10 kids books to inspire future conservationists

Published on Tuesday, 19 October 2021
Last updated on Tuesday, 14 February 2023

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With the future of our planet in their hands, it's essential for us to educate young children about what they can do as individuals to protect the local environment, and how we can all work together to conserve, preserve and revive our planet and all who live on it.

And what's one of the best ways to educate and inspire young children? With stories of course! After all, an inspiring story can change how you see the world.

Here's a short list of some great titles, old and new, of beautiful children's books that are designed to educate children about the dangers we are currently posing to the planet, to enlighten them about what can be done to lessen these dangers, and to inspire awe and wonder about our incredible world, so that they can see just why it is so worth saving.

1 - Where the Forest Meets the Sea - Jeannie Baker 

This Aussie classic is one of the most beautiful children's books that many of us will remember from our own childhoods. Through beautiful, thought-provoking collages, author Jeannie Baker tells the story of a young boy and his father taking a trip by boat out to an ancient rainforest in North Queensland.

As the boy explores the landscape on his own, ghostly shadows of crocodiles, dinosaurs and Aboriginal people show the echoes left behind by those who lived in the forest millions of years ago.

Most poignantly, as the boy returns to his father on the beach, he wonders if when they return ‘someday', the forest will remain or if it will be eaten up by man-made structures. 

2 - The Lorax - Dr Seuss

“I am the Lorax, I speak for the trees.” A childhood favourite for many generations, this vibrant and entertaining tale follows the journey of the Once-ler as he strives to make his dreams of success and fame come true, but ends up damaging the natural world around him almost to the point of no return.

Despite the warnings from the guardian of the forest, the cute and fluffy Lorax who is all-too-easily ignored, the Once-ler decimates the landscape and leaves those who called it home now homeless. Now it's up to future generations to try to make things right.

3 - The Giant and the Sea - Trent Jamieson, Rovina Cai

With soft colours and simple words, this story speaks of a little girl who plays beside a still, silent giant on the shore beside the sea. The giant keeps watch on the sea and listens to the girl playing, until one day she tells the girl that the sea has started to rise and a machine in the nearby city is responsible.

The story deals with the dangers of industrialisation, the importance of standing up for what you believe in, and the often dismissive nature of many adults who are reluctant to believe the words of children.

4 - Stand Up! Speak Up! - Andrew Joyner 

Stand Up! Speak Up! is a story of hope, and how children can change the world by making greener life choices for themselves and their families. It also highlights how they can incite change by encouraging others to hear their voices, make even small changes for positive impact, and pass on the message of creating a better world for their future.

The book gives a wealth of practical, fun and inspiring ideas for small changes made on an individual level that, if widely adopted, can make a big difference around the world.

inspiring child books: the tale of a toothbrush

5 - Tale of a Toothbrush - M. G. Leonard

Sofia loves her sunny yellow toothbrush, Sammy. She uses him every day, and he is always happy to see her. But one day, Sofia's mother decides that Sammy is worn out and no longer useful, so she throws him in the bin. This is the story of Sammy going from a useful household item to just another piece of plastic rubbish polluting our earth and the ocean.

Once the story is done, the book gives ideas for how to reuse items such as toothbrushes instead of throwing them away, suggests alternatives to plastic toothbrushes such as bamboo ones, and tells children what the problem with plastic rubbish really is. It's a great story that helps parents educate their children on the impact of plastic pollution and the value of recycling.

6 - Uno's Garden - Graeme Base

A fantastically illustrated book about a man named Uno discovering a beautiful forest full of mystical animals… and one perfectly ordinary snortlepig. The story illustrates how, as people's cities grow and take over, the numbers of animals diminish until there are next to none of them left. It also shows how depressed people can become in a world with no natural elements. But there's always hope…

The first half of the story counts down from ten magnificent moopaloops to merely two pointy pricklebacks, and the poor lonely snortlepig of course. But over time, as the city crumbles and the forest begins to take over once more, the animals return and their numbers go from two back up to ten. Though the singular snortlepig is unfortunately not seen again.

7 - Our Planet: The One Place We All Call Home - Matt Whyman with Sir David Attenborough, and Richard Jones

While this book does go into ways that we can all work together to protect the natural wonders of our world, it focuses so much more on presenting those wonders to young readers, making them fall in love with amazing animals and thrilling landscapes through incredible photography, winsome artworks and incredible information that all ties into Attenborough's award-winning documentary series, Our Planet.

8 - We Are Water Protectors - Carole Lindstrom, Michaela Goade

Written by a Native American author and illustrated by an Inuit artist, this book shares the stories of Indigenous people and their traditional connection to the Earth and the land on which they live.

It speaks of water as a sacred element, one that is being poisoned in our time by the ‘black snake' of oil pipelines, and how it is the job of the people to protect the water and all life that relies on it, however we can.

9 - My Friend Earth - Patricia MacLachlan, David Diaz and Francesca Sanna

My Friend Earth is a lovely introduction to Earth's seasonality as well as her countless creatures, as the personification of Earth wakes in Spring to wonder at and watch over the animals in her care.

Through Summer, Autumn and Winter she affects the weather, blowing winds, and bringing rain and snow, all while nurturing the landscapes, from frozen tundra to wild prairies and the depths of the ocean. She delights in all of her creatures, taking care of baby animals, guiding them to their mothers and helping them to find wherever they call home.   

10 - Compost Stew

A charming and practical lyrical guide to turning the bits and pieces from our homes and gardens that we no longer need into rich, nutritious compost stew, a treat for the earth. While the illustrations are sweet and the rhymes are fun to read, the best part about this story is that it gives a great guide to all of the things you can compost, from apple cores and bruised bananas to hair trimmings, laundry lint and zinnia heads. And all of this is done in an alphabetical guide to make it easier for kids (and adults!) to remember.

So for your next story time, pick one from these inspiring kids books to share life-affirming messages about the value of caring for the planet with your little ones.

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