New Earth Day Books for Kids 3-12 (Part One)

We should celebrate our planet not just on April 22nd, but every day, and continue to think about ways to conserve energy, reuse household objects, recycle, cut back on carbon emissions, appreciate and protect our land and the animals that populate it, and more. The opportunities to improve our world are endless and the earlier kids start reading about such topics, the better.

Here are just a few highlights, broken down by theme:

Land & Sea:

About Habitats: Deserts written by Cathryn Sill, illustrated by John Sill. Great for reading aloud, this simple but informative book introduces littler kids to arid landscapes for the first time. The first title in the “About Habitats” series, Deserts is now available in paperback and as an updated hardcover edition. From the Sonoran Desert in Arizona, California, and Mexico, to the Sahara Desert in Africa, former elementary school teacher Cathryn Sill describes the weather conditions, vegetation, types of animals and their adaptive practices, typical to each location. Factual, to be sure, but it’s the text’s coupling with prize-winning wildlife artist John Sill’s warm, dusty illustrations that really drives the feel of the desert home. There’s also a timely message: “It is important to protect deserts and the animals and plants that live there.” Back matter includes an Afterword that explains each spread, a Glossary, and a list of resources for further study. Ages 3+

About Habitats: Oceans was also published (but in hardcover) in February. Other books in the About Habitat series include Wetlands, Mountains, and Grasslands.

Ocean and Sea (Scholastic Discover More Series) by Steve Parker. Reference materials like this one make me incredibly excited. So much tangible information. So many fascinating photographs. But get this. Scholastic has topped itself with its new series of “Discover More” titles by offering not just one book in each purchase, but two. You buy the print book; you get the digital one (with lots of extra content) FREE. Amazing!  What’s more, the series is leveled, which means educators can easily find which books are best for which grades by searching for the appropriate reading level. I have listed the books that have already been published this year below.

Ocean and Sea is the perfect introduction to the series for middle-grade readers because of its vibrant and fun-to-read all-in-one package. It introduces ocean water, geology, geography, and weather concepts, then moves on to cataloging a mesmerizing array of animal and plant life dependent on the ocean, from phytoplankton and seaweed to seabirds and humpback whales. The human impact on the ocean is explored, as well as famous shipwrecks, mysterious oceanic legends, and pirates. There are timelines. There are statistics. There are fact boxes, a glossary, and an index. If that doesn’t make you feel as though you’ve got an encyclopedia at your fingertips, you can still download your very own companion digital book, Shark Spotter, offering even more information, photos, and videos (yes, free!). Ages 9+

For more information on this series or to find out about the companion books, visit Scholastic’s website.

Animals:

Waiting for Ice written by Sandra Markle (Family Pack; A Mother’s Journey; Hip-Pocket Papa), illustrated by Alan Marks (Finding Home; Little Lost Bat; Storm). Based on the true story of Tuff, an orphaned polar bear cub found by a researcher on Wrangel Island, an island north of Russia in the Arctic Ocean, this emotive picture book describes the very real problem facing polar bears today: shrinking ice caps and warmer temperatures. Carnegie Medal-winning Marks’s chilly, atmospheric pencil and watercolor drawings personify the area’s harsh conditions, showing a pack of starving polar bears stranded on an island. The animals are waiting for colder temperatures to form an ice flow, providing crucial access to their food supply. As time passes, competition for prey becomes fierce and dying from hunger looms large, especially for Tuff. Thankfully, a herd of sea lions arrive as well as a blizzard and Tuff and his crew are safe, at least for another year. While the ending is a positive one, the threat of climate change remains strong. Back matter includes an Author’s note, a list of polar bear facts, and helpful description of global warming parents and teachers can use as a jumping-off point for further discussion. Ages 4+


Oscar and Freddie (Chimpanzee Series)
 adapted by Kristen L. Depken, photographs by Martyn Colbeck, Mark Linfield, Kristin Mosher, and Bill Wallauer. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: I can’t get enough of monkeys, apes, and primate tree-swingers of any sort. So, it goes without saying that I had to include a book about chimpanzees in the Earth Day round-up. This one is based on the Disney feature film releasing in theatres nationwide on April 20th. It features Oscar, the orphaned chimp that was adopted by Freddy, an alpha male, after Oscar’s mother was presumably killed in a battle against a rival group of monkeys inside Tai National Park in West Africa’s Ivory Coast. Aside from all the ridiculously adorable photographs (I know. I’m anthropomorphizing them. I can’t help it!), the simple story teaches kids the steps chimps take to survive and preps them for a movie that is bound to be educational eye candy. Ages 5+

Adults: Are you envious of the tiny movie-companion book for tots? You’re in luck because there’s an amazing one for adults too. The Making of the Film (Chimpanzee Series) by Christophe Boesch (a scientist from the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology who studied the chimps for over 30 years) and Sanjida O’Connell, with a Foreword by Jane Goodall, delves into all the nooks and crannies of the movie, including how and why the film was made. It’s a thoroughly absorbing experience reading this book  . . . and the photographs? Priceless. I only wish it came with a monkey soundtrack.

A Warmer World written by Caroline Arnold, illustrated by Jamie Hogan. The world is slowly getting warmer. Glaciers are melting. Patterns of rainfall and drought have shifted. Sea levels have risen. Temperatures dip and skyrocket at previously unheard of times. Because of these changes, animals have had to adapt or die out. Within a collage-like layout overlaying Hogan’s ruminative painting-like illustrations, Arnold (A Polar Bear’s WorldWhen Mammoths Walked the Earth) explains the different forms these adaptations take, such as the Checkerspot Butterfly’s migration north from Mexico and California (where it has become too warm for the plants they feed on to grow) to British Columbia, Canada, or other higher elevations (where the temperatures have warmed up enough to allow vegetation to flourish). The book’s message doesn’t set out to alarm kids, but it does drive home the point that change needs to happen soon in order to prevent more and more species from disappearing. Back matter includes a Glossary and a list of websites and books for further information. Ages 7-10
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