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As the daughter of a forestry professor, I grew up with a healthy respect for the world around me. I spent much of my childhood outdoors -- climbing trees, hiking in the woods, sleeping out under the stars. I remember many discussions with my dad over the years, revolving around the topics of conservation, renewable vs. non-renewable resources, pollution, recycling, and the like.
Now, I am mom to a teenager who has lived and breathed anything animal-related ever since he could say the word "animal". Nick has always been concerned about the environment -- writing letters to world leaders at age 7, asking them to save the rain forest, picking up trash on his way home from school every day, and trying to figure out ways he could help reverse global warming. It should not come as a surprise that we honor Earth Day at our house every year. (And not just on April 22nd... as Nick often says, "Every day is Earth Day!")
Ever since I was a little girl, our family has collected many, many books about the Earth and the living things that inhabit it. Here are just a few of our favorite picture books suitable for reading on Earth Day -- or any day you want to celebrate the fantastic world around us:
The Family of Earth, written and illustrated by Schim Schimmel, 2001... With a message about planetary interdependence, this book shows -- through Schimmel's words and luminous pictures -- how the different environments of Earth combine to create one world that we all share.
Our Big Home: An Earth Poem, written by Linda Glaser and illustrated by Elisa Kleven, 2002... Glaser's free verse poetry describes our amazing planet and focuses on the interconnectedness of all living things. Kleven's mixed-media illustrations feature people and nature in a wide variety of settings, from African plains to a bustling city park to a South American mountaintop.
Where Once There Was a Wood, written and illustrated by Denise Fleming, 1996... A simple introduction to the topics of conservation and ecology, this book explains how animals and people all need homes, but that we don't have to destroy one to build another. Fleming's colorful, texture-filled illustrations complement her message. At the end of the book, a section called "Welcome Wildlife to Your Backyard Habitat" offers several suggestions for making readers' yards wildlife-friendly.
Have You Seen Trees?, written by Joanne Oppenheim and illustrated by Jean and Mou-Sien Tseng, 1995... Oppenheim's delightful poetry (originally published in 1967 with illustrations by Irwin Rosenhouse) and the Tsengs' beautiful artwork combine perfectly to create this joyous celebration of trees. A short section on tree identification is included in the back.
Each Living Thing, written by Joanne Ryder and illustrated by Ashley Wolff, 2000... Poetic text and vivid pictures, filled to the brim with detail, work together to remind readers to respect nature and the world around them.
For those children and adults who want to learn more about nature, here are two non-fiction picture books that our family enjoys:
About Birds: A Guide for Children, written by Cathryn Sill and illustrated by John Sill, 1997... Realistic watercolor paintings and simple prose teach the youngest of readers basic facts about these winged creatures. An afterward gives more detailed information for older readers.
Tell Me, Tree: All About Trees for Kids, written and illustrated by Gail Gibbons, 2002... This book introduces the science of trees to children -- the parts of a tree and their various functions, photosynthesis, types of tree fruits and seeds, information about how trees are useful to people, animals, and the environment. and much more. It also includes a helpful section on tree identification.
What are your favorite picture books about nature and this planet we call Earth? I'd love to hear about them!