Books for Earth Day
Explaining global warming, the meaning of the carbon footprint or the importance of endangered-species preservation is a tough job for any parent. But you don’t have to do it alone. Authors and illustrators far and wide have created picture books, workbooks, CDs and DVDs to help your children learn about their other Mother – Earth.
As the 39th annual Earth Day approaches on April 22, here are some resources to get you started. And who knows – your child might not be the only one to learn a thing or two!
For Younger Children
The Dumpster Diver, by Janet S. Wong, illustrations by David Roberts (Candlewick, $16.99), tells a tale of kids in a neighborhood who help Steve the Electrician, otherwise known as the dumpster diver, as he proves that one man’s trash is another man’s treasure. Steve and the kids create all sorts of fun and useful things from discarded materials. Wong was inspired to write The Dumpster Diver by Kerry Wade, an artist who takes old skis and turns them into chairs. For children ages 5 to 7.
Backyard Bear, by Anne F. Rockwell (Walker Books for Young Readers, $15.95), is a story about a bear and his mother who live in the wild until houses are built nearby. It tells how the bears adapt to live near the new neighborhood, until the young bear is taken away to a forest where he can be safe. This is a good book to start a discussion about how development encroaches on land that was actually first home to animals. The author also notes how to keep bears away from populated areas. For children ages 3 to 7.
On Meadowview Street, by Henry Cole (HarperCollins, $17.99), is a tale of a young girl who moves to Meadowview Street only to find that there is neither a meadow nor a view. But she is armed with a plan to make her surroundings more beautiful and lush, quickly planting wildflowers in the yard and convincing her dad to cut less in their front yard. Soon, she has both a meadow and a view, attracting all sorts of animals, birds and butterflies. She also inspires her neighbors to do the same. For children ages 3 to 7.
The Happiness Tree, by Andrea Alban Gosling of San Francisco, with illustrations by Lisa Burnett Bossi (Feiwel & Friends, $14.95), is a tale about trees. In the book, trees are associated with individual virtues. For example, the magnolia tree is the embodiment of generosity while the 100-foot-tall white pine is the image of courage. The book includes lyrical tree bios, an index of state trees and a pledge to care for forest friends. For children 4 and older.
I Love Our Earth, by Bill Martin Jr. and Michael Sampson, with photographs by Dan Lipow (Charlesbridge Publishing, $6.95), discusses all the things the Earth has to offer. The text is paired with vibrant color pictures of nature and children from around the world. For children ages 3 to 6.
The Wartville Wizard, written and illustrations by Don Madden (Aladdin, $6.99), tells the tale of a place called Wartville, which is being buried in trash. There are soda bottles under the flowers, juice cans by the mailbox and newspapers along the road. Each day, the piles grow higher and higher until one old man realizes he has the power to get rid of all the trash. Wartville will finally be cleaned up forever. For children ages 3 to 8.
Bee & Me, by Elle J. McGuinness (a nom de plume of two East Bay moms) (Accord Publishing, $16.99), is about the importance of bees. It is illustrated by Heather Brown and uses trademarked "AniMotion panels," which make it appear as if pictures are moving when pages are turned. When a young boy discovers a bee trapped in his bedroom, he hides for fear of being stung. But when the amiable bee explains all that bees do, the boy comes to understand that bees not only make honey, they also spread pollen, which makes all things grow. For children over age 4.
My Body My House, by Lisa Beres (Green Nest LLC, $16.95), is a picture book and cautionary tale about the importance of the choices people make in their homes and their effects on their health and environment. When a boy (The Body) makes irresponsible changes to his house, he experiences unforeseen consequences. Thankfully, his wise and benevolent friend (The House) comes to his rescue and, in the process, reveals the key to living healthily ever after. For children ages 4 to 8.
The Lorax, by Dr. Seuss (Random House Books for Young Readers, $14.95) is nearly four decades old, but the messages about the environment hold true today. First published in 1971, the book tells of the plight of the environment and the Lorax, a mossy, bossy man-like creature who speaks for the trees against the greedy Once-ler. Like most of Dr. Seuss’ works, a majority of the creatures mentioned are original to the book. There’s also a DVD and CD by the same name. For children ages 4 to 8.
For Older Children
Almost Gone: The World’s Rarest Animals is a book by Steve Jenkins (HarperCollins, $5.99) that talks about endangered animals – those that are “gone forever” – and animals that have returned to nature because of preservation efforts. The book tells readers which country each animal is native to, how many are left, and a bit about behavior, diet and the conditions that threaten each animal’s welfare. You’ll also learn that the Indian crocodile, whooping crane and Alpine ibex are making a comeback thanks to efforts to protect their habitats. For children ages 5 to 9.
Tracking Trash: Flotsam, Jetsam and the Science of Ocean Motion, by Loree Griffin Burns (Houghton Mifflin Books for Children, $18). Assisted by group of beachcombers, oceanographer Dr. Curtis Ebbesmeyer “tracks trash in the name of science.” From sneakers to hockey gloves to toys, the scientist monitors the fate of trash that has found its way into the ocean, as well as the destructive effect garbage can have on oceans and the small and large creatures who live in the deep waters. For children ages 10 and older.
Uno’s Garden, by Graeme Base (Abrams Books for Young Readers, $19.95), is a colorful book about Uno and his love of the forest and the imaginary animals that live there. The book focuses on the importance of striking a balance between development and conservation of nature. For children 6 and older.
One Well: The Story of Water on Earth, by Rochelle Straus with illustrations by Rosemary Woods (Kids Can Press, $17.95), asks readers to think of all the water on Earth as belonging to one well, which is shared by all people and animals. The book explains where water is found, how the water cycle operates and the importance of water for people, plants, animals and their habitats. For children 8 and older.
Ryan and Jimmy and the Well in Africa That Brought Them Together, by Herb Shoveller (Kids Can Press, $9.95), is a true story about Ryan, a Canadian boy, who gets a pen pal in Uganda, Jimmy, and is amazed to find out how far people have to walk to get water. And when they get the water, it’s often brown, smelly and not very good tasting. Ryan starts a drive to raise money to build a well in Uganda. When the boys finally meet, they form a bond of friendship that is unbreakable. For children ages 8 to 12.
Crissy the CowPot Gets Her Wish, by Nina Anderson, with illustrations by Scott Johnstone (Safe Goods, $9.95), tells how one farmer went green and recycled cow poop into flower pots. Anderson, a corporate pilot who started a publishing company 15 years ago, has written a catchy book that combines a great story with an important message about environmental stewardship. Using the real life story of how the real CowPots came to exist, the book provides a first-person account in an easy to read book. For children of all ages.
Catch the Wind, by Anne Johnson (Beaver’s Pond Press, $11.50), is a fact-packed book written in story fashion to help children understand wind energy as a renewable resource. It was developed with input from educators and experts in the wind industry. For older grade-school children.
Charlie and Lola: We Are Extremely Very Good Recyclers is a book by Lauren Child (Dial, $16.99), the author and illustrator of the Charlie and Lola series of books about a sister and brother that has now been made into a TV series. After Charlie convinces his sister to recycle her old toys instead of dumping them in the trash, Lola finds a recycling contest. If she can recycle 100 plastic, metal and paper items, she’ll win a tree to plant. For all ages.
Kristin Bender is a reporter at the Oakland Tribune and a frequent contributor to Bay Area Parent.
Interactive Learning Tools
Many CDs, DVDs and even Web sites allow kids and parents to learn more about protecting the Earth. Here is a sampling:
- Our First Journey is about Jacob, Lydia and a group of other youngsters who take young viewers on a ride into nature, where each stop brings a lesson. For every DVD sold, the company donates $1 to the Nature Conservancy. For ages 3 to 6.
- March of the Penguins is a French nature documentary film that won the 2006 Academy Award for best documentary feature. But three years later, it’s still a favorite with children and their parents. It tells the story of the yearly journey of the emperor penguins of Antarctica. For children and adults of all ages.
- Whole World shares the classic message: “We’ve got the whole world in our hands.” With rich, multicultural illustrations, the book version of Whole World features eco-tips on how to live green and a catchy sing-along CD, sung by Fred Penner. For children 4 and older.
- Nature Needs Kids and Kids Need Nature is an Earth-friendly CD for kids and parents. They aren’t your typical nursery songs, but they definitely appeal to children. natureneedskids.com. For children 2 and older.
- This Pretty Planet, performed by Tom Chapin, includes tracks “Two Kinds of Seagulls,” “R-E-C-Y-Cle,” “Good Garbage,” “Happy Earth Day” and more. For children and adults of all ages.
- Singgreenmusic.com features tracks to download such as “Your Friend (the Shopping Bag Song),” “Styrofoam Pledge,” “Ecology Fight Song,” “Give Each Other a Hand,” “Please Don’t Litter” and many other Earth-friendly tracks. For children 3 and older.
– Kristin Bender