Sustainability made simple

12 Best Picture Books About the Environment

best picture books
Foto: CC0 Public Domain / Unsplash - Aaron Burden

Wondering how to involve your kids in your quest for a sustainable lifestyle? Start the conversation with the best picture books about the environment.

Books are an incredibly important resource when it comes to teaching children, especially for topics that are multifaceted. In order to help show your younger ones how to care for the planet, we’ve compiled a list of the best picture books about the environment. Take inspiration from the stories and make some changes in your own life too. 

1. Bee & Me by Alison Jay

This wordless picture book helps young children learn about the importance of bees and their role in everyday life. They can come up with their own narration, or you can use it as an ever-changing discussion between you and your children. This is one of the best picture books about the environment because although the story can be different each time, the message doesn’t change.

2. City Green by DyAnne DiSalvo

DyAnne DiSalvo writes some of the best picture books for children about building community. City Green is about a little girl who helps clean up an empty lot and turn it into a community garden. Considering this book was published in 1994, one could argue this book was ahead of its time as community gardens have become a lot more popular in recent years. You can use this book to teach your children about the importance of green space in urban centres and how gardens can help insects thrive. Take it a step further and learn how to start a community garden together. 

3. Compost Stew by Mary McKenna Siddals

This easy-to-read alphabet book is a great way to introduce the concept of composting to children. It makes our best picture books list because it shows kids what you can compost and makes it understandable for even the youngest of children. 

4. Earth's Incredible Oceans by Jess French

A beautifully illustrated book, Earth’s Incredible Oceans allows children to explore the secret world that exists underwater. It explains the delicate ecosystems that exist down below, provides plenty of sea creature facts, and teaches the importance of ocean conservation. Chances are, it will end up teaching you a few things too! If your kids enjoy this book, check out The Magic and Mystery of Trees and The Book of Brilliant Bugs by the same author. 

5. Majory Saves the Everglades by Sandra Neil Wallace

This picture book is based on a true story about a journalist, Majory Stoneman Douglas, who saved the Florida Everglades from development. It is thanks to her actions that part of the Everglades become a National Park to preserve the unique ecosystem that exists there. This is one of the best picture books for kids because it helps show that even small actions can make a big difference and that standing up for what you believe in is important. 

6. Old Enough to Save the Planet by Loll Kirby

The climate crisis is affecting everyone on the planet, especially children. This makes our best picture books about the environment list because it features 12 activists around the world that are taking action and speaking out against climate change. These children are taking matters into their own hands and impacting the world in a positive way. Read this with your children to inspire them and show that small changes can have large impacts. 

7. One Plastic Bag by Miranda Paul

Miranda Paul brings this inspiring true story about Isatou Ceesay and her recycling movement to life. The story takes place in Njau, Gambia, and focuses on the problems that occur when plastic bags are left as trash and start to pollute the surrounding areas. In her hometown, plastic bag pollution brought disease through stagnant water, choked out gardens, and killed livestock that tried to eat them. Isatou came up with a solution to recycle the bags and changed her entire community in the process. This is another one of the best picture books to show your first to fourth-grade children that their everyday actions can illicit big change. 

8. The Leaf Detective by Heather Lang

The focus of this picture book is on the life of Margaret Lowman and the conservation of the Australian rainforest. Not only does this book highlight the importance of tropical rainforest ecosystems, but it also portrays how people who are more introverted and connected with nature can find their place in the world. The main takeaway is that you can educate yourself and others by bringing them to nature, as opposed to bringing nature to them. 

9. The Lorax by Dr. Seuss

First published in 1971, this iconic children’s book had to make our list of the best picture books about the environment. It delivers a very important message alongside bright and colorful illustrations, making this a good read for the whole family. The focus is on how consumerism and greed can end up destroying the wonderful planet we live on. 

11. We Are Water Protectors by Carole Lindstrom

This book is about an Ojibwe girl who fights against the construction of an oil pipeline to protect the water supply of her people. It starts with a memory of her grandmother teaching her about the sacredness of water. It then goes on to show that her people foresee a black snake that will poison their water and destroy their land. We Are Water Protectors was written as a direct response to the Dakota Access Pipeline protest, so you can use this to facilitate in-depth discussions with older children. 

12. We Planted a Tree by Diane Muldrow

Not only does this book highlight the importance of trees and their role on earth, but it also showcases how different cultures around the world view and value trees. It shows how some places use trees as a beautification method, while others rely heavily on them for their daily needs. The environmental message focuses on relaying the information that if we take care of trees, trees will take care of us in return. 

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