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Six decades of excellent Earth Day books for kids

Earth Day books continue the celebration of our planet all year round. Here are some of the best, from the last six decades.

1970s

“The Lorax” by Dr. Seuss. Grades K-4. The winner and still champion of kids’ environmental books. This goofy cautionary tale of the ambitious Once-lers, whose relentless “biggering” of the family Thneed business causes the extinction of the wonderous Truffula Trees and the departure of the Lorax and his critter friends, has aged extremely well.

1980s

“The Green Book” by Jill Paton Walsh. Grades 3-6. Earth is dying, and Pattie and her family are on a rickety spaceship lumbering toward a marginally habitable planet. Upon arrival on Shine, they find that nothing is edible, and farming may be impossible.

“Miss Rumphius” by Barbara Cooney. Grades K-3. For almost 40 years, the delightful “lupine lady” has inspired children to “do something to make the world more beautiful.”

1990s

“The Great Kapok Tree” by Lynne Cherry. Preschool-grade 3. An exhausted logger falls asleep under the enormous rainforest tree he’s trying to fell. The many creatures who are dependent upon that tree for survival enter his dreams and beg him to spare it.

“Just A Dream” by Chris Van Allsburg. Grades 2-5. Smart-alec Walter is taken for the ride of his life as his bed carries him through a polluted world-scape. A 25th anniversary edition was issued in 2015.

2000s

“Panda Bear, Panda Bear, What Do You See?” by Eric Carle and Bill Martin, Jr. Preschool-K. After the huge success of “Brown Bear, Brown Bear,” Carle and Martin added “Panda,” “Polar Bear” and “Baby Bear” to their lineup, focusing on endangered species. Still in print and available in hardback, first reader and board book versions.

“Hoot,” “Flush” and “Scat” by Carl Hiaasen. Grade 5 and up. The newspaper reporter, noir mystery writer and Florida native has written a hilarious, exciting group of stories for tweens dealing with manmade environmental scandals.

2010s

“The Earth Book” by Todd Parr. Preschool-grade 1. Things the littlest of kids can do to help the environment.

“A Stone Sat Still” by Brendan Wenzel. Preschool-K. The Caldecott Honor winner for “They All Saw A Cat” has created a gorgeous story about the “life” of a small piece of rock that helps young readers grasp time’s passing and the changes it brings.

“Here We Are: Notes for Living on Planet Earth” by Oliver Jeffers. Preschool-grade 2. Jeffers has an endearing style and an undeniable hotline to the way kids think. This simple, beautiful, reassuring book was written for his newborn son.

“The Lonely Polar Bear” by Khoa Le. Grades K-4. In many indigenous cultures, individuals have spirit animals. So why shouldn’t animals have spirit people? A small polar bear wakes all alone after a terrible storm and is befriended by a mysterious little girl who journeys with him to find other Arctic creatures. Gently but honestly explains climate change.

“Most of the Better Natural Things in the World” by Dave Eggers. Illustrated by Angel Chang. Grades K-3. A very determined white tiger carries a chair on her back on a long, difficult road trip through stunning landscapes. Why would she do that? Kids will love the journey and the answer.

“The Magic School Bus and the Climate Challenge” by Joanna Cole. Illustrated by Bruce Degan. Grades 2-5. Everyone’s favorite teacher, Ms. Frizzle, is back and ready to tackle the job of explaining climate change with facts and her inimitable style.

“Can You Hear the Trees Talking? By Peter Wohlleben. Grades 3-5. Based on “The Hidden Life of Trees,” also by the author. This lively, clever compendium of everything tree-related is definitely not wooden.

“Under Threat: An Album of Endangered Animals” by Martin Jenkins. Illustrated by Tom Frost. Grades 4-7. The art in this lovely book consists of graphic stamps made by printmaker Frost. Jenkins, a biologist, provides the factual backstory to these precarious, precious lives.

“Trees: A Rooted History” written and illustrated by Piotr Socha, with Wojciech Grajkowski. Translated by Anna Burgess. Grades 4-7. Another fantastic look at the world of trees, different in approach from Wohlleben’s book, but equally gorgeous.

“Extinct: An Illustrated Exploration of Animals That Have Disappeared” by Lucas Riera. Illustrated by Jack Tite. Grades K-3. Think extinct? Dinosaurs and woolly mammoths aren’t the only MIAs. This eyeopener introduces (if only!) kids to animals lost to history in the last 100 years.

“The Wild Robot” by Peter Brown. Grades 3-7. After an accident, boxes wash up on a deserted island. Roz the Robot is one of the pieces of cargo. How she becomes an integral part of the local eco-system is a terrific story.

“The One and Only Ivan” by Katherine Applegate. Grades 3-7. This Newbery Medal winner is one of the best children’s books ever written, and one that makes a heartbreaking and hopeful case for the proper treatment of animals, wild or domestic. Ivan the gorilla has spent almost 30 years in captivity in a shopping mall exhibit, keeping his sanity by blocking his memories of freedom. When a baby elephant is added to their menagerie, he realizes that things need to change.

2020s

“My Friend Earth” by Patricia MacLachlan. Illustrated by Francesca Sanna. Preschool-K. The Newbery Medal winner for “Sarah, Plain and Tall” has written a picture book about all the wonderful things our friend Earth does. Illustrated with colorful die-cut interactives like lift-the-flaps and peek-a-boo cut-outs.

“We Are Water Protectors” by Carole Lindstrom. Illustrated by Michaela Goade. Preschool-grade 1. A call to protect our most important resource and a salute to indigenous people’s crusade for water quality and safety.

“Little Turtle and the Changing Sea” by Becky Davies. Illustrated by Jennie Poh. Preschool-grade 2. A turtle’s-eye view of the damage plastic has done to the oceans told in a sweet story.

“Outside In” by Deborah Underwood. Illustrated by Cindy Derby. Preschool-grade 2. Outside is the best kind of friend – patient, always there, always interested in new things to do. The author of “The Quiet Book” explores our magical connection with nature in a way sure to delight indoor kids.

“One Earth” by Eileen Spinelli. Illustrated by Rogério Coelho. Preschool-grade 3. A different kind of counting book by the author of the terrific “Somebody Loves You, Mr. Hatch.” Counting forward, exploring Earth’s beauties; counting back, simple ideas for kids to help care for the planet.

“Photo Ark: National Geographic Kids Earth Day Limited Edition” by Kwame Alexander. Photographed by Joe Sartore. Preschool-grade 3. World-class portraits of endangered species by Sartore and prose and poetry from Newbery Medal winner Kwame Alexander.

“Hike” by Pete Oswald. Preschool-grade 3. The illustrator of “Bad Seed” and “Good Egg” unveils his first solo picture book effort. Dad and child spend the day hiking in the wilderness, making and sharing lifelong memories.

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