Earth Day Nonfiction Roundup

You can find the entire list by tapping the image above, more convenient for library requests!

I’ve been diligently collecting nonfiction books that focus on nature & sustainability over the last few months in order to bring you a massive educational activity book roundup in time for outdoor spring and summer adventures! You can find all of these suggestions in a dedicated Bookshop list, for your next library or bookstore venture. The books are organized from youngest to oldest reader, but loosely categorized to help find the reads that work best for your reader!

board books

My World in 100 Words: My Garden:

This series is super adorable, and it also has some of the most lovely incidental representation! I’ve previously shared about other books in the series, and this newest one is perfect for nature enthusiasts.

The main character is a child of color that uses a hearing aid, two facts that aren’t mentioned. Inside this board book is fantastic vocabulary for all four seasons, and lots of outdoor activities. Action and Feeling words are marked by specific color dots, which also helps to emphasize specific vocabulary if desired.

Kindly sent by Quarto!

ABC Earth Friendly Me:

I’m a big fan of these oversized alphabet board books by Christiane Engel! There’s a little poem to explain what each letter stands for, and this book in particular also has a glossary in the back with more complex vocabulary to explain some concepts in the book.

Excellent topics to springboard or introduce scientific units like vermicomposting & preservation are explained in the glossary, helping to draw connections between algebraic thinking concepts like preservation with direct action like planting trees.

Kindly sent by Quarto!

Rosa Explores the Water Cycle & Rosa Explores Life Cycles:

I love the Rosa book series, and it’s a perfect in-between for the two mentioned above.

Water Cycle:

Rosa is in school when it starts to storm! With a few of her classmates, Rosa learns all about how to collect rainwater, as well as what happens when that rain is left in the sun.

A lovely illustration note is that one of Rosa’s classmates is wearing an eye patch! It’s so common to have a student wear a corrective eye patch in the classroom for a few months, and it’s fabulous to see this represented in a book.

Life Cycles:

Rosa and her friends find some frogspawn in a puddle, and are introduced to all stages of a frog’s life cycle. We have a lot of vernal pools where I live, and I absolutely love finding frogspawn in them while out on walks.

This is the perfect and timely book to begin your springtime science!

Published by Child’s Play, kindly sent by Publisher Spotlight!

k-early elementary:

a combination of activity books & regular nonfiction

Zero Waste Kids Activity Book:

I’ve really been sitting on this amazing book for about a month, because I’ve been really jazzed to share it during April!

You’ve probably seen the viral video where activist Rob Greenfield wore all of the trash he produced on his body as a visual statement on single use plastics and the consumer culture we live in. Now, he’s created an activity book that can help take your crafting AND recycling to the next level.

Inside there are not only 35 craft projects, but are also helpful “Zero Hero Tips” & “Take it Further” suggestions to make an even greater sustainability impact in your household and community. The illustrations show a diverse range of crafters, and in the back is an additional list of activities! It’s primary focus is on environmentalism and changing personal as well as community habits to be more involved in offsetting (AND pressuring large corporations) carbon footprints and environmental impact.

Kindly sent by Quarto!

It Starts With a Bee:

I love bees. I desperately want a hive. This rhyming narrative begins with a bee, and shows how they live daily lives, and introduces the broader context of how important pollination is to agriculture.

The text is rhyming and I can see this book being used very successfully in a Junior K or Kindergarten classroom to talk about springtime and science.

The illustrations are realistic and detailed, showing multiple aspects and locations of busy bee life.

Kindly sent by Quarto!

Little Homesteader: A Spring Treasury of Recipes, Crafts, and Wisdom:

Being a little homesteader myself, in the novice sense, I was immediately drawn to this beginner picture book about subsistence living. While there isn’t a narrative arc, all of the tips and tricks follow a common thread of springtime homestead life.

Readers learn about phenology, a natural knowledge farming timeline that is based on seeing specific signs and then planting accordingly. There are fun recipes like foraged violet syrup and edible flower cookies, as well as other tasty recipes and plant knowledge.

This Treasury is joyful and excites readers to get outdoors by showcasing the fun and special parts of spring (like strawberry planting!) while not overwhelming young people with too much scientific vocabulary. The illustrations are adorable, and I’m SO jazzed they’ll be making one for each season. This is perfect for ages 4-6!

Kindly sent by Quarto!

Outside, You Notice:

This lyrical picture book has a poetic arc with quick nature facts sprinkled throughout the story. I like how this transforms the story into something that can be experienced and taken in by a wide range of readers.

The activities and facts are localized to a more city setting, but emphasis is on places like a community garden, park, or playground. This is the perfect reminder that nature can be observed anywhere, not just on a farm!

The text asks readers mindful, sensory-based questions and then peppers in facts related to the reflection questions. It’s a unique take on a nonfiction book, and I love the inclusion of personal observation and mindfulness practices.

Kindly sent by Pajama Press for the Best of 2021 Book List!

How to Be an Explorer:

On my never-ending quest to be prepared to disappear into the woods after the apocalypse, I’ve found a wonderful outdoor skills manual for kids! This book is written in a way that empowers kids to spend time (and thrive!) outdoors, but doesn’t sugarcoat how hard it is to live a subsistence lifestyle.

Interspersed throughout are profiles of explorers like Jeanne Baret (a French naturalist), Bungaree (a Native Australian sailor), and mountain climber Junko Tabei. This gives inspiration and additional biographical information about historical explorers, many of which are people of color. This is a much-needed nod to the Indigenous knowledge that was lost during colonization and the Industrial Revolution.

Inside the book are practical skills like safe knife usage and water filtration, and also how to develop observational skills like air patterns and understanding how water reacts to different weather. There is a lot of safety information, and some tasty looking recipes for cooking over a campfire!

Kindly sent by Button Books!

Recycle and Play:

This book was also kindly sent by Quarto, and it’s the perfect pairing to the Zero Waste activity book. It focuses on making games and craft projects that use spare bits and pieces around the house, many of which are similar to those available at toy stores and made of plastic (like a Hungry Hungry Hippos type game made of cardboard). I find the way that the focus is on games and art very engaging, and kids will be elated at the crafting options at their fingertips.

Recycle and Play doesn’t include the environmental activism piece that the Zero Waste Kids book includes, which is how the two pair together so well. I believe that just having these resources around a house or library sets the precedent that this is how games and toys are made first: using recycled and secondhand materials. Some of the craft projects require grownup assistance with cutting or hot glueing, but the projects all look colorful and engaging for tiny humans!

Planet Power:

This book, perfect for younger readers, focuses on the renewable energy that we have in the natural world. The text has introductory information about wind, water, geothermal, and solar power with illustrations that show them in action across the globe. The illustrations show urban and rural settings for harvesting renewable energy, which helps contextualize that this is a global movement.

There isn’t any additional information about what exactly is being depicted, but that would most likely be too complex for the reader and require more extensive backmatter (there is already a fantastic breakdown about each energy type), so this decision makes sense. It also would provide an opportunity to research online for the most updated developments in this growing field. On each page however, is additional vocabulary box which has words like ‘wind farm’, ‘tides’, and ‘clean energy’! This would be perfect for the 4-8 audience.

Kindly sent by Barefoot Books!

Water: A Deep Dive of Discovery:

As you might have guessed, this is an in-depth look at all things water. Developed for upper elementary and middle grade readers, the text explores water from all angles, micro and macro views, and there are 8 global stories told throughout as well. The Behind the Stories section has information about the retailers of the folktales, and a list of sources used to create the book.

Water: A Deep Dive of Discovery addresses scientific, cultural, and environmental issues surrounding water, taking care to have a global lens without being too abstract. I was really interested to see the section that discussed careers in water, showing the range from activist Autumn Peltier, a ski instructor, or meteorologist. This is a carefully researched and curated book, and would be an excellent addition to a learning space!

A note I will make is that the flaps are paper, and therefore might not stand up to very rough or unsupervised use with younger readers. However, since the contents is geared towards older readers, this shouldn’t be a huge concern if they have typically-developing fine motor skills and muscle control.

Kindly sent by Barefoot Books!

C is for Carbon Footprint:

I very rarely review and promote self-published books, but C is for Carbon Footprint is now part of the few exceptions. Written by an educator, Robert Donisch, this alphabetical list of earth-friendly suggestions is great for introductory readers.

Throughout the alphabet, readers get the opportunity to interact with and learn about more complex concepts of environmentalism such as the “Buyerarchy of Needs” which puts a sustainable spin on Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. {It should be noted that Maslow based this part of his work on co-opting Indigenous Blackfoot knowledge. If you’re unfamiliar, this article contextualizes it nicely.}

Kindly sent by the author! Visit his website here.

100 Ways to Make the World a Better Place: An Activity Book to Inspire Change:

As part of the Citizen Kid series, this activity book takes the natural inclination to enjoy solving puzzles and playing games & joins practical advice for community improvement together! 100 Ways to Make the World a Better Place uses familiar games like tic tac toe and makes it into a game about inclusion. The “player” makes their own three in a row by doing deeds out in the world that foster inclusion.

I appreciate that the activities aren’t surface level. They’re not worksheets to turn in, the text asks the reader to understand a concept before reinforcing it with an activity. There are discussion prompts about budgeting and food insecurity, two topics that are VERY rarely talked about in elementary nonfiction texts.

I would definitely recommend that this be used as a family or classroom for the most impactful experience, so young people can have these important discussions and ask clarifying questions as needed.

Kindly sent by Kids Can Press!

Weather & Climate Science Lab for Kids:

I feel like I would have liked science class much more if we had done more hands on activities to showcase concepts. This activity book has so much science that I never thought to turn into an activity.

There are themed chapters about the sun, atmosphere, wind, climate change, and more! It’s important to have the climate change chapter in there, with projects, for students and young scientists to see the effects in a microcosm of what’s occurring globally. The experiments range in type of project and use a variety of supplies.

This is definitely for elementary students that have a grasp on the scientific method and a foundational knowledge of weather and climate.

Kindly sent by Quarto!

Make This Book Wild:

Do you dog-ear pages? Do you yearn to fully immerse your scrapbook audience into the documented experience? This could be the book for you.

Make ink from berries and design a spiderweb! Collect bugs and let them race on the pages! Take this book and run wild through the forest getting grass stains on the cover. Make This Book Wild is an experience to fill out and an experience to flip through.

I’m about to tie up a baguette and hunk of cheese into a bandana and set off into the forest…

Kindly sent by Quarto!

upper elementary:

a combination of activity books & regular nonfiction

The Global Ocean:

Based on the fact that we essentially have one ocean with many names, this book looks at the different ways that human life impacts the health of it. This is a more targeted picture book for older elementary students about how water works on a global scale in response to humans.

Much of the text is targeted to explaining climate change and what this means for the health of the ocean water and marine life. There are also some profiles of activists and organizations on each page in a “Ripple of Change!” spotlight, which keeps things from getting distressingly bleak while reading. The organization of page layouts enable the reader to read straight through cover to cover, or to flip to a specific topic. The focus is very much on what we can do to help offset marine destruction, and has a list of sources & additional information in the back as well.

I also love this book extra because I’m a huge fan of Natasha Donovan, and she illustrated The Global Ocean. I was thrilled to see varied body sizes within the book, including on the beach!

Kindly sent by Kids Can Press! This title will be released on May 3rd.

Beetles for Breakfast and Other Weird and Wonderful Ways to Save the Planet:

So we already know that Flying Eye produces some of the most incredible nonfiction. The care they take to produce quality books (both content wise and physical materials) is unparalleled. I’ve been impatiently sitting on Beetles for Breakfast (a contender for the Best of 2021 List) to review in this massive roundup.

The focus of this book is to highlight all of the funky ways that technology has developed to be more sustainable in our daily lives. The graphics are bright and the text is broken up into tidbits of information that are easily digested and not overwhelming.

The futuristic daily lives led by folks inside the book are still aspirational, but they show what humanity can collectively do to use buying power to influence the production of household versions of this science. Cricket flour is a great idea, but only if it’s accessible to everyone will it become a household staple. The individual will most likely never make enough of a global impact, but by prioritizing these advances in science we can be on our way.

Sidenote: did you know that some scientists want to bring back wooly mammoths to help control Arctic temperatures?? Just sit with that for a moment.

Kindly sent by Flying Eye Books!

Atlas of Migrating Plants and Animals:

I don’t think it would be hyperbolic to say that I gasped out loud when I first opened this book, it’s gorgeous! The watercolors used to illustrate the critters both big and small are bright and beautiful, entirely taking over double page spreads in some areas.

I love the framing of plants being migratory. Of course they are, but not often described that way in books for younger readers.

With global coverage, this is definitely something I can see reading cover to cover (if you happen to be a massive [and proud] dork like me) as well as a reference guide when one wants to learn a bit more about the crabs on Christmas Island, lemmings, or dandelions.

Kindly sent by Princeton Architectural Press!

At the Sea:

You might remember In the Garden, which won a spot of the Best of List for 2020. Now, At the Sea is here in all of it’s flappy glory! At the Sea follows siblings Plum and Robin for some time at the seashore, and the detailed flaps that I was completely enamored with in the previous book is back with a vengeance. Light. House. Flap.

While At the Sea offers massive amounts of seaside knowledge about land and wildlife, it also has a strong theme of environmentalism and how to reduce personal detrimental impact on the planet.

There is additional information about scientific expeditions to study effects of plastic on marine life, as well as climate change and the effect of pollution on plankton!

Kindly sent by Princeton Architectural Press!

I Have the Right to Save My Planet:

Based on the UN Rights of the Child, this book combines human rights and climate change together into a picture book. Not so much a narrative as a rallying cry, the text covers the beauty and threats to the globe. It empowers readers to extend equitable treatment to all citizens, human, flora, or fauna; they have the right to an unpolluted landscape and a right to clean drinking water.

Since this is a picture book, some of the nuances surrounding environmentalism aren’t discussed, such as lack of access (financially as well as geographically) to certain resources within the book such as organic produce. While the language on this particular page uses the word “prefer” which is broadly applicable, this preference may not even be an option for everyone. In a developmentally appropriate way, things aren’t sugarcoated but the text is overall positive and empowering! It takes children’s hopes and dreams seriously, acknowledging them as people with valid opinions when discussing the fate of our planet.

Kindly sent by Groundwood!


The Welcome to the Museum series is hands down my favorite coffee table book set, so imagine my excitement when I found out an aquatic volume had been released!

As a child, I wanted to be a marine biologist. If I had had this book in the early nineties, I probably would have tried to move into the aquarium. I love scientific illustrations, and they’re massive (as well as beautiful) in Oceanarium.

While there are large blocks of text with scientific terminology, it’s offset by colorful illustrations. This would be a perfect coffee table, scientific reference book, or something to pore over on a rainy day or on the way to an aquarium.

Kindly sent by Candlewick

My Book of Butterflies:

The immersive illustrations of this volume can only be described as magical. Butterflies are so tiny, but the detailed drawings of these precious insects are gargantuan, allowing the reader to dive into the small details and delicate patterns on the wings.

Let’s begin with the endpapers, the bits connected to the hardcover. In the beginning, they’re (labeled!) caterpillars crawling around on blades of grass. At the end, they’re cocoons (once again, labeled by species)! I appreciate this detail, and the opportunity that was taken to impart even more knowledge onto the reader. Brazilian author illustrator Geraldo Valério fondly remembers his childhood garden and observing the critters that were attracted to the plants and flowers.

The details that Valério is able to capture in his illustrations are a delight to the eye. The background details behind the massive butterflies is blocky and remind me of vintage Pyrex patterns. They’re a perfect match for the detailed main illustrations. They don’t overtake the butterflies, but compliment them in their own stunning way. As you can clearly see, I’m enamored!

Sent by Groundwood and was a contender for the Best of 2021 Book List!

So there you have it, humans. I hope the rest of your spring and all of your summer is spent outside frolicking and learning about the world around you!

You can find the entire list by tapping the image above, more convenient for library requests!

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