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July 23, 2014

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Great Books for Earth Day

Celebrate Earth Day with a selection of titles that feature handsome artwork, well-written texts, and kid-grabbing subjects. Including both fiction and nonfiction, these outstanding offerings highlight environmental issues, convey an appreciation of the astounding diversity of life found on Earth, introduce conservationists and their important work, and demonstrate that children can take an active role in caring for our planet.

CitizenSci Great Books for Earth DayCitizen Scientists: Be a Part of Scientific Discovery from Your Own Backyard. By Loree Griffin Burns. photos. by Ellen Harasimowicz. Holt. Trade $19.99. ISBN 978-0-8050-9062-8; pap. $12.99. ISBN 978-0-8050-9517-3.

Gr 3-6–Explaining that anyone–even kids–can contribute to nature studies, Burns encourages youngsters to get outdoors and explore. Chapters describe real scientific experiments that invite involvement: monarch-tagging in fall, counting bird species in winter, frog-watching in spring, and ladybug-spotting in summertime. The enthusiastic text offers interesting background, provides how-to instructions for participants, and explains how their efforts fit into broader research projects that reveal much about our world. Crystal-clear photos show young scientist hard–and happily–at work. Resource lists and Internet sites for organizations that sponsor projects are appended. An engaging, informative, and action-inspiring book for children, parents, and educators.

The Eagles Great Books for Earth DayEagles Are Back. By Jean Craighead George. illus. by Wendell Minor. Dial. 2013. Trade $16.99. ISBN 978-0-8037-3771-6.

Gr 2-5–Set years ago when bald eagles teetered on the brink of extinction, their eggs made fragile by DDT in the food chain, this tale focuses on the efforts of a boy determined to bring about a better future. Working with a ranger, the youngster diligently watches over an egg transported from Alaska with hopes that a local eagle couple will adopt it and raise it as their own. His careful stewardship pays off, and before long an eaglet is soaring with her parents through blue skies. Stunning paintings and a lively narrative blend information with inspiration, demonstrating that youngsters can make important contributions to caring for the natural world.

Frog Great Books for Earth DayFrog Song. By Brenda Z. Guiberson. illus. by Gennady Spirin. Holt. 2013. Trade $17.99. ISBN 978-0-8050-9254-7.

K-Gr 4–“A frog song is a celebration of clean water, plants, and insects to eat.” From the trilling strawberry poison dart frog of the Costa Rican rain forest to the Australian desert-dwelling water-holding frog, lusciously illustrated spreads depict 11 amazingly diverse species from across the globe. Each larger-than-life amphibian is shown in its natural habitat, and the lyrical, onomatopoetic text re-creates the frog’s distinctive song, describes how its young are nurtured and raised and touches upon the importance of water in its lifecycle. Additional facts are provided at book’s end, along with an author’s note pointing out environmental issues that place frogs in danger.

LifeOcean Great Books for Earth DayLife in the Ocean: The Story of Oceanographer Sylvia Earle. By Claire A. Nivola. illus. by author. Farrar/Frances Foster Bks. 2012. Trade $17.99. ISBN 978-0-374-38068-7.

Gr 1-5–Referring to the ocean as “the blue heart of the planet,” this intrepid scientist has descended 3000 feet in a one-person-spherical bubble, plunged to seafloor in an aqua suit, frolicked with whales, spent two weeks in a deep-sea station, and more, in her insatiable quest for knowledge about the sea and its inhabitants. Sprinkled with primary quotes, the expressive text and delicately detailed marine-hued illustrations introduce the life and work of a dedicated environmentalist while engendering in readers an appreciation for the mysteries and wonders of the underwater world she has spent her life studying.

Leopard Great Books for Earth DayLeopard & Silkie: One Boy’s Quest to Save the Seal Pups. By Brenda Peterson. photos. by Robin Lindsey. Holt. 2012. Trade $16.99. ISBN 978-0-8050-9167-0.

K-Gr 3–Simple text and crisp full-color photos depict the adventures of Leopard, a fuzzy spotted seal pup born on a Pacific Northwest shore, and Miles, the young volunteer who has been trained by the organization Seal Sitters to patrol the beach and protect the mammals from over-enthusiastic human observers and other dangers (an older pup named Silkie eventually joins Leopard). Information about these animals and conservation efforts are deftly woven into the narrative, which places Miles front and center as a take-action role model for young environmentalists.

Mossy Great Books for Earth DayMossy. By Jan Brett. illus. by author. Putnam. 2012. Trade $17.99. ISBN 978-0-399-25782-7.

PreS-Gr 3–In this picture book, the carapace of an eastern box turtle becomes host to a flourishing garden of moss, ferns, and wildflowers. Just as Mossy catches the eye of a handsome male, she is plucked up by Dr. Carolina and placed in a viewing pavilion in her museum. It takes the naturalist’s young niece Tory to realize that the turtle is sad, and the two find a clever way to return Mossy home to Lilypad Pond while still satisfying museum visitors. Lushly colored and meticulously detailed, Brett’s exquisite artwork provides an Edwardian-era backdrop for the action and reveals the full-bloom glories of the outdoor setting. Elegant borders highlight plot elements and abound with precise field-guide-style renderings of flora, fauna, and more.

FirstDay Great Books for Earth DayMy First Day. By Steve Jenkins & Robin Page. illus. by Steve Jenkins. Houghton Harcourt. 2013. Trade $16.99. ISBN 978-0-547-73851-2.

PreS-Gr 2–This enchanting volume provides a look at the actions and behaviors of 22 animal newborns. Each simple vignette is told in the featured creature’s first-person voice and paired with a stunning cut-paper collage portrait of the infant, often posed with parent. A sea otter dozes contentedly on its floating mother’s belly; a carefully camouflaged tapir hides in the underbrush while its mother forages; a Darwin’s frog hops out of its father’s mouth, having been kept safe in as a tadpole in a special throat pouch; a just-hatched leatherback turtle goes it alone and makes a beeline for the ocean. Fascinating tidbits and eye-catching images point out the amazing diversity of animal life and help youngsters forge a connection to all living things.

Naturespatch Great Books for Earth DayNature’s Patchwork Quilt: Understanding Habitats. By Mary Miché. illus. by Consie Powell. Dawn. 2012. Trade $16.95. ISBN 978-1-58469-169-3.

Gr 2-4–Comparing the interdependence of Earth’s plants and animals to a stitched-together quilt, this lovely picture book briefly introduces a variety of biomes along with related concepts and terminology (“niche,” “food web,” “biodiversity,” etc.). The artwork neatly reflects the book’s approach, as colorful scenes of forest, desert, ocean, and other habitats are surrounded by smaller patterned shapes showing close-up details of each environment’s plants and animals (along with a fun-to-find young nature explorer). Two pages of activities and teaching tips are appended. An accessible and discussable first look at ecology.

rachel Great Books for Earth DayRachel Carson and Her Book That Changed the World. By Laurie Lawlor. illus. by Laura Beingessner. Holiday House. 2012. Trade $16.95. ISBN 978-0-8234-2370-5.

Gr 2-4–Charmingly illustrated and vibrantly written, this picture-book biography offers a concise look at a groundbreaking environmentalist whose work spurred a movement. Beginning with Carson’s childhood passion for rambling outdoors, the narrative touches upon personal and professional challenges alike, including an adventure-packed but obstacle-filled career during a time when there were few female biologists, her struggles to support her family, the fortitude needed to face off against the powerful chemical industry, and the 1962 publication of her eye-opening Silent Spring.

savinglives Great Books for Earth DaySaving Lives & Changing Hearts: Animal Sanctuaries and Rescue Centres. By Rob Laidlaw. Fitzhenry & Whiteside. 2013. Trade $19.95. ISBN 978-1-55455-212-2.

Gr 4-8–Illustrated throughout with full-color photos, this book profiles facilities around the world dedicated to rescuing and caring for animals in need. Included are a donkey sanctuary in Canada, a reserve for elephants in California, a bear rescue center in China, an avian adoption organization in Minnesota, the Tchimpounga Chimpanzee Rehabilitation Center in the Congo, and much, much more. Filled with instances of heartbreak and hope, Laidlaw’s text clearly defines the important role of these safe havens, introduces the caring individuals who work to protect wildlife, and underscores the responsibilities of humans to ensure that all creatures are treated with kindness and respect.

Looking for more Earth Day selections perfect for classroom use or independent readers? Check out “Backyard Science: Books for Young Explorers.”

This article was featured in School Library Journal's Extra Helping enewsletter. Subscribe today to have more articles like this delivered to your inbox for free.

Joy Fleishhacker About Joy Fleishhacker

Joy Fleishhacker is a librarian, former SLJ staffer, and freelance editor and writer who lives in southern Colorado. She spends most of her free time meeting the needs of the three voracious readers in her household.

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