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The 5 best new children’s books about the environment


Every time my four-year-old daughter, Josephine, and I visit a library, she passes the children’s non-fiction section – filled with information about animals, ecosystems and environmental issues – and heads for the children’s books. stories. Like most humans, her brain is wired to learn through stories, and her favorites involve talking animals, struggles between good and evil, and children like her going on adventures.

I love how these books spark his imagination. But as an environmental journalist, I also appreciate those who teach Josephine to be a good steward of the earth. Fortunately, a slew of new children’s fiction weaves suspenseful stories and beautiful illustrations to introduce children aged four to eight to heavy topics like climate change, pollution and deforestation. More importantly, these books also give children a sense of agency and hope, so they don’t feel helpless. Here are some of our favorites.

Wombat Underground: A Wildfire Survival Storywritten by Sarah L. Thomson, illustrated by Charles Santoso

(Photo: Courtesy of Little, Brown Books for Young Readers)

Living in the fire-prone American West, Josephine is already familiar with wildfires and wildfire smoke, and she becomes curious about how animals resist the threats that force humans out of our homes. Underground Wombat is set in Australia and shows how a variety of creatures survived the devastating 2019-20 wildfire season by seeking refuge in underground wombat caves. With a healthy dose of drama and danger, as well as explanations at the end of the book about Australian fires and wildlife, this story presents a concrete example of how communities, both wild and human, are more resilient. when they work together.

We are water protectorswritten by Carole Lindstrom, illustrated by Michaela Goade

Cover We Are Water Protectors
(Photo: Courtesy of Roaring Brook Press)

Author Carole Lindstrom, a member of the Turtle Mountain Band of Ojibwe, and illustrator Michaela Goade, a member of the Tlingit and Haida tribes, won the prestigious Caldecott Medal last year for We are water protectors. The book follows a young girl who learns a prophecy that a “black serpent” will one day threaten the water, animals and land of her people. When this snake arrives in the form of an oil pipeline, the young girl must join her community to fight for “those who cannot defend themselves: the winged, the crawlers, the quadrupeds, the bipeds, the plants, trees, rivers , lakes.

The story was inspired by the Standing Rock protests and other Indigenous-led acts of resistance, and its poetic language and brilliant illustrations make this book applicable to all communities advocating for the protection of their homes.

Better than New: A Recycling Storywritten by Robert Broder, illustrated by Lake Buckley

Cover of Better Than New: A Recycle Tale
(Photo: Courtesy of Patagonia)

better than new, published by Patagonia in Spanish and English, depicts two children from a small fishing village in Chile who rescue a sea lion entangled in an abandoned fishing net. The two children, Isidora and Julian, pull the net out of the sea and take it to a local recycling centre, where it is turned into new clothes for playing at the beach.

Recycling can be a difficult concept for small children to grasp, so I appreciate how this book clearly shows how harmful waste can be turned into something useful. It inspired a change in behavior in our family, from making sure to put cans in the recycling bin to turning food scraps into compost for our garden. While I applaud Patagonia’s mission to use its company to help the environment, this book — coinciding with the release of quick-drying baby and toddler shorts made from reclaimed fishing nets — feels also promotional.

The keeper of wild wordswritten by Brooke Smith, illustrated by Madeline Kloepper

The Guardian of the Wild Words cover
(Photo: Courtesy Chronicle Books)

This story tells the story of a grandmother and a granddaughter who search for words that are in danger of disappearing from the English language. (Wren, buttercup, minnow, and monarch were recently removed from the Oxford Junior Dictionary to make way for words like database and Voice Messaging.) The only way to keep wild words from getting lost is to use them, explains the grandmother, so she takes her granddaughter on a hunt through meadows, woods and fields to look for them.

I love that the story arc of The keeper of wild words is a journey, and that it so easily inspires children and caregivers to seek out and learn the language of nature on their own. After reading it, Josephine and I went around our neighborhood looking for sage and scrub jays, pinons and ponderosas. Saying the words out loud felt like a way of paying attention to the world around us – and paying attention, as we learned in the book, is the best way to make sure something doesn’t get lost.

The Zonia Rainforestwritten and illustrated by Juana Martinez-Neal

Zonia Rainforest Coverage
(Photo: Courtesy of Candlewick)

Zonia is an indigenous Asháninka girl living in the Peruvian Amazon, captivated by the creatures she shares her world with. One day, she encounters a clear-cut forest and realizes that the rainforest needs people like her to protect it. A sin We are water protectors, this book shows that the people who know a place most intimately are in the best position to defend it against ill-intentioned and ignorant outsiders – and have the self-determination to do so. With vibrant illustrations printed on locally made banana peel paper, along with additional information and an Asháninka language translation at the end, The Zonia Rainforest offers a window into a different way of life for curious children.

About Robert James

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