Do you have a little feminist nature lover in your life? Here are our top book picks featuring the environment & earth advocacy from toddlers to pre-teens! Follow along with Jane Goodall’s quiet observation skills in The Watcher, help a tree grow fruit with Tap the Magic Tree, and discover how Wangari Maathai changed her country beginning with just one seed.
- Written and Illustrated by Christie Matheson
- Published in 2013
- For readers 2-4
As a sweet introduction to the nature all around us, Tap The Magic Tree offers an interactive, colorful, and fun story for your child. Follow along through the life cycle of a fruit tree, and help it grow!
What we love: The simply rendered artwork is both entertaining and beautiful.
Things to know: This is a board book and is definitely intended for younger readers.
- Written and Illustrated by Oliver Jeffers
- Published in 2017
- For readers 2-7
In Here We Are, rich colors and clean drawings show the depth of life on Earth.
The text lays out basic ideas of what we know about the ocean, the atmosphere, and the human body, making these complex concepts easy to grasp for younger children, while retaining a feeling of importance that will interest older children.
What we love: Oliver Jeffers wrote Here We Are for his son, making it all the more sweet. This book is a wonderful option for children whose curiosity is insatiable, as it covers constellations, the solar system, and the diversity of our planet. If your child is constantly saying “why?” this book is for you!
Things to know: Although this book is written by and from the perspective of a straight white man, the overall message of living on planet earth is general enough to apply thoughtfully to any child’s developing sense of awareness.
- Written and Illustrated by Jeanette Winter
- Published in 2011
- For readers 4-7
In a different take on Jane Goodall’s life, The Watcher shows how Jane put her powerful observation skills to use, ultimately leading her to study chimpanzees in Tanzania. This book has a bit more text than Me… Jane and it addresses more complex ideas, like environmentalism, sustainability, and how to fight for what you care about.
What we love: The focus on Jane Goodall’s observation skills is inspirational.
Things to know: Compared to Me…. Jane, this book is for older or more advanced readers. It still doesn’t address Goodall’s activism as much as we’d like.
- Written by Patricia Valdez
- Illustrations by Felicita Sala
- Published in 2018
- For readers 5-8
Young Joan, who is often sick and kept home from school, finds an interest in reptiles. Her classmates shriek when she brings her pet crocodile to school, but Joan is not deterred. Rather, she seeks and develops a relationship with the curator of reptiles and fish at the Natural History Museum, ultimately taking over his position after he retires. Colorful and elegant, Sala’s stylized illustrations carry Joan’s story through its unusual and wonderful successes.
What we love: Joan’s position as a woman scientist, particularly one with an interest in reptiles, is uncommon in children’s books.
Things to know: This is another book about about a white female scientist. Historically amongst women, those who were white and more affluent had greater access to professions dominated by white males. It’s no wonder there is a frustrating scarcity of books about scientists who are women of color. We are working on a “women in space book list” that will have better representation, so stay tuned!
Mountain Chef: How one Man Lost His Groceries, Changed His Plans, and Helped Cook Up the National Park Service
- Written by Annette Bay Pimentel
- Illustrations by Rich Lo
- Published in 2016
- For readers 5-8
A mule carrying valuable food wanders off. Then another one falls down a ravine, emerging unscathed but scattering and destroying even more supplies! Mountain Chef shares the story of Tie Sing, the best camp cook in California, as he prevails against disaster after disaster to feed his party of 30 men. Tie Sing provides inspiration to these men, who eventually create the National Park Service.
What we love: The virtually unknown story of Tie Sing shines through the quietly expressive drawings of Rich Lo. The book depicts the racism that Tie fought and endured and paints a deeper picture of Tie’s position as an Asian American during this time in U.S. history. Additionally, Mountain Chef reinforces the belief that, while Tie was ethnically and racially Chinese, he was born in America — just as American as anyone else, holding both worlds within himself.
Things to know: The author does not appear to be of Chinese American or Asian descent. The pages at the back of the book are key to include in your reading, as they explain more about the real historical figure of Tie Sing and the author’s research methods.
- Written by Jen Cullerton Johnson
- Illustrations by Sonia Lynn Sadler
- Published in 2010
- For readers 5-9
Wangari Maathai grew up in Kenya, following the Kikuyu tradition of respecting the environment. With the support of her family, Wangari then attended college in America, ultimately becoming a biologist. Upon returning home, Wangari saw large scale crops taking over her hometown landscape. This prompted her decision to change Kenya, one seedling at a time.
What we love: There are many books about Wangari Maathai’s Green Belt Movement, but this one is special. Seeds of Change covers Maathai’s accomplishments as a female scientist, and it highlights the opposition she faced from powerful politicians and businessmen. In reading this book, we see how a movement can grow from just a few seeds.
Things to know: There is a slightly problematic glorification of America and Western ideas of feminism in the section about how Wangari became a female scientist and how she changed while living in America. Make sure your littles know that there are many ways to be a feminist!
If you’re craving more, Planting the Seeds of Kenya by Claire A. Nivola is our runner-up for books about the Green Belt Movement.
Now you can broaden and diversify your child’s collection of nature books. Leave a comment and let us know if you have a favorite we missed!
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*All photos from Amazon.com