Top Books for Budding Environmentalists

A picture of the earth from space, showing the Americas, with South American being prominent. Text overlay reads "we only get one".

Hey everyone!

So, in light of the fundraiser I’m holding for Standing Rock and against the Dakota Access Pipeline, I thought I’d do a post about books for young environmentalists.

I was raised in BC, on the West Coast, and my mother is very environment-conscious and has been most of her life. It never occurred to me that others might not recycle, or see the earth as something beautiful, valuable, and worth saving. When I got older and encountered mindsets that were anti-earth, it was quite the culture shock, to put it mildly.

I realized that it was no accident I grew up an environmentalist — it was due to the work of my mom, and the type of region I lived in. (BC is pretty hippy, and there are a lot of environmentally-minded folks here. In fact, it used to be illegal to recycle in Powell River several decades ago — but a group of residents still did it, breaking the law because they knew it was the right thing to do for the earth.)

So if I want to raise my own future kids to be environmentalists, or instill those same values in the children who are in my life, then I need to work at it. Books are a great start.

A picture of the earth from space, showing the Americas, with South American being prominent. Text overlay reads "we only get one".

The Barefoot Book of Earth Tales

This anthology is a collection of stories all about the earth! Each story comes from a different part of the world and is based in mythology or folktales. Before each tale is a bit of information about the place on earth it comes from, and after each tale is a related activity for children to do. Activities are varied and include growing tomatoes or making a water garden.

The stories encourage children to see the earth as varied, beautiful, and valuable, and teach them about the mindsets and viewpoints of other cultures as well.

Chandra’s Magic Light

Chandra’s Magic Light is a beautifully-illustrated tale about a girl’s quest to help her brother with his cough. Her entire family lives in a small house in Nepal and their only source of light is a kerosene lamp. The kerosene lamp is very smoky and causes Chandra’s baby brother to cough horribly. When Chandra sees a solar-powered lamp for sale in the village, she and her sister come up with a plan to earn enough money to put a deposit down on one so their brother won’t cough anymore.

The end of the book is full of information about Nepal and instructions on how to make a solar-powered pizza box oven. The story is not only about helpfulness and family, but it also contains a strong solar-power positive message as well as a theme of mythology within it. Gorgeous, and one of my personal favourites.

Grandpa’s Garden, Millie’s Chickens, and The Beeman

grandpas-gardenThese three books are all about producing one’s own food and living sustainably. Grandpa’s Garden takes you through a year in a garden, with information at the end about how to garden well. Millie’s Chickens is about raising chickens and is full of information on chicken-keeping as well as eggs. The Beeman is about keeping bees, and how important bees are to humans.

Sustainable living is a huge part of being environmentally-conscious, and these three books are great on that subject. (Plus, The Beeman comes with a recipe.)

Out of the Blue

Out of the Blue is a book without words! The entire story is told in pictures; in it, a storm causes a giant octopus to wash up on shore, and the community must come together to help it back into the water.

This is a wonderful book for encouraging children in empathy for animals — especially ones that are not usually seen as “cute”.

The Peek-a-Boo Set: Who’s in the Garden?, Who’s in the Forest?, and Who’s in the Farmyard?

This set of three board books teaches children all about the different animals that live in the farmyard, garden, and the forest. With colorful, friendly illustrations and rhyming verse, these books foster empathy for the world’s different creatures and their environments. Kids who grow up learning about nature’s beauty and her creatures will want to work hard to protect them.

Winter Shadow

wintershadowThis is from Barefoot’s collection of Independent Reading books and is intended for confident readers. In this story, a young girl named Maria rescues an abandoned wolf cub and names him Shadow. They soon become inseparable and remain friends and companions until Shadow is grown. When Shadow disappears, Maria is very upset — but she finds him, and discovers he has met another wolf and created a family, a pack. She feels better, knowing that even though she’ll never get to be with her friend again, he is happy and has found where he belongs.

This story is all about respecting wild animals, and it helps foster empathy for wolves, who are victims of horrible propaganda in our society. Wolves are powerful creatures, but they are also gentle and loving, and not vicious or mean. They need to be respected, but the fear we have for them is irrational, and disproportionate. To learn more about wolves and how they can be helped, visit the Wolf Conservation Center website.

Kids’ Garden

Ok, technically not a *book*, but still great! Kids’ Garden is a set of cards with different activities on them relating to gardening and being outdoors! There are five different categories: Exploring the Garden, Planting and Growing, Fun with Plants, Discovering Creatures, and Creating Garden Art. Gets children interested in gardening and all the amazing things that nature has to offer, even in one’s own backyard!

Uncle Kawaiola’s Dream

Ok, so this book and the next one aren’t actually Barefoot books, but I needed to include them anyway!

Uncle Kawaiola’s Dream is a book from Hawai’i, where I lived for 10 years. In Hawai’i there has been a struggle for a long time for indigenous Hawai’i’ans to reclaim their sovereignty and ‘aina (land). There are many people in Hawai’i who are committed to restoring lo’i kalo. Lo’i means “irrigated terrace or pond” and it is used to grow kalo, a root crop that is a Hawai’i’an staple (you might know it as poi or taro).

This book is about a man whose dream is to restore lo’i kalo and kalo cultivation, to restore life to the ‘aina and reclaim the sovereignty of the earth in Hawai’i. The story also shows how important storytelling and oral tradition is to Hawai’i’an culture, as in the story Uncle Kawaiola is telling his dream to his niece and nephew.

The book comes with a study guide and glossary at the back to explain Hawai’i’an terms and concepts so you can also use it as a chance to learn more about an indigenous culture that is not very well known on the Mainland (what we in Hawai’i call the continental US and Canada).

The Waterfall’s Gift

This is a Sierra Club book, and the illustrations are just gorgeous. The story is of a girl’s first day of summer vacation at her grandfather’s old cabin, and her romping through the woods and exploring nature. It definitely instills wonder at the beauty of nature, and the variety within it. It also speaks to me as a BCer, because many of the things the girl in the book does — runs through the woods, sees animals, goes to a waterfall and river and skips stones, eats berries right off the bush in the foreset — I grew up doing, and still do as often as possible.

I happened upon this book in a thrift store and it was an incredible find. You can find it on Amazon.


Ok, that’s my list! I have to stop here or I’ll be adding books for weeks!

What are your favourite books that inspire a love of the earth? What inspired you to be an environmentalist?


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