Environmental Nonfiction Picture Books That Call Kids to Action

Environmental Nonfiction Picture Books That Call Kids to Action

Please welcome my guest author, Patricia Newman! She has a list of nonfiction books that gets kids involved in environmental issues. I added two books to her list: Rainbow Weavers/Tejedora del Arcoiris which pairs nicely with One Plastic Bag, and Follow the Moon Home which pairs with Mission: Sea Turtle Rescue.

Her book, Sea Otter Heroes: The Predators That Saved an Ecosystem, shows how these delightful sea mammals were able to save an ecosystem in Monterey Bay. That’s personal to us because it’s my husband’s hometown!

Patricia Newman talks about the accumulation of plastic and I wanted to share this article that I just read with fascination and horror:  The Atlantic’s article, A Remote Paradise Is Now a Plastic Junkyard! It’s made my family and I start a compost bin!

The Atlantic: A Remote Island is Now a Plastic Junkyard

“Henderson Island is isolated and uninhabited—but its beaches are still covered in garbage.” 

From The Atlantic. Photo by Jennifer Lavers.

How about you? Are you and your kids concerned about the environment? What kinds of things do you talk about and do?


This is a topic close to my heart. Ever since I read an article about young scientists sailing 1,000 miles into the Pacific Ocean to study the accumulation of plastic, I’ve been on a tear to tell kids the truth about our impact on the environment. In order for Earth to continue to support us, we have to support Earth. Kids (and adults) can celebrate Earth Day every day with the following titles.

Environmental Nonfiction Books That Calls Kids to Action

Environmental HERO stories show ordinary people making an extraordinary difference.

Mama Miti by Donna Jo Napoli, illustrated by Kadir Nelson

Wangari Muta Maathai founded the Green Belt Movement that empowered African people to fight deforestation by planting trees. Expressive text and stunning illustrations bring this powerful story to life. [nonfiction picture book, ages 4 and up]

One Plastic Bag: Isatou Ceesay and the Recycling Women of the Gambia by Miranda Paul, illustrated by Elizabeth Zunon

A beautifully written tale about how one woman cared enough to rid her village of plastic waste that attracted disease-carrying insects and killed local animals. Young readers will love the solution! [nonfiction picture book, ages 6 and up]

Rainbow Weavers/Tejedora del Arcoiris by Linda Elovitz, illustrated by Elisa Chavarri Marshall

Pair this book with One Plastic Bag. It’s a similar story about the Mayan women in Guatemala. [nonfiction picture book, ages 6 and up]

Life in the Ocean: The Story of Oceanographer Sylvia Earle by Claire A. Nivola

Sylvia Earle is a giant in the world of ocean scientists. Nivola shares Earle’s early passion for the sea and at the same time encourages young readers to follow their own passion. [nonfiction picture book, ages 4 and up]

NATURE APPRECIATION stories encourage kids to practice observing and making connections to the natural world.
The Promise by Nicola Davies, illustrated by Laura Carlin

Although this book is technically fiction, I love its lyrical message about the healing power of nature. Davies’ poetic text matches perfectly with Carlin’s harsh illustrations that soften as nature returns to the world. [picture book, ages 5 and up]

Water Wow! (A Visual Exploration) by Antonia Banyard & Paula Ayer, illustrations by Belle Wuthrich

A balanced look at water using age-appropriate text and bold infographics, such as pie charts, tables, graphs, and maps. I like the unique use of the graphics to call kids to action to calculate their water footprint or clean up pollution. [nonfiction picture book, ages 9 and up]

Seasons of the Bear: A Yosemite Story by Ginger Wadsworth, illustrated by Daniel San Souci

A lovely look at one year in the life of a mother bear and her newborn cubs. Wadsworth and San Souci, both avid naturalists, pull the curtain back on survival in Yosemite’s wilderness and subtly encourages the preservation of wildness. [nonfiction picture book, ages 4 and up]

SCIENCE IN THE FIELD stories show real scientists in action and how their work helps shape environmental decisions.

Eyes Wide Open by Paul Fleischman

Not your usual science-in-the-field title, Fleischman dives into the details of climate change using politics, psychology, and history to give readers a sense of the scope of this 21st century environmental issue. [nonfiction chapter book, ages 12 and up]

Mission: Sea Turtle Rescue by Karen Romano Young

Gorgeous National Geographic photos illustrate this title about sea turtles and the challenges they face. Examples of real-life turtle rescues will help kids connect their passion for animals to action. [nonfiction book, ages 10 and up]

Follow the Moon Home: A Tale of One Idea, Twenty Kids, and a Hundred Sea Turtles by Philippe Cousteau and Deborah Hopkinson, illustrated by Meilo So

Pair this picture book with Mission: Sea Turtle Rescue or use with younger readers. It will inspire readers that kids can make a difference, as they did in the case of a hundred newly hatched sea turtles! [picture book, ages 5 and up]

Plastic, Ahoy! Investigating the Great Pacific Garbage Patch by Patricia Newman, photos by Annie Crawley

Follow three trash detectives who sail to the North Pacific to find out how plastic affects marine life…and us. American Scientist says, “Newman…drives home the notion that science is exciting and relevant, as she builds a strong case for…getting personally invested in ecological responsibility.” [nonfiction picture book, ages 9 and up]

Sea Otter Heroes: The Predators That Saved an Ecosystem by Patricia Newman

A marine mystery about how one scientist found an unlikely connection between seagrass and sea otters. Booklist Reader says, “A terrific book for use in elementary and middle school science classes, this is a book that “otter” be added to collections everywhere.” [nonfiction picture book, ages 9 and up]

For other eco-titles, consider downloading the Nature Generation’s Green Earth Book Award list. And for a different twist on celebrations about the environment, visit Authors for Earth Day, a grassroots coalition of award-winning children’s authors and illustrators who mentor young readers by giving them a research project with real-world impact.

Patricia Newman

Patricia Newman is the author of several award-winning titles that connect young readers to scientific concepts in the news. Visit her on her website, Twitter, Pinterest, or Facebook.

Environmental Nonfiction Picture Books That Call Kids to Action

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By Mia Wenjen, PragmaticMom


  1. We’ve read quite a few of these but some of these are totally new to us; they look amazing!
    Mother of 3 recently posted…Homeschooling Through the Alphabet: T is for TrendsMy Profile

  2. These books are more important than ever considering Trump just reneged on our promise to join the Paris climate accords. Please talk to your kids about the environment so they can add their voices to the debate.

    • Hi Patricia,
      My kids are so incensed. As a result of Trump and reneging of the Paris Climate Accord, we just set up composting. Also my middle daughter is adamant that any new car we purchase be electric or hybrid. We are also considering a solar roof when we need to reroof.
      Pragmatic Mom recently posted…Phonics Museum AppMy Profile

  3. Lots of great titles here, Mia and a few that I’m unfamiliar with, so thanks for the recs!

    I just read & liked the Sea Otters book. I also really enjoyed Sneed Collard’s Hopping Ahead of Climate Change (and Fire Birds). There is also another really interesting book called Chernobyl’s Wild Kingdom, about scientists investigating the after effects of radiation exposure on the creatures who live there–fascinating stuff!

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