Today is Earth Day!
Every year when I celebrate Earth Day here on Orange Marmalade, I find myself inspired to live in a more just, sustainable way,
and filled with hope that more families will become seriously engaged with the protection and restoration of our planet,
because climate change and the degradation of the Earth are certainly some of the most momentous issues of our day.
Today, I’m choosing to focus on the positive with seven books heralding the phenomenal changes that can result from just one person’s action. These stories are hope-filled and inspiring!
Wildheart: The Daring Adventures of John Muir, written by Julie Bertagna, illustrated by William Goldsmith
first published in Great Britain in 2014; U.S. edition in 2019 by The Yosemite Conservancy
If anyone deserves to be at the head of today’s list, it’s John Muir, and this lively, graphic novel biography is a joyful way to make his acquaintance.
Born in Scotland in 1838, Muir emigrated to Wisconsin with his family at age 11. He was an outdoors rambler and risk-taker from his youngest days and spent a lifetime immersed in it — exploring, understanding, loving, and promoting breathtaking wilderness areas in the United States. What an enormous legacy he has left us, and what an inspiration he is! I love the way Bertagna incorporates a few of Muir’s wise quotables in this breezy account. Recommended for ages 8 and beyond.
Spring After Spring: How Rachel Carson Inspired the Environmental Movement, written and illustrated by Stephanie Roth Sisson
published in 2018 by Roaring Brook Press
One of the poster-children for the healing work done by environmentalists, Rachel Carson is a true hero. Every summer as I watch bald eagles, osprey, and loons at our cabin, I am grateful for her remarkable courage.
Beginning in her childhood, Carson loved the songs of birds surrounding her home in Pennsylvania. When as a young scientist she became aware of the decimation of bird life caused by their contamination with DDT, she courageously spoke and wrote, warning us of the harm we were inadvertently causing. Trace her story in this tender book awash with the wonder and gladness Carson felt within the natural world. Sisson softens the terrible responses Carson initially received for her work, making this book fully accessible to ages 4 and up.
Counting Birds: The Idea that Helped Save our Feathered Friends, written by Heidi E.Y. Stemple, illustrated by Clover Robin
published in 2018 by Quarto Publishing
Lest we think of the conservation movement as a recent development, here’s the story of Frank Chapman, a guy who loved birds as much as Rachel Carson, and who, in 1899 began publishing his own magazine called Bird Lore.
As a conservationist and bird-lover, Chapman was distressed by what was then a traditional Christmas event, a bird shooting competition that brought down enormous numbers of birds, large and small. Chapman used his magazine to promote a new kind of hunt — one in which people counted the birds rather than shot them. Thus began the annual Audubon Christmas Bird Count, which is described in winsome, loving detail in this heartening story. You can learn how to participate in bird counts in your neck of the woods as well in this superb book for ages 4 and up.
Bat Citizens: Defending the Ninjas of the Night, by Rob Laidlaw
published in 2018 by Pajama Press
Speaking of citizen scientists, one of the great things about environmental restoration is that any of us can participate, from the very young to the very old, in every place we find ourselves on the globe.
This book is packed full of fascinating information about the terrific varieties of bats in the world and the great difficulties these vitally-important creatures currently face. It also highlights the work of eleven schoolchildren who have each undertaken cool projects of their own to research and protect bats. From raising awareness to taking part in bat censuses or building and installing bat boxes, these kids are making smart, effective contributions. The book includes tips for bat-friendly gardens and 14 other ways your kids can begin now to help bats. Ages 6 and up.
The Boy Who Grew a Forest: The True Story of Jadav Payeng, written by Sophia Gholz, illustrated by Kayla Harren
published in 2019 by Sleeping Bear Press
Here’s a phenomenal story of how one teenage boy in India saw a problem, began taking small steps to solve it, and after 30 faithful years has made an extraordinary impact.
Jadav Payeng grew up on a large island in the midst of a river in northeastern India. As a young boy he witnessed his homeland’s environmental devastation due to floodwaters eroding the island and destroying its trees and wildlife. So little by little, Jadav took it upon himself to collect seeds and seedlings, replant, enrich the soil, and repeat. The current result is a 1,300 acre forest, “home to thousands of different species of plants and trees…shelter for many animals, some endangered.” An encouraging account of the healing impact we can have in our own backyards, aglow with jungle heat. Ages 4 and up.
I am Farmer: Growing an Environmental Movement in Cameroon, written by Baptiste and Miranda Paul, illustrated by Elizabeth Zunon
published in 2019 by Millbrook Press
There’s a running theme here today and that is: the spark of interest begun in early childhood grows into a lifetime of care for the Earth. Now is the time to instill a sense of reverence, wonder, and responsibility for the natural world in your children. Oh, the things they will do!
Farmer Tantoh was enamored with growing things from his young boyhood in northwestern Cameroon. He loved working in the gardens, loved the earthiness and the glory of what the land could produce. Tantoh went on to study agriculture, adding clean water for all to his list of goals after nearly dying of typhoid himself. As the years have gone by, he has racked up a mighty string of accomplishments for the health of the people and the land in Cameroon. This vibrant book provides another stirring example of what can happen, one step at a time, for ages 5 and up.
Dive In!: Exploring our Connection with the Ocean, by Ann Eriksson
published in 2018 by Orca Book Publishers
The state of our oceans, quite honestly, is sadly demoralizing. From erosion of shorelines, to pollution, plastic trash, overfishing, warming seas…we have not cared for these critically-important resources well. This book begins by teaching us some of the vital roles oceans play in all our lives, and some of the really rotten results of our carelessness.
But, in keeping with my emphasis on hope today — it ends with two great chapters full of practical ways we can make a difference in the health of the oceans. And if we’ve learned anything from the previous books, it’s that each of us can make an impact on our world by our actions and our activism. Get your whole family on board, discovering together how your choices can mean a healthier world for us all. A longer and weightier text, perfect for reading together with ages 7 or 8 and up.
Come back Wednesday for a book-bundle give-away of these four beauties:
plus a short list of simple items I recommend for a more sustainable lifestyle.
Friday is Arbor Day and I’ll be back celebrating those glories — trees — with new titles and a pictorial link to the many tree-ish titles I’ve reviewed over the past nine years of blogging.
There are hundreds of awesome books in the archives full of Earth’s wonders. Why not pick some titles to add to your reading stack this spring!
Nature Appreciation and Conservation
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Gems, each one.
[…] Dive In: Exploring our Connection with the Ocean – a longish title exploring humankind’s connection to, pollution of, and restoration of our oceans […]
[…] Wildheart: The Daring Adventures of John Muir Julie Bertagna and William Goldsmith/The Yellowstone […]
[…] Book that Changed the World Saving the Countryside: The Story of Beatrix Potter and Peter Rabbit Spring After Spring: How Rachel Carson Inspired the Environmental Movement Young Water Protectors: A Story About Standing […]
[…] The Boy Who Grew a Forest The story of Jadav Payeng and his incredible work restoring a massive forest in India. A second book celebrating Jadav’s work is also available now: The Forest Man, by Anne Matheson and Kay Widdowson, published in 2020 by Flowerpot Press. […]