Earth Day: Green Reads for Kids

When I was a kid, Earth Day was a chance to feel hopeful about the earth’s future. Each scrap of litter we collected, each can that was recycled, every species that moved off the endangered list, felt like a victory. But that was 25 years ago, and the narrative around what it means to be “green” has changed a lot. Kids today can talk about glacial retreat and climate change, they worry about the bees, and they ask for organic food at the supermarket.

One thing hasn’t changed since I was a kid: the pleasure of reading books that celebrate the natural world. Here’s a roundup of titled both new and old to inspire the next generation of ecologists.


SnowyDayKeatsThe Snowy Day
Ezra Jack Keats /

Ezra Jack Keats’s simple story about a city boy named Peter who explores his neighbourhood after a glorious snowfall is about more than just snow. Peter takes a huge amount of pleasure from the snow, creating patterns with his footprints and dragging a stick through fresh powder to create lines. Peter even tries to bring the snow home, with predictably soggy results. Keats wrote The Snowy Day as an explicit inclusion of minority characters in children’s literature—although it’s never mentioned, Peter is Black. This book, aimed at younger readers, is a reminder that anyone can commune with nature anytime, and in any season. Keats won the Caldecott Medal for the book in 1962.


Tokyo digs a gardenToyko Digs A Garden
Jon-Erik Lappano / Kellen Hatanaka /

A lush, vibrant story, wittily illustrated by Kellen Hatanaka, explores what happens when a city-dweller named Tokyo wishes for more nature in his city. A run-in with a old woman on a bike, three magic beans, and a cat named Kevin set the stage, but Jon-Erik Lappano’s collaboration with Hatanaka doesn’t dwell in fairy-tale tropes. Instead, the book asks young readers to imagine life in a luscious, unstoppably verdant city, one where sloths take over the elevators and rising rivers force commuters to canoe to the office (making them…canoe-ters?). It’s a bit silly, it’s over-the-top, but it’s also premium dream-fodder, and a new classic for anyone who wishes their city had a little bit more garden in it.


9781554988006_1024x1024My Book of Birds
Geraldo Valerio /

For kiddos who like a little science on their Earth Day, My Book of Birds delivers enough information to get young readers started. Brazilian-born Geraldo Valerio’s beautiful paper collages swoop and skree across the page, while short paragraphs offer details about the diet, habitat, and mating rituals of birds like the American robin, the snowy owl, the whooping crane, and the mallard. Big birds and little birds, familiar species and exotic fowl, all come together in Valerio’s smooth-edged illustrations and inspire readers of all ages to keep their eyes on the skies.


the_kids_campfire_bookThe Kids Campfire Book
Anne Love / Jane Drake / Heather Collins /

I was full-on obsessed with this book when I was a kid. First published in 1996, it’s a compendium of dozens of fun, outdoorsy activities. Building a campfire is just the beginning: you can also teach yourself how to cook over an open flame, pitch a tent, and maybe even learn a story scary enough to send a little sister or brother into hysterics. For kids who want their outdoor time to be a little more structure, or who maybe need a bit of a push out the door into the wilds of the backyard, this book provides inspiration and how-tos that don’t rely on a parent’s helping hand.


Special thanks to Groundwood Books for providing copies of Tokyo Digs a Garden and My Book of Birds.

About the Author

Kaitlyn Kochany
Author with 77 posts
More about Kaitlyn Kochany

Kaitlyn Kochany is a Toronto-area freelance writer and editor. She had her son, NS, in January 2016, and has been trying to sleep and write since then.

Related Articles

Leave a Comment