The best children’s books to inspire kids to protect our environment

Who am I?

As a lover of nature and travel, I’ve long been interested in how communities worldwide protect their environments. While living and traveling in Latin America, I learned how Indigenous knowledge and practices make our planet healthier for everyone. Several of my ten children’s books deal with these issues, including my novel Tree of Dreams, inspired by my time in the Amazon rain forest with a Huaorani community whose home was threatened by oil operations. This led me to collaborate with the Kichwa leader, Patricia Gualinga, on the picture book, Stand as Tall as the Trees: How an Amazonian Community Protected the Rain Forest, available in English and Spanish in July, 2023.

I wrote...

Tree of Dreams

By Laura Resau,

Book cover of Tree of Dreams

What is my book about?

For her whole life, Coco has loved helping out in her mom’s chocolate shop, El Corazón. But now her best friend and fellow chocolate maker, Leo, has stopped talking to her and the shop might close. Soon Coco starts dreaming about a wise and wondrous ceiba tree that promises answers. And when she and Leo get the opportunity to visit the Amazon rain forest, Coco intends to find this magical ceiba and save El Corazón

But when Coco arrives, she comes face-to-face with oil and logging operations that threaten the rain forest. As she forms friendships with local Huaorani people, her heart aches for a way to help. She finds that by working together, hope can be restored, root and branch. 

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The books I picked & why

Book cover of We Are Water Protectors

Laura Resau Why did I love this book?

For years, I’ve felt passionate about supporting Indigenous-led movements to protect their communities, their cultures, and the environment—in particular, movements that address the threat of oil pollution. So, I was thrilled to read this gorgeous and inspiring picture book, written and illustrated by two Indigenous women, that focuses on the life-giving value of water and the need to protect it. The poetic text incorporates Native Nations’ spiritual knowledge and wise stories passed down through generations, warning against “the black snake”—oil pipelines— that threaten the sacred water. We see how movements like Standing Rock have united hundreds of Indigenous groups globally and encouraged people to join together to protect our planet.  

By Carole Lindstrom, Michaela Goade (illustrator),

Why should I read it?

5 authors picked We Are Water Protectors as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 3, 4, 5, and 6.

What is this book about?

Winner of the 2021 Caldecott Medal
#1 New York Times Bestseller

Inspired by the many Indigenous-led movements across North America, We Are Water Protectors issues an urgent rallying cry to safeguard the Earth’s water from harm and corruption―a bold and lyrical picture book written by Carole Lindstrom and vibrantly illustrated by Michaela Goade.

Water is the first medicine.
It affects and connects us all . . .

When a black snake threatens to destroy the Earth
And poison her people’s water, one young water protector
Takes a stand to defend Earth’s most sacred resource.

Book cover of Rainbow Weaver/Tejedora del Arcoiris

Laura Resau Why did I love this book?

Since my son was adopted from Guatemala and I’ve traveled there several times, I was drawn to this colorful picture book. In the Mayan highlands, young Ixchel’s mother has no thread to spare for her to weave. Determined, Ixchel searches for her own material, and ultimately discovers that the plastic bags littering her village are just what she needs. She cuts them into strips, weaves her own creations, and sells them at the market—which also makes her village more beautiful. This book shows the power of resourcefulness while offering glimpses of Mayan culture and showing how kids can make a difference. As a multi-lingual mom, I especially love that this book has English and Spanish text, making it a perfect pick for those of us raising our kids to value other languages and cultures.

By Linda Elovitz Marshall, Elisa Chavarri (illustrator),

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Rainbow Weaver/Tejedora del Arcoiris as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 5, 6, 7, and 8.

What is this book about?

Ixchel wants to follow in the long tradition of weaving on backstrap looms, just as her mother, grandmother, and most Mayan women have done for more than two thousand years. But Ixchel's mother is too busy preparing her weavings for market. If they bring a good price, they will have money to pay for Ixchel s school and books. And besides, there is not enough extra thread for Ixchel to practice with.

Disappointed, Ixchel first tries weaving with blades of grass, and then with bits of wool, but no one would want to buy the results. As she walks around…

Book cover of Planting Peace: The Story of Wangari Maathai

Laura Resau Why did I love this book?

Wow! Nobel Peace Prize winner Wangari Maathai is an incredible inspiration for everyone. I loved learning about her ground-breaking work through this vibrant picture book biography. She left her village in Kenya and earned a Masters degree in the United States, which gave her a different perspective on the environmental devastation occurring in her home. Trees had been cut to make way for monocropping cash crops, resulting in dusty land and a lack of food. To solve the problem, she organized women to plant trees, uniting communities that had previously fought, and starting the Green Belt Movement—which eventually spread around Africa and the world. Despite political persecution, she protected human and environmental rights through peaceful protest, always promoting the value of working together. 

By Gwendolyn Hooks, Margaux Carpentier (illustrator),

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Planting Peace as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 7, 8, 9, and 10.

What is this book about?

This is the inspiring story of Wangari Maathai, women's rights activist and one of the first environmental warriors. Overcoming great obstacles, Wangari began the Green Belt Movement in Kenya in the 1960s, which focused on planting trees, environmental conservation and women's rights. She inspired thousands across Africa to plant 30 million trees in 30 years, saving many from hunger and poverty. Her remarkable story of courage and determination shows how just one person can change the world.

The story shows children how desertification works: how land is eroded and degraded when trees aren't there to hold the soil in place…

Book cover of Out of My Shell

Laura Resau Why did I love this book?

Sea turtles fascinate me. I’ve had the joy of learning about them on trips to Central America and Mexico, and I was thrilled to discover this fabulous middle-grade novel on the topic. Twelve-year-old Olivia is on summer vacation in Florida, struggling to deal with her parents’ recent separation. When she realizes that the local sea turtle population is in danger, she feels called to act. She must find courage to defend the sea turtles while facing her own personal pain in the process. This is a wonderfully written story, accessible and relatable. It offers incredible information about sea turtles while providing a model for how kids can make a difference in protecting endangered species.

By Jenny Goebel,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Out of My Shell as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 8, 9, 10, and 11.

What is this book about?

An inspiring and timely story of friendship, courage, and the magic that can happen when we stand up for what's right.

Normally, Olivia spends all year looking forward to her family's summer vacation in Florida. But not this year. Not when her parents have recently separated, and her father has to stay behind in Colorado. Olivia doesn't know what she'll do all summer without him. They've always been a pair, and she's never felt the same bond with her mother or younger sister. So Olivia plans to spend the summer laying low, and trying to ignore the hurt gnawing at…

Book cover of The Namer of Spirits

Laura Resau Why did I love this book?

What I love most about this middle-grade novel is the way fantasy can shed light on environmental problems and possible solutions in the real world. This suspenseful and magical story follows the journey of twelve-year-old Ash as she sets out to save her village. On her adventures, she encounters giant mistcats, forest spirits, and a supernatural puppy, coming to understand the complexities of what’s causing the deforestation and devastation of her home. This rare gem of a book engages readers in a fun, fantastical, and inspiring tale, while taking a deep dive into how we can work together to protect our environment.

By Todd Mitchell,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Namer of Spirits as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

“A dangerous town carved out of unforgiving forest, a young girl who can name spirits and tame monsters, a race against time to save the natural world: The Namer of Spirits is what readers want and the world needs.” –Eliot Schrefer, New York Times bestselling author

In the frontier village of Last Hope, people dismiss twelve-year-old Ash Narro as a flighty child who claims to hear the true names of things. But when enraged forest spirits attack, Ash shows that the names she hears have power.

After taming a destructive forest spirit, Ash teams up with Fen, a wild forest…

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Diary of a Citizen Scientist: Chasing Tiger Beetles and Other New Ways of Engaging the World

By Sharman Apt Russell,

Book cover of Diary of a Citizen Scientist: Chasing Tiger Beetles and Other New Ways of Engaging the World

Sharman Apt Russell Author Of Diary of a Citizen Scientist: Chasing Tiger Beetles and Other New Ways of Engaging the World

New book alert!

Who am I?

Author Explorer Runner Mother

Sharman's 3 favorite reads in 2023

What is my book about?

Citizen Scientist begins with this extraordinary statement by the Keeper of Entomology at the London Museum of Natural History, “Study any obscure insect for a week and you will then know more than anyone else on the planet.”

As the author chases the obscure Western red-bellied tiger beetle across New Mexico, where she lives, she explores a dozen other citizen science programs with lyrical prose, humor, and a profound sense of connection to place. Diary of a Citizen Scientist celebrates a renewed optimism in the mysteries of the world and a renewed faith in how ordinary people can contribute to science and environmental activism.

Diary of a Citizen Scientist: Chasing Tiger Beetles and Other New Ways of Engaging the World

By Sharman Apt Russell,

What is this book about?

A critically acclaimed nature writer explores the citizen scientist movement through the lens of entomological field research in the American Southwest.

Award-winning nature writer Sharman Apt Russell felt pressed by the current environmental crisis to pick up her pen yet again. Encouraged by the phenomenon of citizen science, she decided to turn her attention to the Western red-bellied tiger beetle, an insect found widely around the world and near her home in the Gila River Valley of New Mexico.

In a lyrical, often humorous voice, Russell shares her journey across a wild, rural landscape tracking this little-known species, an insect…

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