It's easy being green if you've got the right books! (Okay, so that was absurdly corny--but really, I couldn't help myself.) Here are a few of my favorites as well as some new books to kick this Earth Day off the right way!
The Green Mother Goose: Saving the World One Rhyme at a Time by David Davis, Jan Peck, and Carin Berger is a wonderfully quirky, eco-friendly re-look at many of the classic mother goose rhymes we all know and love. The pictures are as much fun as the new rhymes--my children and I love looking for new environmentally friendly behaviors in them. It is also fun for slightly older readers to compare and contrast the old rhymes with the new.
Though David McPhail's Water Boy has some fairly fantastically unreal suggestions for rehabilitating polluted water, it does an equally fantastic job of showing kids just how important water really is to our survival. The story is lovely and the illustrations are beyond beautiful--my son can literally look at them for hours.
Compost Stew: An A to Z Recipe for the Earth by Mary McKenna Siddals is a wonderfully fun A to Z book all about various compost friendly things. My kids have taken to it so well that, I am ashamed to say, they are sometimes quicker than I to recognize when something I would deem 'trash' is actually compostable. Or garden has been a much happier place since we got this book.
Books for Middle Grade Readers:
Perhaps it is my children's love of birdwatching, but most of our favorite middle grade books come back to our avian friends. Wild Wings by Gill Lewis is wonderful in that, while bringing attention to the plight of the endangered Osprey, it is more a story of friendship, and the ties that bind us all.
Who better than Jean Craighead George to instill in children a love of nature? In her perennially entertaining mystery Who Really Killed Cock Robin? by Jean Craighead George she invites children to think critically about non-point source pollution, and have fun while doing so!
Though Hoot is my favorite Carl Hiaasen’s Florida Wildlife books, they are all fun, adventurous, and quirky. In Hoot, a young boy named Roy, with a little help from his friends, learns to love his new home enough to fight to protect it. Hiaasen's writing is wonderfully engaging and exciting--my son was never satisfied with just one chapter!
Young Adult Books:
For teen fiction, it seems that cautionary tales--in the form of eco-thrillers--are the best way to go. Saci Lloyd's The Carbon Diaries 2015, the first in her Carbon Diaries series, is the story of Laura, a sixteen-year-old girl just trying to make it in an increasingly scary world. Lloyd's projections of the consequences of unchecked global warming are as plausible as they are frightening.
Trash by Andy Mulligan manages to tread the fine line between maintaining a thrilling mystery while simultaneously examining poverty in developing countries--the first places to feel the effects of our environmentally unfriendly excesses.
Non-Fiction for the Whole Family:
Rachel Carson by Ellen Levine is probably the most assessable biography of one of my favorite nature writers that I have ever read. While Silent Spring or The Sea Around Us might be okay for some teens, In Rachel Carson Levine does an excellent job of hitting on why, precisely, these books were so important in a way that even middle grade readers could appreciate. It also does a wonderful job of highlighting attitudes toward women's roles, and how Carson was able to break free of these expectations to become one of the most influential voices in environmentalism.
What better way to get kids to take care of the environment than to get them to love being outdoors? I Love Dirt!: 52 Activities to Help You and Your Kids Discover the Wonders of Nature by Jennifer Ward is a wonderful guide to helping kids learn to get involved with the world around them. Many of the activities may seem a little obvious to parents of scientifically minded kids (or kids who already really love the outdoors), but it is wonderfully resourceful for parents of those kids reluctant to get their feet wet, get their hands in the dirt, or to leave their tv behind.
I don't think I have ever encountered a book put out by National Geographic that I didn't love. That said, Human Footprint: Everything You Will Eat, Use, Wear, Buy, and Throw Out in Your Lifetime by Ellen Kirk is exceptional among Nat Geo books. Even though it is geared for kids, I found myself reading it front to back multiple times with great interest before passing it on to my son. Some of the statistics are truly staggering--it is a compelling argument for the need to reduce, reuse, recycle.
And, on that note, I leave you with one of the best environmentalist songs ever written: