Essential Books for Earth Day and Beyond

April 22 is Earth Day, and we’re preparing for the occasion by collecting books that cover topics like the environment, animals and conservation, climate change, and more. Whether you’re planning an Earth Day celebration in your classroom or library or looking for books to support environmental education all year round, we’ve got celebrated picks for every grade K-12.

We’re also sharing free educator resources including read-aloud videos and activities to help educators celebrate Earth Day. Keep reading to learn how to get them!

Make Way for Animals! A World of Wildlife Crossings

  • Interest Level: Kindergarten – Grade 3
  • Reading Level: Grade 2

Around the world, city highways and country roads have cut through natural spaces. Wild animals are blocked from the resources they need to survive, or must make dangerous crossings across busy roads to get to them. Fortunately, solving this problem has inspired some creative solutions! Take a tour of wildlife crossings across the globe, from grassy badger bridges to underpasses for elephants. Discover how these inventive pathways have saved both animal and human lives and helped preserve ecosystems.

Washed Ashore: Making Art from Ocean Plastic

  • Interest Level: Grade 1 – Grade 4
  • Reading Level: Grade 3

Every day, we use plastic products. And where do these items go when we are done with them?

When artist Angela Haseltine Pozzi found plastic trash polluting the beach near her home, she took action. She formed an organization called Washed Ashore and started gathering trash from beaches and using it to create incredible sculptures of wildlife. These sculptures travel the country to teach people about the importance of these animals—and the problems caused by plastic pollution.

Author and photographer Kelly Crull highlights fourteen spectacular sculptures, along with hints to find common objects hidden among the debris. There’s information about each ocean animal as well as tips for how you can reduce your plastic use, hold a beach cleanup and make your own plastic art. Be inspired to get creative in protecting the world’s oceans!

“An excellent work on an unusual topic and a must for school and library shelves.”—starred, Booklist

Click here for free educator resources corresponding to this book.

Lightning Bolt Books ® — Earth in Danger

  • Interest Level: Grade 1 – Grade 3
  • Reading Level: Grade 2

8 Book Series

Weather and natural processes on Earth can sometimes evolve into dangerous storms and events. Examine hurricanes, wildfires, volcanic eruptions, and more to learn how they happen, how to stay safe, and the role climate change plays in nature’s big disasters.

Planet Ocean: Why We All Need a Healthy Ocean

  • Interest Level: Grade 4 – Grade 8
  • Reading Level: Grade 4

“Books like this one help lead the way to a better climate future for all inhabitants of Mother Earth. We are all in this together!” — Jeff Bridges, Academy Award winner and environmentalist

A little more than 70 percent of Planet Earth is ocean. So wouldn’t a better name for our global home be Planet Ocean?

You may be surprised at just how closely YOU are connected to the ocean. Regardless of where you live, every breath you take and every drop of water you drink links you to the ocean. And because of this connection, the ocean’s health affects all of us.

Dive in with author Patricia Newman and photographer Annie Crawley—visit the Coral Triangle near Indonesia, the Salish Sea in the Pacific Northwest, and the Arctic Ocean at the top of the world. Find out about problems including climate change, ocean acidification, and plastic pollution, and meet inspiring local people who are leading the way to reverse the ways in which humans have harmed the ocean.

“[A] clear narrative that combines science, images, and the voices of young divers and Indigenous peoples to get across their point. . . . Worth exploring in depth.”—Kirkus Reviews

Click here for free educator resources corresponding to this book.

The Adventures of Dr. Sloth: Rebecca Cliffe and Her Quest to Protect Sloths

  • Interest Level: Grade 3 – Grade 6
  • Reading Level: Grade 3

True or false: Sloths are lazy. Answer: False! True or false: Sloths are mysterious. Answer: True! Scientists are only beginning to discover how sloths live in the wild.

Sloths spend most of their lives in trees, and until recently scientists didn’t know very much about them. But Dr. Rebecca Cliffe was determined to discover their secrets. To find out more, she fitted sloths with special backpacks containing a device to track their activity. She learned how to climb trees in the Costa Rican jungle so she could take sloth hair samples and test their DNA. And she’s helped create sloth crossings and plant trees to ensure the sloths aren’t trapped in shrinking territories. Along the way, she earned the nickname Dr. Sloth.

Discover the story of how an animal-loving kid in England grew up to become one of the world’s leading sloth scientists, and learn how Dr. Sloth is using her discoveries to help keep sloths safe. Author and professional wildlife photographer Suzi Eszterhas brings readers up close to the action with engaging text and fantastic photos. Scan QR codes throughout the book to see her videos of sloths in the wild!

“Eszterhas offers a fascinating glimpse at the work of a scientist currently active in her field. . . . Kids passionate about animal conservation will love this.”—Booklist

Greta Thunberg: Climate Crisis Activist

From the Series Gateway Biographies

  • Interest Level: Grade 4 – Grade 8
  • Reading Level: Grade 5

Appalled by government apathy regarding climate change, 15-year-old Swedish activist Greta Thunberg started a protest in front of the her country’s parliament building in August 2018. She criticized leaders for not doing enough to reduce carbon emissions and stood outside with the sign Skolstrejk för klimatet (school strike for the climate). Within months, Thunberg’s strikes and blunt speeches to world leaders and all adults ignited a global movement, inspiring millions of people to take action worldwide.

The Call of Antarctica: Exploring and Protecting Earth’s Coldest Continent

  • Interest Level: Grade 6 – Grade 12
  • Reading Level: Grade 8

Antarctica is the coldest, windiest, highest, driest, and most remote part of the world. It’s the world’s largest polar dessert. Antarctica is a true wilderness.

Author Leilani Raashida Henry, daughter of George W. Gibbs, Jr., the first person of African descent to go to Antarctica, recounts her father’s expedition while educating readers on the incredible geography, biodiversity, and history of the continent. Using diary entries from Gibbs’ expedition, The Call of Antarctica takes readers on a journey to the rugged Antarctic landscape to learn its history, its present, and the importance of protecting its future.

“The lure and danger of Antarctica is vividly captured . . . Readers will discover a unique continent in need of preservation in this appealing, well-researched book.”—Booklist

“Antarctica is undeniably cool, and this volume makes sure we know it.”—Kirkus Reviews

American Jaguar: Big Cats, Biogeography, and Human Borders

  • Interest Level: Grade 8 – Grade 12
  • Reading Level: Grade 8

In the borderlands between the United States and Mexico, America’s largest cat—the jaguar—is fighting to regain its kingdom. Added to the endangered species list in 1997, the jaguar has declined in population mainly due to habitat fragmentation created by roads, farms, mines, and most controversially, the border wall. Such human-made barriers prevent free movement of many wild animals for predation and mating, thereby threatening their reproduction, DNA transfer, and overall survival. Author and wildlife biologist Elizabeth Webb examines the jaguar’s predicament and highlights the work of field scientists who are searching for solutions. “Conservation Connection” features throughout the book underscore the importance of protecting this keystone species of the Americas.

  • Green Earth Book Award, Long-listed, 2022
  • Notable Award Kirkus Best Teen Books of the Year, Winner, 2021

“A powerful call to protect our Earth and its vulnerable creatures.”—starred, Kirkus Reviews

A Hot Mess: How the Climate Crisis Is Changing Our World

  • Interest Level: Grade 6 – Grade 12
  • Reading Level: Grade 8

We already know what climate change is and many of us understand the human causes. But what will climate change do to our world? Who will be affected (spoiler: all of us!) and how will our lives change in the future? Topics include sea levels, extreme weather, drought, animal and plant extinction, and human and animal migration. Drawing on real-life situations and stories, journalist Jeff Fleischer takes an informed, approachable look at how our world will likely change as a result of our actions, including suggestions on what we can still do to slow down these unprecedented effects.

Hothouse Earth: The Climate Crisis and the Importance of Carbon Neutrality

  • Interest Level: Grade 6 – Grade 12
  • Reading Level: Grade 8

As hurricanes, droughts, floods, and wildfires are increasing in regularity and intensity, climate change can no longer be ignored. Melting permafrost, forest dieback, ocean acidification, and other processes are creating positive feedback loops which could, if not aggressively and quickly addressed, spiral out of control and take global warming past the point of no return. Hothouse Earth examines how science, politics, and social justice must all be part of the equation to counteract climate change.

Where Have All the Birds Gone?

Nature in Crisis

  • Interest Level: Grade 8 – Grade 12
  • Reading Level: Grade 8

Birds are disappearing.

Birds are nature’s essential workers, and they are crucial members of ecosystems around the world. Hummingbirds pollinate our flowers; cardinals munch on beetles, grasshoppers, and other pests that damage crops; owls eat rodents that can spread disease; vultures clean up roadkill and other waste. Beyond their practical aspects, birds bring us joy through their songs and beautiful feathers.

But since 1970, nearly 30 percent of all birds in the United States and Canada have vanished. Scientists are scrambling to figure out what may be causing such a drastic decline. The answer: humans. City lights and tall glass skyscrapers disorient migrating birds. Domesticated cats prowling outdoors kill billions of birds each year. Pesticides contaminate fish and insects, which are then consumed by birds of prey. And climate change might disrupt and even wipe out feeding grounds for entire species.

Discover the vast impacts birds have on ecosystems, food systems, and human communities, and learn more about what scientists are doing to protect them.

“Coverage of each topic smoothly incorporates history, science, case studies, and/or work being done to address the problem. . . . It’s impossible to read this and not recognize the seriousness of the problem, but Hirsch also highlights birds’ resilience when given a helping hand.”—starred, Booklist

“This pithy book more than fulfills its promise to introduce readers to the importance of birds, the state of avian research, and how they can contribute to birds’ well-being. . . . Well-informed inspiration.”—starred, Kirkus Reviews

The Hunt Is On

From the Series Seekers of the Aweto

  • Interest Level: Grade 7 – Grade 12
  • Reading Level: Grade 7

Xinyue, his brother Qiliu, and their mother are seekers, hunting aweto—a rare, plantlike treasure—along the legendary Silk Road. After one outing, Xinyue discovers the offspring of a deity that creates aweto—and becomes the little creature’s reluctant caretaker. He soon struggles to keep it safe and keep it a secret. And that’s before he learns that warriors from the deity’s village are on his family’s tail…

“[B]alances dynamic action sequences with a nuanced exploration of environmental commodification and resource scarcity.”—Shelf Awareness

Looking for even more Earth Day book recommendations? Check out our previous post “Earth Day Books to Read and Discuss.”

Get free read-aloud videos, activities, and more to celebrate Earth Day in your classroom or library!

Sign up for our Earth Day celebration to receive an email with something for readers of every grade K-12, including read-aloud videos, activities, and a free eBook. Sign up runs from March 23-April 22.

Leave a Reply