Environmental focused picture books are a great way to spark conversations about real issues Earth is facing and how to help protect our planet all year long. I’ve pulled together 11 wonderful texts that would make a great additions to any Earth Day celebration or conversation with little learners.
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Rocket Says, Clean Up by Nathan Bryon (Random House, 2020)
When visiting her grandparent’s Animal Sanctuary in the tropics, Rocket discovers the beach is very polluted and it’s impacting the lives of the creatures that live there. She MUST do something about it. She rallies everyone on the beach to help her CLEAN UP and even manages to save a baby sea turtle along the way.
This is a GREAT text to use when exploring the topics of pollution, recycling and how we can help make positive change! Rocket is such a fun character that’s sure to empower little learners.
Kate Who Tamed the Wind by Elizabeth Garton Scanlon (Schwartz & Wade, 2018)
When Kate’s neighbor gets caught up in a terrible windstorm, Kate comes up with a plan to fill his yard with TREES! This story exposes readers to the tree planting process, the elapsed time between planting and tree growth, and shows readers how helpful trees are to our daily living.
A great text for Earth Day lends itself to further discuss the value of trees and what all trees give back to our planet.
We are Water Protectors by Carole Lindstrom (Roaring Brook Press, 2020)
A young, indigenous girl shares how her grandmother taught her water is the “first medicine” and necessary to survive. But, the water supply is threatened by the “black snake”… She explains how the oil or “black snake” will poison the water supply for everyone and everything in her village and she must fight to protect it!
We are Water Protectors has received so much positive feedback and will be a great for discussing the importance of clean water, how our water can become polluted, and what actions we might take to protect it.
Greta and the Giants by Zoe Tucker (Frances Lincoln Children’s Books, 2019)
A kid-friendly tribute to activist Greta Thunberg and her fight against climate change.
Greta is greeted at the tip of the forest by some animals who are in need of help! Greta follows and watches as “giants” take, take and take more trees leaving the animals without their homes. Greta knows that a change must happen and uses her voice to speak up against what she sees happening.
The illustrations offer lifestyle alternatives that Greta and her pals teach the “giants” to reduce the need for cutting down so many trees and replanting them along the way.
A good text for empowering young kiddos, introducing them to Thunberg, and opening a discussion on how to reduce our use and possible solutions to this ongoing issue.
Zonia’s Rainforest by Juana Martinez-Neal (Candlewick, 2021)
Zonia’s Rainforest is a new release for 2021 and is STUNNING! While exploring the forest with Zonia, readers get an inside look at all the beauty and creatures that inhabit it like the blue butterfly Zonia is following throughout the story. Zonia follows it to an area she’s never seen in her forest and untl she’s stopped flat in her tracks…
Frightened by what she sees, Zonia knows she must do something to help save her forest. Zonia’s Rain Forest is a perfect text to really dig into discussing the impact of deforestation and exposing readers to life in the Amazon.
Dear Earth… From Your Friends in Room 5 by Erin Dealy (HarperCollins, 2020)
This picture book is written in a series of letters to Earth from a group of students in room 5. Throughout the school year, the students write to Earth explaining the positive choices they are making to help protect it!
Perfect for Earth Day! It would also be fun for students to write their own letters to Earth after reading this text.
The Digger and the Flower by Joseph Kuefler (Blazer and Bray, 2018)
Fun illustrations, muted tones and an environmental focus! This is definitely a more serious picture book and one that can spark great conversations with young readers about our interactions with the environment.
In a bustling and growing city full of high rise buildings and concrete, the reader meets Dozer, Crane and Digger. While out working Digger finds a single blue flower in their lot and begins to care for it. Inevitably, his blue flower gets cut down once construction is started in this final empty lot. Devastated by what’s happened, Digger acts quickly by scooping up the freshly fallen flower and replants its seeds outside of the city.
The final pages are illustrated with a field of blue flowers and Digger showing the reader the positive impact of his choice! This has been one of my go-to books each April in my kindergarten classroom because it helps little think about ways we can help the Earth with our actions just like Digger does in the story.
My Friend Earth by Patrica MacLachlan (Chronicle, 2020)
I just love the peek-a-boo pages in this beautiful picture book about Mother Nature. My friend Earth shares lovely examples of how our planet is a friend to everyone.
A great introduction to Earth Day to talk about what our Earth gives us each and every day! Taking a deeper dive and discussing the illustrations could help little learners connect and consider how they use the Earth.
Here We Are by Oliver Jeffers (Philomel Books, 2017)
I’m a HUGE fan of Oliver Jeffers and in this text, he gives young readers different information and illustrations about our Planet! From land and sea to the creatures, young readers will see all the lovely gifts our Earth shares with us.
A great text for a unit about exploring the planet as well as introducing Earth Day!
Tidy by Emily Gravett (Simon & Schuster, 2017)
Pete the Badger LOVES his fur to be clean and tidy but when his tidiness spreads to the entire forest… it becomes a BIG and sad problem for Pete and the other animals living there.
Pete’s actions show readers just how important mud and trees are in the forest when he discovers his “tidy” choices removed both his home and food source!
The illustrations in this picture book are amazing for presenting to littles and discussing the topic of deforestation and the impact it has on the animals living in the forest. Gravett’s never disappoints me with her writing and illustrations!
Our Planet, There’s No Place Like It by Stacy McAnulty and David Litchenfiled (Henry Holt, 2022).
If you’re familiar with this series, you already know the flow and layout. This newest picture book is no exception, It’s full of factual information that’s more kid friendly than most NF choices. (Large text, illustrations to support text, not overly word facts). Our Planet, There’s No Place Like It highlights Earth’s functions, some of the challenges currently facing it (global warming) and a few examples of how to improve our footprint! I especially love the artwork in this book – bright and really helpful for little learners listening & processing. Perfect for Earth Day, all NF lovers and school library collection must-have!
Sofia Valdez, Future Prez by Andrea Beaty (Abrams, 2019)
Beaty’s popular series is full of powerful characters and stories and Miss Valdez is no exception with her tale of progress and stopping pollution for her community.
When Sofia’s abuelo gets hurt because of the piles of trash at the community landfill, she is determined to make a change and rid her town of “Mt. Trashmore.”
Another great text that shows how one voice, no matter the age, can empower great change! The illustrations are also nice for pointing out the day to day impact of litter but bridge a larger conversation about the long term effects litter has on Earth.
Looking for picture books on planting or the Earth’s natural wonders? Here’s some of my favorites!
The Honey Bee by Kristen Hall (Simon Schuster, 2018).
Again, not an environmental issue like the others, but it does highlight the value of bees & would make a great discussion on the role they play on Earth and our lives.
The Collectors by Alice Feagan (Kids Can Press, 2021).
While this one isn’t so much focused on environmental issues like some of the others above, it DOES show off many of Earth’s amazing wonders like rainbows, gemstones & birds hatching! It follows 2 besties in search of a new wonder for their collection and it’s a FUN read aloud. One of my favorites from 2021.
Hello, Puddles by Anita Sanches and Luisa Uribe (Clarion Books, 2022).
Simple but impactful text with lovely illustrations, I’m a BIG fan of Luisa Uribe’s art (Your Name is a Song + Ariel is a Dreamer). The art gives you a glimpse into nature and some of the different “Puddle” creatures dependent on a healthy Earth to survive.
For the Aspect of Planting – these are my top picks!
Harlem Grown, All from a Walnut (New in 2022), Florette, In a Garden & When Grandma Gives You a Lemon Tree