When I was a kid, I had a recurring nightmare.
Someone, some Bad Guys bent on harm, were after our family for unknown reasons.
We had to escape, flee the house FAST!
But every time, one or another person in the household had some odd reason forcing us to delay. They had to find something, or do some last minute thing.
We couldn’t simply leave someone behind; we all had to run for it together, meaning that I was waiting, willing them to hurry, clenched in terror, knowing this delay would spell our doom.
You’ve seen this play out in movies, right? Everything in you is screaming, “Leave! NOW!! Scoot!!” while the oblivious character dithers until it’s too late.
This is precisely what has been happening for decades, for real, on Planet Earth, as scientists have steadfastly waved danger flags about the environmental disaster lurking just off stage while the rest of us dilly-dally and delay.
Now, the crunch is grimly real and plain for all to see.
We must get very serious about mitigating the worst of climate change and we must do it now.
I would like to press into this issue a bit more on my blog this year as it is imperative that those of us who have been mildly interested or concerned — but not sufficiently engaged — shift our stance, purpose to become informed and actively-engaged global citizens.
Without alarming young children, we can teach them about the intricacy and miracle of our planet and journey with them on a path to sustainability.
Certainly getting out of doors and falling in love with the natural world is the A-#1 means of doing that.
Learning together through good books is another great avenue.
Here are some new titles to help us:
Mario and the Hole in the Sky: How a Chemist Saved our Planet,
written by Elizabeth Rusch, illustrated by Teresa Martinez
published in 2019 by Charlesbridge
Let’s start with the good news: the gradual healing of the ozone layer, a miraculously-collaborative, science-based solution to a dire environmental threat.
In 1995, Mario Molina and two of his fellow scientists “won the Nobel Prize in Chemistry for their work on CFCs and the ozone layer.” Read his story, from his curious childhood in Mexico peppered with endless experimentation (and one boundlessly-patient mom!), through to his studies of CFCs that awakened him to their toxicity for the ozone layer and tireless efforts to publicize the danger to our planet…until people finally listened.
The international collaboration that took place is a stunning and deeply encouraging moment in global history, one that we desperately need to echo in our efforts to tackle global climate change. This is a clear, informative read with important connections and copious resources for learning more. Grab it for ages 6 and older.
Plastic: Past, Present, and Future, text by Eun-Ju Kim, illustration by Ji-Won Lee
originally published in Korea; English edition published in 2019 by Scribble
Plastics are one of those good news – bad news stories of our world.
If you need a hip replacement or a pacemaker, you want something that lasts a reallyreallyreally long time. Ta da! Plastics and polymers to the rescue.
On the flip side, if you use something only once, like a ketchup packet, plastic shopping bag, or — egads! — a bottle of water — and then throw it into the trash…you’ve got a problem. Because that plastic is also going to last a reallyreallyreally long time, and it’s going to do super nasty things to the planet and our health.
Find out the origins of plastics, how they’re made, what they’re used for positively and negatively, and how they have enormously contributed to the degradation of the environment. This book helpfully discusses the difficulties with recycling plastic as well. Cutting way back on plastics usage is a great goal for everyone. This clearly written book is packed with information and perky, explanatory illustration work. Ages 6 and up.
Precious Planet: A User’s Manual for Curious Earthlings, written by Emmanuelle Figueras, illustrated by Sarah Tavernier and Alexandre Verhille
published originally in France; English edition 2019 by Little Gestalten
Especially for fact hounds — and that’s a big pack of us! — this oversized catalog of planetary tidbits is like a bowl of candy.
Every page features cool graphic design, with an overall metaphor of the planet as a house. We can explore the attic and roof — that’s the mountain tops of our world — or the lower level workshop — that would be the mineral resources found underground. Check out the utility room, the running water, the closet (aka the textile industry), and more.
Each two-page spread is peppered with facts and curiosities that will make you want to learn more and care more about our one-of-a-kind home. Ages 8 and up.
The Wondrous Workings of Planet Earth: Understanding Our World and Its Ecosystems, written and illustrated by Rachel Ignotofsky
published in 2018 by Ten Speed Press
I’ve mentioned this book before, but have to put it before you again because it’s simply one of the best, jam-packed books about the planet you will find.
Using appealing illustration and design, Ignotofsky has crammed her pages with information on the ecosystems of the world, beginning with clear explanations of the basic ingredients — keystone species, classification systems, energy chains, microsystems — then moving from one continent to another, examining particular ecosystems at each stop. Learn the fascinating particulars of places like the Congo Rainforest, the Atacama Desert, The Moorlands of the British Isles, and the Deep Ocean.
Following this is a great discussion of human impacts on nature and climate change. You could spend a great deal of time on this book, running merrily down all the rabbit trails that emerge as you go, and some resources for discovering those rabbit trails are also included. A fabulous guide for homeschooling families or anyone wanting to get a significant overview of the planet, ages 8 through adult.
Find more great titles for a wide range of ages exploring the wonders of nature in my list here.
The Atlas of Amazing Birds, written and illustrated by Matt Sewell
published in the UK in 2019; US edition published by Princeton Architectural Press in 2020
It is grievous to understand just how hard hit bird populations have been over the past 50 years due to our carelessness. Vast declines, numbering in the billions of birds.
One of the best ways to promote care for the earth and her creatures is to learn to love it, and birds are so very easy to love! Way easier than worms, for example, or microbes, invaluable though they are! You’ll increase your awareness, awe, and love for these feathered wonders by meandering through this lovely catalog.
Arranged by continent, robust watercolor illustrations of dozens of birds are set on copious white space, along with brief introductions to each bird, its common name, Latin name, size, and location. Spot birds common to your neighborhood as well as exotic cousins in far-flung regions. This gorgeous book is best suited to ages 10 and up. You can find lots more fantastic books about birds in my listing here, many suited to younger children.
Atlas of Ocean Adventures, written by Emily Hawkins, illustrated by Lucy Letherland
published in 2019 by Wide Eyed Books
Here’s another of Wide Eyed Books’ phenomenal, oversized atlases, this time plunging us into the depths of the oceans to discover all manner of astonishing creatures and habitats.
Voyage through Earth’s five oceans observing the aerial acrobatics of Spinner Dolphins off the coast of Hawaii or the knock-down, drag-out fighting of the octopi in South Africa’s kelp forests. Lurk with saltwater crocodiles on the Andaman Islands. Take an ice bath with walruses in the northern reaches of Norway. The atlas is awash in unbeatable illustration work, informative paragraphs plus tiny tidbits of text. Map spreads presented each time we change continents help us get our bearings.
Plus, there’s a spread on the dangers oceans face and what we can do about that, and two pages of search-and-find puzzlers. Every one of these atlases is a gem for ages 6 and up. You can further explore the waters of our planet via lots more splendid books found on my list here.
Why not do the planet a favor and share this post! Let’s all get on board and Do This!
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