The Green Earth Book Awards by Nature Generation are intended to draw attention to quality environmental-themed books for youth that often miss out on the mainstream book buzz that helps readers find them. But once discovered, these authors and illustrators inspire youth to grow a deeper appreciation, respect, and responsibility for their natural environment.
The winners and runners-up reflect a range of stories and nonfiction for picture book, middle grade, and young adult reading levels. Green Earth Book Award winners are indispensable reads for any budding environmentalist (and adults might learn something from reading them, too).
The Brilliant Deep: Rebuilding the World’s Coral Reefs: The Story of Ken Nedimyer and the Coral Restoration Foundation, by Kate Messner, illustrated by Matthew Forsythe (Chronicle Books) In The Brilliant Deep, readers will find out how a coral reef forms and learn about the people who are working to save and rebuild the world’s coral reefs.
Counting Birds: The Idea That Helped Save Our Feathered Friends, by Heidi E. Y. Stemple, illustrated by Clover Robin (The Quarto Group/Seagrass Press) Counting Birds introduces kids to the idea of bird counts and bird watches through the story of Frank Chapman, who founded the first annual bird count.
Salamander Sky, by Katy Farber, illustrated by Meg Sodano (Green Writers Press) Amphibians around the world are in trouble, and this picture book engages children in their plight. It introduces kids to spotted salamanders and the perilous nighttime migration they take each spring. Salamander Sky features a mother and daughter who go out on a rainy night to help the salamanders cross the road safely.
The Flooded Earth, by Mardi McConnochie (Pajama Press) Dystopian fiction has dominated middle-grade reading for a while now, but The Flooded Earth gives it a cli-fi twist. Born decades after a devastating flood changed the face of the earth, twins Will and Annalie set out in their family’s small sailboat searching for their father. Along the way, they will be challenged by pirates, the authorities, and the sea itself.
Ellie’s Strand: Exploring the Edge of the Pacific, by M.L. Herring and Judith L. Li, illustrated by M.L. Herring (Oregon State University Press) Part of a series, Ellie’s Strand follows Ellie and Ricky as they travel to the Oregon coast to help with a one-day beach clean-up. They are hoping to find a Japanese glass float, but instead discover more important natural treasures, and evidence of the need for a much bigger clean-up – of the ocean itself.
Trash Revolution: Breaking the Waste Cycle, by Erica Fyvie, illustrated by Bill Slavin (Kids Can Press) Trash Revolution introduces kids to the concept of material life cycles. It gives examples of how we can make greener choices by using life cycle analysis for typical contents of a school backpack.
Bat Citizens: Defending the Ninjas of the Night, by Rob Laidlaw (Pajama Press) Children’s books about animals tend to fall into two (rather gendered) camps: those that emphasize cuteness, and those that sensationalize grossness or scariness. Treatment of bats has often fallen in the second camp, which hasn’t really helped the bats. Bat Citizens makes the flying mammals charismatic without banking on old, creepy stereotypes. It’s also packed with accurate ecological information about bats importance and the young “bat citizens” who are engaged in conservation efforts around the world.
Young Adult Fiction
Dry, by Neal Shusterman and Jarrod Shusterman, illustrated by Jay Shaw (Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers) Dry starts out in a familiar world where California is experiencing a long period of drought. One day water stops coming out of the tap entirely. Tedious conservation measures suddenly give way to a struggle for survival and a teen is forced to make life and death decisions for herself and her brother.
Orphaned, by Eliot Schrefer (Scholastic) The fourth book in the Ape Quartet, Orphaned gives readers a gorilla’s view of prehistory. It’s written in verse and set thousands of years in the past. Orphaned tells the story of an orphaned ape and an orphaned human who learn to help each other survive.
Beyond the Sixth Extinction: A Post-Apocalyptic Pop-Up, by Shawn Sheehy, illustrated Jordi Solano (Candlewick Press) A real conversation starter, this pop-up book looks at the aftermath of the current sixth global extinction. The artist envisions a flourishing ecosystem centered around fictional creatures that could evolve from existing organisms.
If you’re looking for more great eco-reads for your kids, check out the Green Earth Book Awards short list, and check out Earth911’s summer reading list.