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Children's Books that Promote

Environmental Sustainability

Favourite texts for primary classrooms on the topic of caring for the environment.

This month, we've been asking our community of primary teachers, children's authorslibrarians and book lovers to nominate their favourite text that promotes environmental sustainability.


This is what they told us... 

Dear Greenpeace

Simon James

Nominated by: Jenny Landor (@js_landor), author of children's book 'The Mirror of Pharos' (available here)

 

 "The story of Emily's whale in 'Dear Greenpeace' (Simon James) seems especially poignant these days when our household rubbish pollutes the oceans. A great story to get little ones thinking about caring for the planet."

The Lorax

Dr. Seuss

Nominated by: Nia Talbot (@NiaTalbot), assistant headteacher

 

"Dr Seuss’ The Lorax absolutely enthralled my year 2 class and we had some brilliant discussions about the polluted environment that the boy lives in and why it came about. Even though it was written decades ago, the themes are still important today. The destruction of the trees, the impact on the habitats of the animals living there and the pollution from the factory the Once-ler built are huge talking points about the need for industry but at what cost. The way that Seuss wrote, although not to everyone’s liking, added to my class’ enjoyment."

The Last Wolf

Mini Grey

Nominated by: Tom Ritson (@Year4_TWS), Year 4 Teacher

 

"Mini Grey has yet again created a masterpiece! Her latest book features the most beautiful of illustrations which perfectly complement the heartfelt meaning behind "The Last Wolf". This narrative encompasses the traditional tale of "Little Red Riding Hood" with a modern and important message. Little Red sets off to catch herself a Wolf, but this is a surprisingly difficult task...in fact, she finds it very difficult to find any animals at all. But then she discovers the reason for this...will Little Red be able to help before it's too late? More importantly, will the readers themselves be able to do anything to stop this becoming a real-life nightmare?"

 

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Aubrey and the Terrible Ladybirds

Horatio Clare & Jane Matthews

Nominated by: Simon Fisher (@bookwormswales), Primary Teacher and book blogger at FamilyBookworms.wales

"Aubrey and the Terrible Ladybirds is the second thrilling anthropomorphic adventure in a trilogy by Horatio Clare. Aubrey is shrunk to the size of an earwig and travels on the back of a swallow to learn about 'The Great Hunger'. He discovers that pesticides and intensive farming methods are having a detrimental effect on the wildlife of Europe. This may seem like a strange premise for a children's novel, but it's not the main theme and Branford Boase winner Clare has a deft touch; he's an incredibly witty and wise storyteller. There are other themes at work in this rich and fantastic story - immigration, tolerance and respect; but ultimately this is a novel about the universal truths of love, compassion and kindness – to each other, the environment and animals."

Pandora

Victoria Turnbull

Nominated by: Simon Smith (@smithsmm), headteacher and blogger at https://smithsmm.wordpress.com

 

"A story of hope and regeneration. Pandora lives alone, in a world of broken things. No one ever comes to visit, so she spends her time gathering and mending what she can. But when a bird falls from the sky, slowly her world begins to change…Stunning misty artwork framed with sadness but filled with hope as from the debris through love and care the world is transformed."

The Lost Words

Robert Macfarlane & Jackie Morris

Nominated by: Scott Evans (@MrEPrimary), primary teacher and creator/host of #PrimarySchoolBookClub.

 

"The Lost Words is a complete visual joy to behold; spectacular and outstanding in all its resplendent and ‘oversized’ glory. The Lost Words reminds us to stop, stare and marvel at the natural wonders of our world all around us whilst also reconnecting us with ‘common words [and species] that are falling from common usage’ (Jackie Morris). Gloriously illustrated by Jackie, this book combines her stunning watercolours with Robert Macfarlane’s richly captivating and evocative acrostic ‘spells’ that are just asking to be read aloud for readers of all ages to lose themselves in the power of his words. It’s such a landmark book, as it not only talks about environmental sustainability but about the sustainability of the words we keep in use to describe them, that’ll have a legacy which will inspire many a generation. Arguably, there’s no other book quite like this and I would go as far as to describe this book as one-of-a-kind; a six-star book."

Read more about this book on Scott's blog here.

 

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Window

Jeannie Baker

Nominated by: Brett Summersby (@MrS_Primary), Year 3 teacher and English lead and also by Tim Dunford (@123_Mr_D), primary teacher. 

 

Brett says: "Window is another wonderful, elegantly illustrated and thought-provoking story by Jeannie Baker. Completely wordless, the lives of both a family and the world around them are played out over the course of a lifetime through one window in the house. Window plays like a history of the modern world and the mass concrete expansion that has transformed many parts of the world over the past century. As we watch the world evolve through this one window, we can't help but question and debate the effects of overpopulation, humans' increasing encroachment into countryside habitats and our wider effects on the environment as a whole." 

 

Tim says: "Baker's postscript to this beautiful, wordless picture book states how she, "...set out to tell the complicated issue of how we are changing the environment without even noticing it. This change is hard to see from day to day but it is nevertheless happening and happening fast." Each of the dozen or so double pages of the book show the view from the same bedroom window as the years go by and the boy who lives there grows up into a man. Baker's unusual collage images are made using a range of materials, giving the pictures an intriguing appeal. The countryside becomes a village, a town and finally a city -- there are multiple talking points on every page as humans impact on the landscape and its wildlife. A great book to discuss the environment and pore over with any primary school children. Baker explains, "By opening a window in our minds, by understanding how change takes place and by changing the way we personally affect the environment, we can make a difference."

Under the Canopy

Iris Volant & Cynthia Alonso

Nominated by: Stephen Connor (@StephenConnor7), Year 6 teacher and book blogger at https://inthetwelve.wordpress.com

 

"A beautifully presented hardback book that tells stories about lots of different trees – the legend of the Major Oak in Sherwood Forest, to the olive trees of Greece and the blossom in Japan – as well as giving factual information about seasonality, average height and where in the world they grow. A fascinating read for all ages, with brilliant and vibrant illustrations throughout. While it doesn’t offer a call for greater care of the environment directly, it shows the importance of trees historically and culturally, and would encourage discussion around their importance with future generations."

Wangari's Trees of Peace: A True Story from Africa

Jeanette Winter

Nominated by: Hilary Nicholl,  KS2 Teaching Assistant

 

 "This beautiful and factual picture book about Wangari Maathai is inspiring and full of hope.  The devastating impact of deforestation is made starkly clear but it is counterbalanced by the actions taken by first Wangari Maathai and then more and more women until millions of trees had been planted and healing began. Children I have shared this story with have asked probing questions and wanted to find out more:  How long did it take the trees to grow?  How long before the earth recovered? Maathai was the first African woman to receive the Nobel Peace Prize for her work and classes may enjoy this two-minute video clip where she tells, herself, the story of the tiny hummingbird who does her best to make a difference.
This book could also be useful for Black History Month and International Women’s Day.
"

This Moose Belongs to Me

Oliver Jeffers

Nominated by:  Writing1to6 (@writing1to6), primary teacher and blogger about how to use picture books (see writing1to6.com)

 

"It’s not hard to move children to understand the sadness of us, as a species, destroying the very planet that sustains us. But in the ways we expose them to it, it is understandable if children think that this destruction is perpetrated by ‘bad grown-ups’. This book by Oliver Jeffers introduces in a gentle, relatable way, how sustainability is linked to personal behaviour, even on a childish level. On the very first page we find the word ‘owned’, and by the end understand how ludicrous to think that we can ever own nature, as represented by the gloriously impervious Moose. A great text for classes from Reception to Year 6."

 

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The Extraordinary Colours of Auden Dare

Zillah Bethell

Nominated by: Alison (@booksfortopics), owner of booksfortopics.com

 

"A wonderfully gripping story set in a dystopian future where the rain has dried up, the world is at war over its water supply and everybody is permanently thirsty and unclean. Auden Dare is an eleven-year-old boy who has a rare condition that means he is unable to see colour. Auden moves to Cambridge after his mother inherits a bungalow belonging to Uncle Jonah, a professor who recently died under sudden and mysterious circumstances. One day Auden and his new friend Vivi Rookmini discover a fascinating robot called Paragon in his uncle’s shed. Soon the pair, together with the very clever and human-like Paragon, find themselves caught up in an investigation about Uncle Jonah’s work and his mysterious death, leading Auden to gradually reveal his own true colours as he inadvertently becomes involved in the complicated ethics of managing global water shortages. Zillah Bethell’s storytelling is wonderfully enigmatic and gripping throughout, leaving the reader hanging on to every word. I highly recommend this outstanding novel for upper KS2."

 

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All the Wild Wonders

Various Poets, Wendy Cooling (editor) & Piet Grobler (illustrator)

Nominated by:  Louisa Farrow (@smartfoxlouisa), assistant headteacher

 

 "All the Wild Wonders, an imaginative selection made by Wendy Cooling, includes poems from a rich diversity of writers around the world, including China, Turkey and the Caribbean as well as traditional writers such as Blake, Milton and Tennyson.  The title of the anthology is borrowed from a poem by Elizabeth Honey from Australia which uses lists and repetitions to conjure up the wonders of nature and the ‘much work to do’ to save them. There’s also an alphabet for the planet by Lebanese/English poet, Riad Nourallah.  Other works are more philosophical, like We’re Going to See the Rabbit by Alan Brownjohn or For Forest by Grace Nichols and can be used to spark debate and discussion. Yet others, like Snaggers Pond by Wes Magee, are more of a call to direct action: his description of the successful rejuvenation of a local pond is both hopeful and would fit in well with any community activity like a litter pick.  It really is a treasure trove which can help broaden children’s horizons, develop their language and encourage critical thinking all at once."

Tidy

Emily Gravett

Nominated by: Paul Watson (@PaulWat5), Y5 teacher and book blogger at https://thegreatbritishbookworm.wordpress.com and also by Kieron Murphy (@FatherReading), primary teacher and book blogger at  https://fatherreading.wordpress.com

Paul says: "Tidy is another amazing book by Emily Gravett. It is a simple story about how we can impact on our surroundings and why caring for our environment is vital. Gorgeous, engaging and delivering a powerful message...what more does a book need to be?" 

Read more about this book on Paul's blog post here

 

Kieron says: "The story is well written, the rhyme works perfectly and the structure changes throughout. The message is also a very important one, introducing children to important ideas about habitat loss and preservation of the environment. It is done without being preachy and also shows children that there is always the possibility of making a positive change and fixing mistakes!"

Read more about this book on Kieron's blog post here

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The Great Paper Caper

Oliver Jeffers

Nominated by: Dawn Woods (@Dawnsls), manager of Worcestershire Schools' Library Service

 

 "Many people and creatures lived in the forest, sharing its sanctuary. But they began to notice that something was not quite right. Branches were being cut off. So they set out to investigate. Eventually they discovered Bear as the culprit. He was so determined to win a paper airplane competition, and needing more paper he used the wood for the paper to practice. The forest community were not entirely without sympathy, but the chopping of trees had to stop and something done to make up for it. After the Bear started planting new trees to replace the old, his new friends perfected the optimum paper plane to enable him to win the competition and all was well. Oliver Jeffers' simple, effective drawings portray expression on all his characters with just a few strokes of his pen yet add so much to the message of the book."

Where the Forest Meets the Sea

Jeannie Baker

Nominated by:  Andrew Baldock (@Whitbypup), Year 1 teacher and assistant headteacher

 

 "Where the Forest Meets the Sea is a hauntingly beautiful picture book that forces the reader to consider what is really lost when humans build upon previously untouched landscapes. The story follows a boy and his grandad as they explore a largely untouched wet-tropical rainforest that meets the sea. The pictures contain hidden images depicting past inhabitants, teaching the reader how the forest has supported life beyond just the modern snapshot. The question mark that hangs over this beautiful landscape is saved for the very last image. As a reader, this book manages to make me feel innocent and guilty at the same time and, in a very accessible way, forces the reader to consider the natural environment and how it should be protected and not just for the sake of the future, but for the sake of the past."

 

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