School might be over for the year, but kids don’t need to turn their brains off just yet! Keep reading skills honed and learn about respecting the environment at the same time by adding a few books to the summer reading list. Recyclebank asked children’s librarians all over the country for their top picks of eco-friendly books for kids of all ages. Here’s what they came up with:
The Camping Trip that Changed America: Theodore Roosevelt, John Muir, and Our National Parks, written by Barb Rosenstock and illustrated by Mordicai Gerstein
Best for: Grades K-3rd
“Rosenstock’s accessible text and Gerstein’s vibrant illustrations pair well to tell the story of a little-known historical camping trip that spurred the creation of national parks and protected public wilderness. Mordicai Gerstein’s illustrations admirably capture Roosevelt’s exuberance, Muir’s passion, and Yosemite’s awe-inspiring beauty. It’s a dynamic, easy-reading, but still-informative story.” –Miriam Touchton, Los Angeles Public Library, Westchester-Loyola Village Branch, Los Angeles, CA
Hoot, written by Carl Hiaasen
Best For: Ages 10 and Up
“This is the most exciting story about environmental activism I’ve ever read. Also, it contains tiny owls. Who can resist tiny owls?” –Emily Heath, PS 107, Brooklyn, NY, and PS 84, New York, NY
Mr. King’s Things, written by Genevieve Cote
Best For: Ages 3–7
“Cote conveys an important message about the repercussions of over-consumption that I haven’t seen much addressed in children’s literature, but she does it with real playfulness and humor.” –Miriam Touchton, Los Angeles Public Library, Westchester-Loyola Village Branch, Los Angeles, CA
Seeds of Change: Wangari’s Gift to the World, written by Jen Cullerton Johnson
Best For: Ages 7 and Up
“Seeds of Change tells the story of Wangari Maathai, a girl who grows up in Kenya, is educated in the United States, and returns to her home country to become an environmental and women’s advocate. By planting trees and encouraging others to do so, she strengthened Kenya’s economy and cleansed the environment. Wangari won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2004 for her environmental work. This is a very inspirational story that covers several topics, including environmentalism and women’s rights. It’s a perfect book to use in teaching children that hard work and determination pay off.” –Dana Farabaugh, Portage Public Library, Portage, PA
Why the Sky is Far Away: A Nigerian Folktale, written by Mary-Joan Gerson and Carla Golembe
Best For: Grades K-5th
“As with so many folktales, it tells a compelling story and has a great message without being preachy, and it helps children understand that the idea of protecting natural resources has been around for a long time. I also like the fact that it emphasizes our shared responsibility to use our resources carefully. The book is truly one for all ages and is an excellent conversation-starter with any child.” –Callie Benson, The Children’s School, Atlanta, GA
Word Girl: Earth Day Girl, written by Scholastic Books
Best For: Ages 4-8
“In this book, Becky must try to save the Earth from Birthday Girl, who tries to destroy it when Becky begins to tell people how important it is to recycle and keep the Earth clean and safe. I think it’s a great book for kids because it provides learning while on an adventure. The reader is able to learn all about the environment and different ways they can help keep it clean.” –Abbey Lukiewski, Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh, PA
What is your favorite children’s book about the environment? Share yours in the comments below!
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When I'm not making lists, I'm taking care of my two daughters, volunteering in my community, and writing articles about food and cooking — I'm the author of three cookbooks: Ramen to the Rescue, Tortillas to the Rescue, and Quinoa Cuisine (co-written with Kelley Sparwasser), and my fourth, Homemade Condiments, will be available in Fall 2013.