Please welcome author Marsha Diane Arnold today with a list of her favorite children’s books for Earth Day, April 22nd, or celebrate all month for Earth Month in April! First celebrated in 1970, Earth Day now includes events in more than 193 countries, which are now coordinated globally by the Earth Day Network.
I have an additional book suggestion for Earth Day that arrived recently at my house.
The Little Green Hen by Alison Murphy
The story of the industrious little red hen gets an environmental twist in this delightful retelling of a classic. In this case, the Little Green Hen is taking care of an apple tree and not everyone wants to assist her except Sparrow, Squirrel, and Dog. When a spring flood threatens the animals who refused to help, Little Green Hen generously provides assistance … and when it’s time to clean up, everyone is happy to help! [picture book, ages 2 and up]
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In honor of our planet, our Gaia, our Earth, I’m sharing 10 picture books to celebrate Earth Day. I’ve selected books that show the beauty and wonder of our planet, believing that if we love something we will protect it.
The theme of Earth Day 2019 is “Protect Our Species.” With these criteria in mind, I’m beginning my list with Sy Montgomery, who writes for children and adults. Any Earth Day list, especially one with the theme “Protect Our Species,” should include at least one of Sy’s books.
KidLit for Earth Day
1. Chasing Cheetahs: The Race to Save Africa’s Fastest Cats by Sy Montgomery, illustrated by Nic Bishop
Sy Montgomery travels the world learning and writing about animals. Many of her books are about efforts to save wildlife. Her Scientists in the Field Series includes Chasing Cheetahs: The Race to Save Africa’s Fastest Cats, Saving the Ghost of the Mountains: An Expedition Among Snow Leopards in Mongolia and The Great White Shark Scientist. Chasing Cheetahs focuses on the work of the Cheetah Conservation Fund and their specific efforts to save the threatened cheetah. The photography is stunning. I chose Chasing Cheetahs to include here, in remembrance of my trip to Africa and the regal cheetahs we saw there. [nonfiction middle grade, ages 10 and up]
2. Lovely Beasts: The Surprising Truth by Kate Gardner, illustrated by Heidi Smith
So many times, we judge animals, especially scary or “ugly” animals, too quickly. This book helps readers reconsider, by showing the wonder and importance of creatures like hyenas, bats, and spiders. To appreciate and protect we must understand; this beautifully illustrated book helps young readers understand more about these “lovely beasts.” [picture book, ages 4 and up]
3. Tiny, Perfect Things by M. H. Clark, illustrated by Madeline Kloepper
In this wondrous book, a small girl walks with her grandfather around the neighborhood. “Today, we keep our eyes open for tiny, perfect things.” The illustrated pages, like the Earth itself, are full of lush beauty. A yellow leaf, a spider’s web, a friendly wave, a pale moon are a few of Earth’s treasures that are discovered. This book will help readers see and appreciate small things, which will lead to seeing and appreciating all. [picture book, ages 5 and up]
4. Earth! My First 4.54 Billion Years by Stacy McAnulty, illustrated by David Litchfield
This captivating picture book is humorously narrated by the Earth itself. In order to love and protect Earth, we should know and understand our “Planet Awesome,” as McAnulty refers to her. The book is both informational and fun, plus it has back matter for studious readers. [picture book, ages 4 and up]
5. Here We Are: Notes for Living on Planet Earth by Oliver Jeffers
The title says it all, doesn’t it? This is a welcoming book for newborns and all of us, telling what we need to know about living on Earth. It’s full of fabulous illustrations that show cosmic wonders and the diversity of our planet. Many opportunities are provided for a conversation about ourselves, our planet, and how we can take care of it. [picture book, ages 3 and up]
6. Fly with Me: A Celebration of Birds Through Pictures, Poems, and Stories by Jane Yolen, Heidi Stemple, Adam Stemple, and Jason Stemple.
Birds bring such joy with their melodious songs, their breathtaking colors, their amazing flights. This is a lovely collection of stories, poems, photographs, and science, celebrating the astonishing life of birds and showing how integral they are to life on Earth. [picture book, ages 4 and up]
7. Thank You, Earth: a Love Letter to Our Planet by April Pulley Sayre
This book is a letter of gratitude, exploring the beauty and complexity of Earth. It is a thanksgiving, touching on weather, patterns, colors, and more. “Thank you for those that crawl. Yes, all. All. All. Even for those that sting.” [picture book, ages 4 and up]
The last books are my own, my three most recent, each celebrating Earth in a slightly different way.
8. Galápagos Girl by Marsha Diane Arnold, illustrated by Angela Dominguez
I’m including Galápagos Girl as it portrays a person who has committed her life to the environment and it shows the great diversity of Earth. Valentina Cruz grew up among the animals of the wild Galápagos Islands and has promised to help keep the unique animals that live there safe. A recurring phrase in the book is “We will help to keep them safe,” a phrase I chant with students when I visit schools. [picture book, ages 4 and up]
9. Badger’s Perfect Garden by Marsha Diane Arnold, illustrated by Ramona Kaulitzki
This is a perfect book for spring and for learning to trust Mother Nature. Young readers will celebrate seeds and the surprises they can bring, like the wild jumble-tumble garden Badger and his friends, are surprised by in the summer. [picture book, ages 5 and up]
10. Mine. Yours. by Marsha Diane Arnold and illustrated by Qin Leng
This book isn’t specifically about Earth or how to protect it, but Qin Leng’s beautiful illustrations take us on a walk through the lovely forests, streams, and rivers of China.
The orphan, Little Panda, comes upon Big Panda’s cave. Big Panda doesn’t feel like sharing but gives Little Panda a kite to entertain himself with. Little Panda follows the kite into the forest, where it disrupts the games of one animal after another, causing a series of “Mine! Yours!”
In the end, the animal characters realize that it makes no sense to fight over what’s mine and what’s yours, when what we love is really OURS! May we honor Earth on Earth Day and throughout the year, knowing that it is truly OURS! [picture book, ages 4 and up]
Thank you, Mia, for inviting me to help celebrate Earth Day with these lovely, earthy books.
Called a “born storyteller” by the media, Marsha Diane Arnold’s award-winning picture books have sold over one million copies and been called “whimsical” and “inspiring.” She has two new picture books out this spring –Mine. Yours. and Badger’s Perfect Garden.
Born and raised on the Kansas prairies, Marsha has lived most of her life on a hill overlooking redwoods and oaks in Sonoma County, California, and now lives with her husband in Alva, Florida, surrounded on two sides by nature preserves. Family and nature are her two great loves.
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Food for the Future: Sustainable Farms Around the World
- Junior Library Guild Gold selection
- Selected as one of 100 Outstanding Picture Books of 2023 by dPICTUS and featured at the Bologna Children’s Book Fair
- Starred review from School Library Journal
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