geography
Margarita Engle in Orangutaka tells us that Orangutans are critically endangered because their forests are being logged to plant oil palms. Palm oil is a substitute for butter used in candies, pastries and other processed foods. If you avoid buying processed foods that use palm oil, you help protect Orangutans.
How about you? Have you visited a rain forest? What are your favorite books about the rain forest? Please share! Thank you!
10. The Great Kapok Tree: A Tale of the Amazon Rain Forest by Lynne Cherry
The Amazon rainforest and the challenges we face to save it are powerfully presented in The Great Kapok Tree in such a way that any readers of any age can understand what is at stake here. A man with an ax working for a paycheck falls asleep under the great Kapok tree that he is supposed to cut down. The creatures of the forest whisper in his ear why they need this tree for their very survival. When the man wakes up, what will he do on this day and the next? [picture book, ages 4 and up]
9. Doyli to the Rescue: Saving Baby Monkeys in the Amazon by Cathleen Burnham
Can kids make a difference? Meet Doyli. She’s 10-years-old and lives on an island in the Equador Amazon rainforest. She and her family rescue and rehabilitate orphaned and endangered baby monkeys and then release them to the wild. Caring for monkeys is a physical job. Doyli sweeps the dirt floor daily and carries water in a bucket because they have no running water or electricity. Doyli also goes to school but her commute involves paddling two different canoes to get there. Author Catherine Burhman hopes this glimpse into Doyli’s life will inspire kids that they can also be small-scale activists. [nonfiction picture book, ages 6 and up]
8. Chavela and the Magic Bubble by Monica Brown, illustrated by Magaly Morales
Chicle (pronounced chic-lay) is the Spanish word for chewing gum and in English, it refers to the sap used as a base in natural chewing gum. Chavela’s Abuelita (grandmother) told her fascinating stories about the rainforest in Playa del Carmen in Mexico where she grew up and about the Sapodilla tree that produces sap used for chewing gum. When Chavela purchases a pack of Magic Chicle, she is able to float all the way to Mexico where learns more about the people who harvest the Chicle, just like her great-grandfather. This is a magical journey that connects her to her chewing gum, her heritage, and her great-grandfather. [picture book, ages 4 and up]
7. Orangutanka: A Story in Poems by Margarita Engle
The joyous antics of an Orangutan family is captured in modern Tanka verse by Margarita Engle.
Tanka is an ancient Japanese form consisting of five lines with a traditional syllable count of 5, 7, 5, 7, 7. Modern tanka poets rarely count syllables, but do follow a basic line pattern of short, long, short, long, long.
After reading Orangutanka, Margarita Engle invites readers to write a tanka poem of their own on any topic at all. Please feel free to share them in the comments section! [poetry picture book, ages 4 and up]
6. The Umbrella by Jan Brett
Carlos goes into the cloud forest in search of animals bringing his leave shaped umbrella. He leaves it at the bottom of a great fig tree that he scales up to find the creatures. Little does he know that the creatures end up in his umbrella and embark on an adventure of their own: tree frog, toucan, kinkajou, baby tapir, quetzal, monkey, jaguar, and hummingbird. [picture book, ages 4 and up]
5. Slowly, Slowly, Slowly” Said the Sloth by Eric Carle
Meet the animals of the Amazon rainforest in this gentle picture book with glorious inimitable illustrations by Eric Carle. The sloth may be slow but it has an impressive vocabulary to describe itself and one thing it is not is lazy! [picture book, ages 2 and up]
4. The Rainforest Grew All Around by Susan K. Mitchell, illustrated by Connie McLennan
I associate the song The Green Grass Grew All Around with summer camp since I sang it at my daughter’s sleepaway camp during Mother Daughter Weekend. It’s adapted here to the rainforest. I especially love the side panels on each page spread with facts about the rainforest. This book (and adapted song) would be fun to use in a rainforest study unit in preschool or elementary school! [picture book, ages 4 and up]
3. Afternoon on the Amazon (Magic Tree House, No. 6) by Mary Pope Osborne
Jack and Annie take a quick trip to the Amazon in search of one of four objects they need to find to help Morgan le Fay. Annie isn’t sure she wants to go; she’s afraid of insects. With the help of their pet mouse, Peanut, the siblings land in the canopy where they climb down to the forest floor, float in the Amazon in a dugout without a paddle and run from danger with the help of a friendly monkey. [early chapter book, ages 6 and up]
Be sure to read the companion book to the Afternoon on the Amazon, Magic Tree House Research Guide Rainforests.
2. Great Bear Rainforest (Travels with Gannon & Wyatt) by Pattie Wheeler and Keith Hemstreet
I didn’t realize that North America is home to a temperate rain forest in Vancouver, British Columbia.
Twin brothers Gannon and Wyatt are invited to join an expedition to Great Bear Rainforest along with renowned environmental scientist Dr. Hans Brezner. Aided by a trail guide, 15-year-old Alu, the brothers find themselves caught in a nefarious plan to destroy the Great Bear Rainforest by killing the migrating salmon thus disrupting the food chain. The boys must find a way to overcome dangerous gunmen, a pack of hungry wolves, and Grizzlies to rescue their missing parents and protect this pristine wilderness.
This book combines nonfiction facts about the Great Bear Rainforest with an environmental message in an action-packed adventure. Their story is told through journal entries by both Gannon and Wyatt who exist in real life! [chapter book, ages 9 and up]
1. Silver People: Voices from the Panama Canal by Margarita Engle
Margarita Engle tells the complicated story of building the Panama Canal nearly 100 years ago when an Apartheid system was in place. White people did the less dangerous jobs and were paid in gold. People of color were paid in silver. It isn’t just the pay scale but terrible working conditions that the silver people are subjected to solely because of the color of their skin.
Engle also includes the voices of the creatures of the rainforest whose habitat is destroyed during the construction of the dam. Her message is an urgent one; the Panana Canal is currently going through a $5.2 billion expansion. [novel in verse, ages 9 and up]
More Great Rainforest Nonfiction Books
Amazon Rainforest, TIME for Kids Nonfiction Readers
Rain Forests (Magic Tree House Research Guide) by Mary Pope Osborne
This nonfiction companion book to Magic Tree House Afternoon on the Amazon covers what a rainforest is, as well as plants, animals, people and gifts from the rainforest. It’s an interesting read on its own and can be read before or after reading Afternoon on the Amazon. For fans of the Magic Tree House, it’s a great extension into nonfiction that makes the reader appreciate Jack and Annie’s adventure in the rainforest even more. [nonfiction early chapter book, ages 6 and up]
Inside the Amazing Amazon by Don Lessem
This oversized nonfiction book has pull-out pages for each layer of the Amazon rainforest —The Forest Floor, The Understory, The Canopy, and The Emergent Layer — detailing the wildlife including plants and animals. It’s an adventure to go through each layer and the beautiful full-color illustrations help to let the reader see each plant and animal in the context of where it resides and how it lives in the rainforest. [nonfiction picture book with chapters, ages 8 and up]
Welcome to the Green House by Jane Yolen
The land is one great wild, untidy luxuriant hothouse, made by nature for herself.
Charles Darwin, Voyage of the Beagle
Told in free form verse, Jane Yolen introduces the Amazon rainforest “green house” and all its wonderful creatures. She suggests, “If you are intersted in learning more about the rainforest and ways to preseve it, get in touch with:
300 Broadway, Suite 28
San Francisco, CA 94133
[poetry picture book, ages 4 and up]
Margarita Engle has book suggestions to learn more about Orangutans in her book Orangutanka:
Orangutan by Suzi Eszterhas
Meet a baby orangutan born in the trees of the rainforest in Sumatra. She will stay with her mother for the next six years. At four months, she is ready to try fruit and she’s climbing by her first birthday. By the time she is four years old, she’s made new friends and can explore on the forest floor and climb the cliffs. At five years old, she is very independent, almost ready to leave the nest. At six, she is ready to start a family of her own, but she will still see her mom in the forest! [nonfiction, ages 4 and up]
Thinkers of the Jungle by Gerd Schuster
This is a coffee table tome meant for adults but kids might like to see the gorgeous photos of orangutans up close and interacting with humans. They can just flip around the book and read the captions as they notice them. The large photograph spreads are arresting and really capture the playfulness and personalities of the orangutans. [nonfiction, adult]
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