I have a lot of books in the house, and we have a lot of children’s books too. I’m a sucker for secondhand books, and regularly pick up new stories for the children. My attention is drawn by good artwork, things that feel distinctive and crafted. I also look out for books with an educational angle, those that have a message about the way the world works, something that we can read and then talk about.
I’m currently drawing up a list of books for helping children understand the environment, and it would be great if you could add to it with your own recommendations. It’s stories that I’m after, rather than non-fiction books with information about the environment. What stories have you come across that raises issues of climate change, conservation, or just the appreciation of nature?
Five Little Fiends, by Sarah Dyer
This is the book that gave me the idea for this post, as Zach brought it home from school the other day and it wasn’t what I was expecting. It tells the story of five little monsters that take the things they like most – the sun, the moon, the sea – and keep them for themselves. Except that none of those things works by itself. They all work together and need each other, and it’s a quirky little parable about the inter-connectedness of everything.
The Strong Little Tree, by Helen Peacock and Neil Reed
This was Zach’s favourite for a long time. It begins with a squirrel planting an acorn from a big old oak tree. The acorn grows into a sapling and then a little tree. The big oak blows over in a storm, and the younger tree takes its place. It’s the picture of the tree blowing over in the storm that first got our kids’ attention I suspect, but it’s one that they return to. It’s unusual to have a tree as a protagonist, especially since it’s drawn very realistically. I also like the little background details that suggest this story plays out over many decades, a story of life and death and reproduction.
Little House by the Sea
Benedict Blathwayt draws very detailed picture books that take a long time to read because you spend forever noticing things in the background. This one’s a simple tale: there’s a little wrecked cottage by the sea. It’s abandoned by people, but all sorts of animals live in and around it. When a man moves in and renovates it, they have nowhere to go. But he notices and makes room for them, gently raising that mammoth question of human dominance over nature and how we respect earth’s other creatures.
Why the Animals Came to Town, by Michael Foreman
Michael Foreman has a number of books that deal with world issues. (A Child’s Garden deals with children in war zones and is particularly hard hitting) This one has a parade of animals coming down a boy’s street in the middle of the night, and it turns out they’ve come to complain that their habitats are being lost and they’re calling for help. It’s more blunt and urgent than most of the things on this list, but there’s room for that on the bookshelf too.
The Lost Stars, by Hannah Cumming
‘Every night the stars come out and go to work in the sky’, says this unscientific story about how the stars get fed up of being taken for granted. They take themselves off for a holiday, and only then do the busy people below notice that they miss them. A fun little book about noticing and appreciating the world around us.
That’s five to get us started. I could also mention Dr Seuss’s The Lorax, Ruth Brown’s The World That Jack Built and a couple of others, but what have you come across that gets children talking?
PS – if you want to pick any of these up, buying them with this link will support both this blog and your local independent bookshop at no cost to you. These links for or will support this blog, but not your local bookshop.