12 Great (Mostly) New Picture Books for Earth Day

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Jen Sherman

Staff Writer

Jen is an urban and cultural geographer who did a PhD on public libraries and reading. As a researcher, her interests are focused on libraries, reading, book retailing and the book industry more broadly. As a reader, she reads a lot of crime fiction, non-fiction, and chicklit. And board books. All the board books. You can also find her writing about books for children and babies at Instagram: shittyhousewife / babylibrarians Twitter: @jennnigan

We’ve written before about children’s books about nature and the environment, but since this year marks the 50th anniversary of Earth Day, I wanted to highlight a few more recently released and upcoming books that can help children understand the importance of nature and the Earth and how they too can make the world a little greener and a little better.

My Friend Earth
 by Patricia MacLachlan, illustrated by Francesca Sanna

This is quite possibly THE most fitting picture book for a celebration of Earth Day. This book features gorgeous die-cut pages of ‘Earth’ (personified in the book as a little girl with long flowing hair and big eyes) and takes readers through the seasons and different natural landscapes over the Earth. The book is a wonderful celebration of what the Earth provides and does for us, but be warned — this should only be handled by children who have learnt to use their ‘gentle hands’ (well, at least I think it’s too gorgeous to be ripped and torn).

The Keeper of Wild Words
 by Brooke Smith, illustrated by Madeline Kloepper

My favourite book on this list is this charming picture book as much about words as it is about nature. Mimi discovers that some of her favourite words are disappearing from the English language, she chooses her granddaughter Brook to be their Keeper. And the only way to save words from extinction are to know them and use them. The words are all related to the natural world, words like acorn, dandelion, minnow, starling, and willow. Mimi and Brook go in an adventure that immerses them in these words and things, and their quest highlights the message that to save the words, we also need to save what they stand for. I love the illustrations, the text, and the message of this book, and it’s one of my favourites of the year so far.

You Are Home: An Ode to the National Parks
 by Evan Turk

This is a beautiful picture book celebrating America’s national parks and the creatures that can be found within them. Each spread is dedicated to a national park (23 out of America’s 60 national parks are in this book), and lovely lyrical text highlights the various creatures and plants that are in each one. The artwork is vivid and beautiful and the message is simple and profound.

Who Will It Be? How Evolution Connects Us All by Paola Vitale and Rossana Bossu

This book is a great introduction to the concept of evolution. Bright and vivid illustrations alongside questions in the text guide the reader to think about what various cells will become — a fish? a bird? a human? The book wonderfully shows us how we’re all interconnected and explains Darwin’s theory in a clear and engaging way. The artwork is fantastic too, and not something commonly seen in picture books (using a liquid medium).

Hundred Feet Tall
 by Benjamin Scheuer and Jemima Williams

Originally written as a song, this book is about how even the littlest of us can make a difference, and that from small things big things grow (for those of you who are musically inclined, the music sheet thing-o is included in the back of the book — can you tell that I am not musically inclined at all?). The tells the charming story of a bunny who plants a seed — a seed that with a bit of love and light will one day stand a hundred feet tall. This is a great read-aloud book.

Stay, Little Seed By Cristiana Valentini, Illustrated by Philip Giordano

This is a sweet story about a tree and all her seeds that are blown away and fly off to Who Knows Where, but one time one seed wanted to stay. The book is about the rhythms of the natural world but it is also about growing up and letting go; a lovely tale of seasons and growth and change.

Under My Tree by Muriel Tallandier, illustrated by Mizuho Fujisawa

This is kind of a combination fiction/nonfiction picture book about a child and her favourite tree. The main story is about Susanne, a little girl who leaves the city to visit her grandmother, who finds a special tree in the forest. Susanne tells the reader about her different visits to the tree and the things she discovers each time. Throughout the book there are also activities for the young reader to do (like run your fingers over the trunk of a tree and see how it feels) and interesting facts about trees (like the fact that trees ‘hibernate’ in the winter, just like some animals).

Peter and the Tree Children by Peter Wohlleben, illustrated by Cale Atkinson

Peter the Forester befriends a lonely squirrel, and together they go on an adventure in the forest looking for tree families and tree children. There are facts about trees and forests and ecosystems woven into the story. A beautiful picture book about trees, nature, forests, but also about family and friendship.

Leafy Critters
 by Yvonne Lacet (5 May, 2020)

This is a fun photographic picture book that’s a little different from the others on the list. This one is an art and craft book and it shows all the things you can do with materials found in nature with a little creativity and imagination. You can turn flower petals into chickens, leaves into a turtle other leaves and stems into a flamingo, yet other petals into a polar bear…Twigs, berries, leaves, flower petals — the possibilities are endless and the photos in this book provide a good guide to start making your own artistic creations.

Birdsong by Julie Flett

I love this book. It’s a beautiful and simple book about nature and seasons and friendships across generations. A young girl moves to a small town and feels lonely and unhappy until she discovers that her elderly neighbour next door shares her love of art.

Ivy Bird by Tania McCartney, illustrated by Jess Racklyeft

A gorgeous book about Ivy, a little girl who spends her day with the birds. She tweets and chirps and takes flight and finds nectar and pecks and paddles and swims. I love this book because it is not only a lovely celebration of birds and the natural world but it is also a fantastic depiction of pretend play. The watercolour illustrations are beautiful, too.

The Last Dance by Sally Morgan

This one is strictly not a new release (okay, it’s not a new release at all), but I wanted to include it because I think it’s an important book. Everyone needs a home, but a lot of Australian animals are losing theirs. This is a book about the Australian landscape, conservation and extinction, danger and hope. I love the art and colours in this.

There are about a million more books out there for children about nature, the earth, and the environment; this is by no means an exhaustive list. But as we celebrate the 50th anniversary of Earth Day, the books here are some new and fresh voices that can help spark conversation and inspire a new generation of environmental stewards.