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Planet Power! 9 Books to Raise an Earth Lover

Photo by Cherish Bryck / Stocksy / 363332
Photo by Cherish Bryck / Stocksy

By Rachel Ward

A pile of leaves, a collection of beach pebbles, a ladybug perched on your fingertip—nature holds endless wonders for young children, who are just beginning to explore the world around them. Of course, heading into the great green yonder and letting your tyke get into the thick of it is a great way to spark conversations about the role humans play in caring for our planet, but even if you can’t make it out, we’ve got you covered when you stay in: Check out these 10 reads designed to inspire a love of nature in your child and teach her ways we can all take care of our one and only Earth.

A Leaf Can Be cover
"A Leaf Can Be…" by Laura Purdie Salas, illustrated by Violeta Dabija. Text Copyright © 2012 by Laura Purdie Salas. Illustrations Copyyright © 2012 by Violeta Dabija. Reprinted with the permission of Millbrook Press, a division of Lerner Publishing Group, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be used or reproduced in any manner whatsoever without prior written permission of Lerner Publishing Group, Inc.

1. A Leaf Can Be… by Laura Purdie Salas

Age group: Toddlers and up

Your little one will fall in love with leaves as he learns all about the many roles that leaves play throughout the four seasons. Soft, creative descriptors like “tree topper” and “air cleaner” make this book a perfect way to introduce the science of trees to toddlers, while the fact list and glossary at the end provide more learning opportunities for older readers.

We Are Extremely Very Good Recyclers cover
We Are Extremely Very Good Recyclers by Lauren Child. Used by permission of Penguin Random House. All rights reserved.

2. We Are Extremely Very Good Recyclers by Lauren Child

Age group: Toddlers and up

Lola finds out that if she can recycle 100 items, she’ll be given her own tree to plant—and she really wants a tree of her own. With time running out, Lola enlists the help of her classmates to meet her goal!

A Log's Life cover
Used by permission of Simon & Schuster, Inc.

3. A Log’s Life by Wendy Pfeffer

Age group: Preschool

It may not look like much, but there’s more to a log (and under, on, and around it) than meets the eye! This book explores how logs are created, introduces children to the animals that live in or around a log, and lays the foundation for talking about life cycles of plants and animals.

Water Is Water cover
Water Is Water by Miranda Paul, illustrated by Jason Chin. Used by permission of Roaring Brook Press, an imprint of Macmillan Publishers. All rights reserved.

4. Water Is Water by Miranda Paul

Age group: Toddlers and up

Does your tot love jumping in puddles—or swimming or sledding? Introduce her to the wonder of the water cycle and show her that rain, snow, steam, and bodies of water are all made up of the same substance. (Good old H two O!) The story follow a family’s activities throughout the year, while the text poetically describes the many forms that water takes.

Why Should I Save Energy cover
Copyright © 2001 by Hodder Wayland. Used by permission of Barron's Educational Series, Inc.

5. Why Should I Save Energy? by Jen Green

Age group: Preschool

Just like many kids, the stars of this book take electric lights, plumbing, and microwaves for granted—until there’s a blackout! When they learn that all of those modern conveniences need energy to work (and that energy comes from “non-renewable” natural resources), the kids make a goal to use less energy.

If You Find a Rock cover
Text copyright © 2000 by Peggy Christian. Illustrations copyright © 2000 by Barbara Hirsch Lember. Used by permission of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. All rights reserved.

6. If You Find a Rock by Peggy Christian

Age group: Toddlers and up

This book celebrates rocks of every kind (big, little, round, triangular, white, striped!) and teaches young explorers the wonders of our rock-filled world. From stones for skipping to rocks for climbing to moss-cushioned boulders that are perfect for sitting on, rocks…ROCK!  

In a Nutshell cover
Text copyright © 1999 by Joseph Anthony. Illustrations copyright © 1999 by Cris Arbo. Used by permission of Dawn Publications. All rights reserved.

7. In a Nutshell by Joseph Anthony

Age group: Toddlers and up

How surprised will your little acorn be to find that giant trees all start out in a nutshell? This book gives kids an in-depth look at the life of an oak tree from start to finish, detailing the tree’s growth, its narrow escape from forest fires, and its eventual return to the earth as a wonderful old log, where it serves as a habitat for animals.

In the Wild cover
Text copyright © 2010 by David Elliott. Illustrations copyright © 2010 by Holly Meade. Reproduced by permission of the publisher, Candlewick Press, Somerville, MA.

8. In the Wild by David Elliott

Age group: Toddlers and up

This adorable book gives your curious explorer a rundown of the denizens of Earth’s wildest places, including the lions on the wide-open African savannah, the jaguars living in the hidden depths of the rainforest, and the polar bears traversing the frosty reaches of the Arctic!  

Compost Stew cover
Compost Stew by Mary McKenna Sidals, illustrated by Ashley Wolff. Used by permission of Penguin Random House. All rights reserved.

9. Compost Stew by Mary McKenna Siddals

Age group: Toddlers and up

Old (and even rotten food) gets a new lease on life with this “recipe” for compost stew, which lists one item for each letter of the alphabet and teaches him which items should and should not go into a compost pile. 

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