Earth Day is April 22nd, and it serves as both a celebration of our natural world and as a call to protect it. To honor Earth Day this year, we’ve hand-picked nine children’s books that capture the spirit of the day in its entirety. This list covers books that highlight champions of environmental conservation as well as illustrative stories that celebrate our connection with the planet, all the way from the ancient world right up to today. From the Green Belt of Kenya to the coral reefs of the Florida Keys, this selection is jam-packed with stories of complex ecosystems from across the globe, each holding a deep love for the planet we call home.

 We Are Water Protectors
By Carole Lindstrom
Illustrated by Michela Goade

“Water is the first medicine,” Carole Lindstrom tells us in her exceptional book We Are Water Protectors. From the very first page, the reader is drawn into the story of a young Indigenous girl and the bond she shares with her Nokomis (the Ojibwe word for Grandmother). When a poisonous black snake threatens to invade her community, this young Water Protector steps up to defend all that she and her loved ones hold dear. Winner of the 2021 Caldecott medal, this book serves to highlight the real-life activists who have worked relentlessly against the Dakota Access Pipeline. With every word, The Water Protectors inspires us to look after the planet that we all call home.

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 Greta and the Giants
By Zoë Tucker
Illustrated by Zoe Persico

A fairytale based on the inspiring work of climate activist Greta Thunberg, Greta and the Giants is a reminder that no voice is too small when it comes to advocating for our planet. This charmingly whimsical book frames the fight against climate change as a clash between the creatures of the forest and the destructive Giants. When the Giants’ ever-expanding city threatens to destroy the only patch of forest that remains, Greta and her community must band together to make their voices heard. This eco-friendly book is even printed on 100% recycled paper, and a portion of the book sales goes to the environmental protection program www.350.org.

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 The Brilliant Deep: Rebuilding the World’s Coral Reefs: The Story of Ken Nedimyer and the Coral Restoration Foundation
By Kate Messner
Illustrated by Matthew Forsythe

With lush illustrations and heartfelt text, The Brilliant Deep is a dazzling exploration into the underwater world of coral reefs. Kate Messner’s book is based on the real-life story of Ken Nedimyer, founder of the Coral Restoration Foundation, who has worked tirelessly to replenish the once-dying reefs of the Florida Keys and beyond. The book seamlessly pairs science and story together and inspires us all to create the change we want to see. After all, The Brilliant Deep teaches us that before a reef becomes a complex ecosystem intertwined together, it all starts with just one piece of coral.

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 You Are Home: An Ode to the National Parks
Written and illustrated by Evan Turk

In his stunning tour de force You Are Home, award-winning author and illustrator Evan Turk takes the reader on a journey through the US National Parks. Turk, whose father worked as a National Parks Service employee for over forty years, has always been inspired by the parks’ natural beauty. By capturing the landscapes on paper, Turk is able to immerse the reader in the wilderness that beckons with adventure. Each illustration is labeled with the national park it depicts, and the book includes a map of every US National park across the 50 states. You Are Home encourages readers young and old to go out and experience all that nature has to offer.

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 Mama Miti: Wangari Maathi and the Trees of Kenya
By Donna Jo Napoli
Illustrated by Kadir Nelson

Mama Miti tells the true story of Wangari Maathi, who in 1977 took the world by storm when she founded the Green Belt Movement of Kenya. Her organization worked to combat the environmental damage that Kenya had suffered for decades and planted trees to reverse deforestation and soil erosion. Maathi’s foundation has since planted 51 million trees, and in 2004 she was the first African woman to receive the Nobel Peace Prize. Nominee of the NAACP Image Award, Mama Miti is a powerful tribute to an extraordinary woman who was so driven by her love of nature that she ended up changing the landscape of an entire country. Her story tells us that when we come together to better the world around us, we are capable of incredible change.

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 The Tree in Me
Written and illustrated by Corinna Luyken

In this gentle story, Corinna Luyken’s The Tree in Me celebrates the connections we all share with nature. Luyken uses the imagery of the natural world to show the reader how our lives are entwined with the earth; from the food that we eat to the plants that surround us. The story stresses how we ourselves are like trees, with the strength of a tree trunk and branches that stretch out to reach for those around us. With delicate prose and playful illustrations, The Tree in Me encourages children to play outdoors and to seek out connections with nature and with each other.

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 Zonia’s Rain Forest
Written and illustrated by Juana Martinez-Neal

Winner of the Caldecott Honor and the Robert F. Silbert Medal, Zonia’s Rain Forest tells the poignant story of a young Asháninka girl who has a deep love for the land that she calls home. Zonia lives in the Amazon rainforest, and every morning she feels drawn to the lush green nature that surrounds her. She spends her days playing in the rainforest and visiting her animal friends; flitting from the family of sloths to the gentle anteaters. But when Zonia discovers a field of tree stumps — the beginnings of deforestation — she wonders how she can help the rainforest that she loves so dearly. Zonia’s Rain Forest is a timely reminder of current events and calls on us to confront the damage done to the natural world.

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 Once Upon Another Time
Written by Matt Forrest Esenwine and Charles Ghigna
Illustrated by Andrés F. Landazábal

We can go outdoors and enjoy the environment that we encounter in current times. But what about the way the world once was, before humans began to change the landscape? With lyrical prose and colorful illustrations that seem to leap off the page, Once Upon Another Time captures the wonder of an unspoiled Earth. As the book compares the beauty of the past with the alteration of the present, the reader is reminded how much we as a species have changed our planet. Once Upon Another Time reminds us of the natural world that once existed and asks us to embrace its beauty in the present while we work to foster its future.

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 Outside In
Written and illustrated by Deborah Underwood

Written before March 2020, Outside In was penned without the knowledge of what was to come. With its deep admiration for the natural world, this tender and heartfelt book has gained additional meaning since its release. In the story, the outside beckons to the main character, with sunlight that peeks through windows and leaves that rustle against the roof. Outside In depicts a nurturing landscape that heals us and encourages us to seek out nature, even when we’re indoors. For children dealing with the frustration of online school and limited time outside, this book is a reminder that nature will always be there for us, as long as we know where to look.

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