Parents, caregivers and babysitters hear “I’m bored” every summer, so we’ve compiled a list of books that will engage readers ages 3 -18 (adults like them, too) and take the edge off summer tedium.
Some books are guides on how to get outside and explore nature, others tell compelling stories of the heroic efforts young protagonists take to protect the earth. All of them offer a glimpse of the beauty and wonders of nature and are guaranteed to pique interest!
Head to the library or bookstore (or download online), find a comfy spot (preferably outside in a hammock, under a tree, or near a stream or ocean), and let one of these Green Earth Book Award-winning books inspire your imagination!
For Younger Readers:
Follow the Moon Home, Philippe Cousteau & Deborah Hopkinson, illustrated by Meilo So
Acclaimed activist Philippe Cousteau and renowned author Deborah Hopkinson team up to offer a story of the powerful difference young people can make in the world. Meet Viv, who has a new home and a new school by the sea, and follow her as she finds her way in a new place and helps bring together a whole community to save the sea turtles of the South Carolina coast. Ages 4-8 (fiction). See the video trailer.
|The Earth Book, Todd Parr
With his signature blend of playfulness and sensitiviy, Todd Parr explores the important, timely subject of environmental protection and conservation in this eco-friendly picture book. Featuing a circular die-cut Earth on the cover, and printed entirely with recycled materials and nontoxic soy inks, this book includes lots of easy, smart ideas on how we can all work together to make the Earth feel good – from planting a tree and using both sides of the paper, to saving energy and reusing old things in new ways. Ages 3-6 (nonfiction). Watch Todd read his book here.
|10 Things You Can Do to Help the Earth, Melanie Walsh
Do you remember to turn off the tap while you brush your teeth? How about using both sides of the paper when writing and drawing? Or planting seeds and nurturing the new plants as they grow? Bold, child-friendly illustrations and die-cut pages will draw even the youngest listeners to this gentle reminder of the easy, everyday ways we can be kinder to the earth. Ages 3-6 (nonfiction). Click here for an activity sheet to go with the book.
|Garbage Helps our Garden Grow: A Compost Story, Linda Glaser and Shelley Rotner
What is that garbage doing next to the garden? It’s not garbage. It’s compost! Amazing things happen inside a compost bin. In go banana peels, grass clippings, and even an old jack-o’-lantern. Out comes compost. The compost goes into the garden to make the soil rich for new plants. Compost is good for the earth. Composting also helps us make less garbage. In this book, you can watch as one family makes compost for their garden and also learn how to start your very own compost bin! Ages 5-8 (nonfiction). Preview the book here.
|Uno’s Garden, Graeme Base
Interwoven with hidden images and mathematical problems (and solutions!), this book that can be read over and over, and at different levels for different ages. When Uno arrives in the forest one beautiful day, there are many fascinating and extraordinary animals there to greet him—and one entirely unexceptional Snortlepig. Uno loves the forest so much, he decides to live there. But, in time, a little village grows up around his house. Then a town, then a city . . . and soon Uno realizes that the animals and plants have begun to disappear. Ages 1-8 (fiction).
For Middle Years:
|Saving Wonder, Mary Knight
Having lost most of his family to coal mining accidents as a little boy, Curley Hines lives with his grandfather in the Appalachian Mountains of Wonder Gap, Kentucky. Ever since Curley can remember, Papaw has been giving him a word each week to learn and live. Papaw says words are Curley’s way out of the holler, even though Curley has no intention of ever leaving. When a new coal boss takes over the local mining company, life as Curley knows it is turned upside down. Does he use his words to speak out against Big Coal and save his mountain, or does he remain silent and save his way of life? A rich, lyrical, and utterly transporting tale about friendship, the power of words, and the difficult hurdles we must overcome for the people and places we love. Ages 8-12 (fiction).
|The Kid’s Guide to Exploring Nature, edited by Sarah Schmidt, illustrated by Laszlo Veres
This gorgeously illustrated guide will inspire kids to look closely at the world around them! Created by the experts at the renowned Brooklyn Botanic Garden, it teaches children how to observe environments as a naturalist does and leads them on 24 adventures that reveal the complex ecosystems of plants and animals in the woods, at the beach, and in a city park. Detailed, scientifically based drawings help young scientists identify hundreds of North American plants and animals, while dozens of fun projects include keeping a journal, conducting field experiments, and exploring nature while using all five senses. Ages 8-12 (nonfiction).
|Science Comics: Coral Reefs, Cities of the Ocean, Maris Wicks
This gorgeously illustrated graphic novels offer wildly entertaining views coral reefs. Whether you’re a fourth grader doing a natural science unit at school or a thirty-year-old with a secret passion for airplanes, these books are for you! Learn all about these tiny, adorable sea animals! This absorbing look at ocean science covers the biology of coral reefs as well as their ecological importance. Nonfiction comics genius Maris Wicks brings to bear her signature combination of hardcore cuteness and in-depth science. Ages 9-13 (nonfiction).
|Pocket Change, Pitching in for a Better World, Michelle Mulder
Until a few hundred years ago, people were embarrassed to buy bread in a store. Families took pride in making almost everything they owned. These days, many people take pride in buying as much as possible! But we use resources equivalent to nearly one and a half Earths, and we’re still not meeting everyone’s needs. Around the world, people are questioning consumerism, leaning toward more sustainable lifestyles and creating a new concept of wealth. What if you could meet all your needs while getting to know your neighbors and protecting the environment at the same time? Find out how growing a tiny cabbage can fight poverty, how a few dollars can help ten families start their own businesses and how running errands for a neighbor can help you learn to become a bike mechanic—for free! Ages 8-12 (nonfiction).
|The True Blue Scouts of Sugar Man Swamp, Kathi Appelt
Raccoon brothers Bingo and J’miah are the newest recruits of the Official Sugar Man Swamp Scouts. They serve Sugar Man—the massive creature who delights in delicious sugar cane and magnanimously rules over the swamp—an honor, and also a big responsibility. Twelve-year-old Chap Brayburn loves the swamp something fierce, and he’ll do anything to help protect it. And help is needed, because world-class alligator wrestler Jaeger Stitch wants to turn Sugar Man swamp into an Wrestling Arena and Theme Park, and the troubles don’t end there. There is also a gang of wild feral hogs on the march, headed straight toward them all. This s story of care and conservation was selected as a National Book Award finalist, and is funny as all get out and ripe for reading aloud. Ages 8-12 (fiction).
|Dig Too Deep, Amy Allgeyer
With her mother facing prison time for a violent political protest, seventeen-year-old Liberty Briscoe has no choice but to leave her Washington, DC, apartment and take a bus to Ebbottsville, Kentucky, to live with her granny. Half the county is out of work, an awful lot of people in town seem to be sick, and the tap water is bright orange—though officials claim it is safe. And when Granny’s lingering cold turns out to be something worse, Liberty wonders if somebody at the mine is hiding the truth about the water. As she investigates, she is soon plunged into a world of secrets, lies, threats, and danger. Ages 13 and up (fiction).
|The Story of Seeds, Nancy Caltado
Something as small as a seed can have a worldwide impact. Did you know there are top-secret seed vaults hidden throughout the world? And once a seed disappears, that it is gone forever? With the growth of genetically modified foods, the use of many seeds is dwindling—of 80,000 edible plants, only about 150 are being cultivated. An empowering book calls young adult readers to action with suggestions how to preserve the variety of our most valuable food sources through simple everyday actions. Readers will enjoy the depth and fascinatingly intricate social economy of seeds. Ages 12-17 (nonfiction).
|Inside an Osprey’s Nest, Teena Ruark Gorrow and Craig A. Koppie
Take a photographic journey through nesting season with a newly mated osprey pair. In this raptor adventure, the ospreys prepare a nest and mate, but their eggs do not hatch. Through a twist of events, the unviable eggs are swapped by biologists with hatchlings from an ill-fated nest. Witness the heartwarming account as the adults become foster parents and care for the young. Watch as the helpless chicks grow into fledglings and experience first flight. Resources include the osprey’s current plight, tips for helping injured ospreys, and a glossary of terms. Teena and Craig also won a Green Earth Book Award for Inside a Bald Eagles Nest: A Photographic Journey. Ages 13 and up (nonfiction).
|Rescued, Eliot Schrefer
Raja has been raised in captivity. Not behind the bars of a zoo, but within the confines of an American home. He was stolen when he was young to be someone’s pet. Now he’s grown up . . . and is about to be sent away again, to a place from which there will be no return. To John, the orangutan was his friend, his brother — never his pet. But when his parents split up and move across the country, he must save Raja and confront his fractured family and the captivity he’s imposed on himself all of these years. Eliot Schrefer’s novel, Endangered was also a Green Earth Book Award winner. Ages 12-17 (fiction).
|The Beast of Cretacea, Todd Strasser
When seventeen-year-old Ishmael wakes up from stasis aboard the Pequod, he is amazed by how different this planet is from the dirty, dying, Shroud-covered Earth he left behind. But Ishmael isn’t on Cretacea to marvel at the fresh air, sunshine, and endless blue ocean. He’s here to hunt down ocean-dwelling beasts and send back to the resource-depleted Earth. Even though easy prey abounds, crews are ordered to ignore it in order to pursue the elusive Great Terrafin. It’s rumored that the ship’s captain, Ahab, lost his leg to the beast years ago, and that he’s consumed by revenge. Dark secrets and dangerous exploits swirl around the pursuit of the beast, and Ishmael must do his best to survive—if he can. Ages 12 and up (fiction).