There is no time like right now, or perhaps even yesterday, to teach your kids that nature is cool, important and worth protecting. That doesn’t mean terrifying them with the reasons why it needs protecting—best keep that to yourself for a few more years—but rather, simply, encouraging the enthusiasm we all have for the world around us, its glittering waterways, and its interconnected tapestry of critters. Here are five books that will do just that.
Over and Under the Pond
A slim and soft-colored book by Kate Messner and illustrator Christopher Silas Neal, Over and Under the Pond provides a simple introduction to the beautiful complexity of our natural world. As a mother and her young son paddle over a pond, they gaze at the intricate web of life within it. Passing over crayfish and minnows, lily pads and bullfrogs, the pair marvels at the role every organism plays—from the sun in the sky to the fungus at the pond’s floor.
Creekfinding: A True Story
Bored of ponds? Then upgrade to the pond’s big brother, the creek. This true story follows Michael Osterholm, a public health scientist who bought a plot of Iowa farmland and restored it to the wilderness it used to be. Illustrator Claudia McGehee gives vivid life to the ecosystem that bursts out from all those fields of corn: tall dense reeds, leaping brook trout, slow stalking herons, all rendered in beautifully stylized watercolor, dyes and scratchboard. Creekfinding’s is a simple message but a crucial one. It’s not too late to save the planet.
Touch the Earth
“Our planet needs your help,” begins Julian Lennon’s debut children’s book, which invites readers to point it alternatingly high and low, as though soaring high into the sky or diving down for a closer look at the earth. Many pages include a button—well, a picture of a button, but play along—to help children feel like they’re doing their part to rescue the planet, whether by irrigating the desert or giving clean water to those who need it. But this isn’t just a game of pretend: a portion of all proceeds from Touch the Earth will go to Lennon’s White Feather Foundation, which is devoted to conservation and humanitarian concerns.
Budding birdwatchers will love the story of Warble, a canary-yellow warbler who lives on the remote island of Icy Land and has a singular passion: human-watching. In this series of stark, digitally manipulated watercolors, Warble observes a mysterious fog roll through Icy Land that nobody else seems to notice—except for his new friend, the Red-Hooded Spectacled Female (Juvenile). Together this bird-human duo investigates the source of the mysterious fog, eventually arriving at an important lesson about environmental awareness.
I Am Jane Goodall (Ordinary People Change the World)
The latest entry in the Ordinary People Change the World series is also the first about a world-changer who’s still, you know, changing the world. Environmentalist Jane Goodall joins the likes of Amelia Earhart, Helen Keller and Abraham Lincoln in this simple, educational biography that highlights the values she holds dear: humility, trust, and respect for the natural world. Like every other book in the series, I Am Jane Goodall depict its subject as a child, ultimately sending the message that truly anyone can make the world a better place.