This is a list of books that I, myself, have read and do recommend. I continually add to the list. I try to feature books here that are factually accurate since children (and their parents) trust books to offer factual information. I discovered that most books are not fact-checked! I’ve listed an article about this issue by a children’s non-fiction author under Additional Resources below.
I found the age recommendations on Amazon, but they are only suggestions. I read all levels of books to and with my son. You may be able to find these at your local library, so always check there first before you buy. Bonus – it’s fun to take your children to the library! Libraries rock!
Tammy Turtle: A Tale of Saving Sea Turtles
by Suzanne Tate
This is a story about a turtle going through her entire life cycle from birth, to giving birth. Tammy Turtle eats a plastic bag, mistaking it for a jellyfish. “Helpful Humans” assist her and her health returns. I recommend this book of course, and there’s actually a whole nature series by the same author and illustrator. Recommended ages 5-7.
All the Way to the Ocean
by Joel Harper
This is a cute story about children learning how their actions can directly affect nature and ocean pollution. For example, the characters learn that trash that gets into storm drains eventually reaches the ocean. The book offers motivational calls to action for kids. The companion website offers teaching resources and supplemental materials. It was endorsed by the Save Our Seas Foundation and the Surfrider Foundation. Recommended ages 5-8.
Pesky Plastic: An Environmental Story
by Leticia Colon de Mejias
While not the most well-edited book, this story comes from a great organization and I do recommend it. The author is the founder and CEO of GreenEcoWarriors.org whose mission is “Creating a Culture of Sustainable thinkers” through education aligned with national standards. Pesky Plastic is a cute story is about how plastic pollution affects marine animals and how children can help prevent plastic pollution. “Plastic seems easy to use and throw away, but sometimes the easy choice is not the right choice!” The book also features educational guides, a glossary, and instructions to make a fabric bag. Recommended ages 4-8.
We Are Water Protectors
by Carole Lindstrom
Winner of the 2021 Caldecott Medal, this beautifully illustrated book addresses protecting our most precious resource – water. “Inspired by the many Indigenous-led movements across North America, We Are Water Protectors issues an urgent rallying cry to safeguard the Earth’s water from harm and corruption.” The author included a note about why she wrote the book and about the Native Nations that are fighting oil pipelines. Recommended ages 3-6 but I believe over age 6 will benefit from its poetic expression.
by Dr. Seuss
This classic book explores consumerism, deforestation, and pollution through a colorful, imaginary world that children love. This story teaches children not to take advantage of our beautiful planet and to protect it. It also provides children with the inspiration that just one person, though small, can make a difference! This is a timeless must-read. Recommended ages 5-9.
Little Helpers by Green Start
This board book may be difficult to find new or in a library, but worth searching for. There were several in the series. These books were “Made from 98% recycled materials” and eco-friendly ink. I actually purchased my copy at Whole Foods several years ago and this was one of my son’s favorites at the time. It featured an inspiring message of helping people, animals, and the environment. Recommended ages 2-4.
The Little Recycler (Teenie Greenies)
By Jan Gerardi
This adorable little board book also has lift-the-flap pages and teaches toddlers how they can reduce, reuse, and recycle. One of my favorites from my son’s early years. Recommended ages 1-5.
Eco Babies Wear Green
by Michelle Sinclair Colman
I found this board book while I was pregnant at a museum gift shop in New York City, and began reading it to my son as soon as he was born. It is a very simple book about being eco-friendly with brightly colored illustrations. Another favorite from my son’s early years. Recommended ages birth-3.
The Pout-Pout Fish Cleans Up the Ocean
by Deborah Diesen
I love the entire Pout-Pout Fish series – the rhythmic rhymes and the attractive illustrations. I’ve been reading these to my son since he was 2. This newest edition addresses pollution and encourages children to join along and help clean up the ocean pollution we’ve created. The fish meet together and discuss what to do: “It’s awful that we caused it, But this bad news can be good, For it means that we can solve it – If we all agree we should.” And they all agreed! If only it were this simple with us grown-ups. Recommended ages 3-6.
by Eve Bunting
This book is based on the 1992 event when multiple cargo containers fell off of a ship and dumped 28,800 plastic bathtub toys into the ocean. They washed up for many years on different shores and their drift patterns were studied and recorded by scientists based on location reporting. This story follows the life of one yellow bathtub duck who floats endlessly in the sea until he washes up and is found by a child. It’s a really cute short story that can introduce children to the notion of floating plastics, pollution, and cross-oceanic shipping. Recommend ages 3-7.
Follow the Moon Home: A Tale of One Idea, Twenty Kids, and a Hundred Sea Turtles
by Philippe Cousteau and Deborah Hopkinson
This book explains the process of how baby turtles use the moon to find their way to the ocean. More importantly, it teaches children how they can participate in their coastal community and help protect endangered sea turtles. Recommended ages 5-8.
One Plastic Bag: Isatou Ceesay and the Recycling Women of the Gambia
by Miranda Paul
This is a true inspirational story about a woman in The Gambia who chose to upcycle waste, challenge womens’ roles, and increased employment, all by making plastic bags into new items, such as purses. Check out my full review! Recommended ages 5-9.
I Am Farmer: Growing an Environmental Movement in Cameroon
by Baptiste & Miranda Paul
Based on a true story, a child in Cameroon grows up with the desire to farm, rather than work an office job. He learns how to bring clean water and food to his area, becoming an environmental leader. This was an enjoyable book. Recommended ages 7-11.
I’m Not A Plastic Bag
by Rachel Hope Allison
Foreword by Jeff Corwin
This graphic novel/comic book tells the story of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch through beautifully illustrated images. There are very few words in the story part but they aren’t necessary here. Recommended for all ages.
Join the No-Plastic Challenge!: A First Book of Reducing Waste
by Scot Ritchie
This story is about a boy who decides to go plastic-free for one day with his friends, including his birthday party. They learn about plastic pollution, participate in a beach clean up, and most importantly they realize how easy it can be to go plastic-free. I really like this book! Recommended ages 4-7.
Heroes of the Environment: True Stories of People Who Are Helping to Protect Our Planet
by Harriet Rohmer
This book features true and inspiring stories of 12 people in North America who have achieved great environmental accomplishments! Stories of growing food for a local community; fighting a natural gas company to prevent pollution; helping to establish electronic waste laws; and many other amazing efforts. Recommended ages 9-14.
Spring After Spring: How Rachel Carson Inspired the Environmental Movement
by Stephanie Roth Sisson
This beautifully illustrated and adorable book explains the importance of Rachel Carson’s work and begins with her childhood wander and wonder. This quest for knowledge about the natural world led Rachel to study science and to write about her observations and discoveries, especially about the dangerous chemicals used in pesticides and fertilizers. Her work was so important that she is credited with starting the environmental movement. This is an awesome biography for young children. Rachel Carson wrote, “As human beings, we are part of the whole stream of life.” Recommended ages 4-8.
Rachel Carson and Her Book That Changed the World
by Laurie Lawlor
This biography of environmentalist and writer, Rachel Carson, is slightly more advanced than the previous title. It provides a thorough overview of her life journey that led her to become an acclaimed author, including the challenges of having to care for her family members and the obstacles she faced because she was a woman. Recommended ages 6-9.
The Ocean Story
by John Seven
This is a cute book for young children, and it briefly introduces children to the problems of oil spills and ocean pollution. It explains that balance is essential within the ocean as well as between the Earth and the ocean, but on a young reader’s level. It does not address very well why ocean pollution happens, as I’m not sure that was the author’s intention. I enjoyed reading it to my son. Recommended ages 5-7.
The Magic School Bus and the Climate Challenge
by Joanna Cole & Bruce Degen
Climate change is a big problem. This book teaches children about climate change and steps they can take to stop it. As in all Magic School Bus books, the students take an odd trip with their favorite teacher to learn first hand. Recommended ages 6-8.
Martha Speaks: Martha Go, Go, Goes Green!
by Susan Meddaugh
This book from the Martha Speaks series with a talking dog is about alternative energy sources and upcycling. Recommended ages 4-7.
Earth Day Every Day
by Lisa Bullard
In this cute story, a young girl explores what it means to celebrate Earth Day every day. She learns about planting trees, reusing, and trading items for reuse, reducing waste, and recycling. She starts an Earth Day Club with her school. Recommended ages 5-8.
One Child, One Planet: Inspiration for the Young Conservationist
by Bridget McGovern Llewellyn
We love this book! The book rhymes like a long poem while teaching about conserving nature and slowing down climate change. The book is not illustrated; instead, it features beautiful photography of nature scapes and animals. It calls the reader to think about what changes they can make to help the planet through loving and caring actions. Recommended ages 5-8.
Bag in the Wind
by Ted Kooser
This book is a really good tale of a plastic bag that blows through different environments. The story touches on pollution, recycling, homelessness, landfills, and even composting. While the book is listed for ages 5-8, I think this is more appropriate for the latter years of that range. A worthy read regardless. Recommended ages 5-8.
Harlem Grown: How One Big Idea Transformed a Neighborhood
by Tony Hillery
This book is about the true story of a man who transformed a vacant New York City lot into a lush garden with the help of kids from a local underfunded school. Those children and their families enjoy the bountiful produce from the garden, and Harlem Grown is a non-profit organization whose mission is to inspire youth through urban farming, sustainability, and nutrition. Recommended ages 4-8.
Crabby’s Water Wish: A Tale of Saving Sea Life
by Suzanne Tate
An adorable tale of marine life who suffer from various types of pollution. Clean Water Charlie, seen in the boat on the cover, teaches school children how to stop pollution and keep the water clean. Everyone works hard to clean it up over time, and the marine life was happy when the water was clean and clear again! Recommended ages 5-8.
Touch the Earth
by Julian Lennon
This is the first in a series of three books about making the world a better place through love, caring, and helpful efforts. I love this series, as they are inspiring to young children! Recommended ages 3-6.
Heal the Earth
by Julian Lennon
This is the second book in the series by Lennon. An interactive adventure that explores healing people, the ocean, the air, the rainforests, and the animals. “If we can all work together, we can make our planet better!” Recommended ages 3-6.
Love the Earth
by Julian Lennon
The third book of this series, this interactive book shows children the beauty of the Earth, the connectedness of all people, the importance of keeping our environments clean, and the importance of helping each other. “Love is why we’re here. Help is what we give!” Recommended ages 3-6.
Mara Saves The Sea
by Shalanta Boli
In this story, Mara discovers that her ocean friends are sick from plastic and pollution. She works with her village to come up with solutions. Colorfully illustrated and easy to read. My son insisted this book should be listed on this page! Recommended ages 4-8.
Wild Kratts, Wild Sea Creatures: Sharks, Whales and Dolphins!
by Chris and Martin Kratt
A Step into Reading young science book featuring zoologists from the Kratt brothers. Introduces many sea creatures and vocabulary words. Recommended ages 4-6.
What Happens to Our Trash?
by D. J. Ward
his book from the Let’s-Read-and-Find-Out Science series is an excellent beginning source for young readers on the waste crisis. It explains the basics of landfills, the dangers of toxins from landfills, recycling, and how to reduce waste. Your child will need to know that not all proper practices surrounding landfills are put into place and that most plastic recycling doesn’t actually get recycled. But this is a good place to start. Recommended ages 4-8.
What a Waste: Trash, Recycling, and Protecting our Planet
by Jess French
This is an excellent introductory book to the problems of our disposable culture and the best book on concepts surrounding waste. It explains how our throwaway culture and excessive fossil fuel energy use is connected to climate change, pollution, human and animal health hazards, deforestation, endangered species, the increase in extreme weather. I honestly believe this book is also good for adults that may not know much about these topics because it provides great tidbits of information. It explains how sewer systems function; addresses the hazards of fast fashion; and increasing space waste. Tips like using beeswax wraps instead of plastic wrap or washing your clothes on cold to save energy are helpful to everyone. At the end, it has ideas on how to be part of the change and provides resources to learn more. “Our planet is drowning in waste, but if we act now, it’s not too late to save it.” Recommended ages 6-9 but I would argue that this book could be helpful to people all ages.
Tracking Trash: Flotsam, Jetsam, and the Science of Ocean Motion
by Loree Griffin Burns
This book is aimed at teen and young adult readers, but I even learned a lot from reading it. Oceanographer Dr. Curtis Ebbesmeyer tracks trash in the ocean scientifically, and beachcombers all around the world send him data and images. In five chapters the book presents information about ocean currents and tides; ocean gyres; cargo spills and the scientific model that assists with current simulation, OSCURS; the Pacific Ocean Garbage Patch; and the huge problem of ghost nets. This is a great resource! Recommended ages 10-13.
Plastic, Ahoy!: Investigating the Great Pacific Garbage Patch
by Patricia Newman
This is a photojournalistic book that follows three young female scientists living and working aboard a research ship that was part of the Scripps Environmental Accumulation of Plastics Expedition (SEAPLEX). It details how the scientists learned more about the impact of plastics in the Pacific Garbage Patch. The author summarizes their research and offers information on minimizing environmental impact. Recommended ages 8-12.
Saving Fiona The Story of the World’s Most Famous Baby Hippo
by Thane Maynard
This hippo was born prematurely at the Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden in 2017. It was the first time a baby hippo had been born prematurely in captivity, and this is Fiona’s story. The team of doctors, zoologists, and scientists worked together to ensure her survival. The book is filled with color photos of Fiona’s progress. This was heart-warming, especially since hippos are a threatened species. It’s a great and engaging story for any age! Recommended ages 4-7.
Shark Lady: The True Story of How Eugenie Clark Became the Ocean’s Most Fearless Scientist
by Jess Keating
This book captured the interest of son through the audiobook version – we listened to this book every day for about a month traveling to and forth school. The book not only tells the story of Eugenie Clark, but it also promotes the protection of and education about all shark species. Recommended ages 4-8.
Life in the Ocean: The Story of Oceanographer Sylvia Earle
by Claire A. Nivola
This brief and simple biography of Dr. Sylvia Earle offers an age appropriate introduction to this ocean explorer, scientist, and protector of oceans. The illustrations are detailed and colorful and the book mentions some of her greatest adventures, such as when she lived underwater for two weeks. “I wish that everybody could go live underwater if only for a day,” Dr. Earle wrote of the experience. The Author’s Note at the end has more detailed information about her life. Recommended ages 4-8.
Beauty and the Beak: How Science, Technology, and a 3D-Printed Beak Rescued a Bald Eagle
by Deborah Lee Rose and ane Veltkamp
This is an inspiring true story about an eagle that survived a gunshot wound to the face. But she lost most of her beak, the lifeline for a bird of prey. This is one story where plastic helped a beautiful creature, instead of harming her! Recommended ages 8-13.
Animal Ark: Celebrating our Wild World in Poetry and Pictures
by Joel Sartore and Kwame Alexander
This poetic book exposes children to the Photo Ark project, created by National Geographic photographer Joel Sartore. It features colorful, full-page portraits of about forty of the Earth’s most interesting creatures. Your child will view details of the textures and characteristics of each animal. I love this book and so does my son! Recommended ages 4-8.
Back from the Brink: Saving Animals from Extinction
by Nancy F. Castaldo
This non-fiction book is targeted for ages 10-12 (grades 5-7), but I read it and learned a few new things. The book covers the history and current state of several species including Bald eagles, California condors, American alligators, the Galapagos tortoise, and the American bison. It also includes a brief history of legislation related to pollution, toxic chemicals, and the Endangered Species Act. This is a really good book to start with if your young reader or researcher is interested in this topic. Here is a quote from the book regarding lead in ammunition (which is highly poisonous and gets into the food chain): “On President Obama’s last day in office, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service issued an order phasing out the use of lead ammunition on national wildlife refuges by 2022. However, this phaseout was reversed by President Donald Trump’s appointee, Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, on his first day in office less than three months later.” We can all do better! Recommended ages 10-12.
Untamed: The Wild Life of Jane Goodall
by Anita Silvey; foreword by Jane Goodall
This National Geographic Kids book tells the story of Dr. Jane Goodall’s life, from childhood to the present. Her bravery and breakthrough discoveries on chimpanzees and life in Africa exhibited in this book will inspire children. There are many photographs, maps, and charts to enhance the reader’s understanding. Recommended ages 8-12.
Coral Reefs: A Journey Through an Aquatic World Full of Wonder
by Jason Chin
This nonfiction book explains the wonders of the coral reefs through the eyes of a girl who is reading a book about them at the library. The library building gradually evolves into the ocean and coral reef gardens, as the girl imagines while reading. It put my two of my favorite things together, a library and the ocean. How clever! My son chose this book himself (at the library) and enjoyed it immensely. Recommended ages 5-9.
The Brilliant Deep: Rebuilding the World’s Coral Reefs: The Story of Ken Nedimyer and the Coral Restoration Foundation
by Kate Messner
This nonfiction story about the Coral Restoration Foundation’s project is uplifting, inspiring, and fascinating. Ken Nedimyer transplanted living coral to dead reefs to see if they’d survive and grow – and they did! I was not familiar with this story and was surprised this worked. It truly does takes just one person’s ideas to spawn great change. The illustrations are absolutely gorgeous and exceptionally colorful. This book won several awards, including the ALA Notable Children’s Books Award, the NSTA-CBC Best STEM Trade Books Award, the Junior Library Guild Selection, and the ILA Teacher’s Choices. Recommended ages 5-9.
by Dr. Sylvia Earle
This National Geographic title features illustrations and photography of the vast array of sea animals and fish, organized by scientific category. Recommended ages 6-9.
Hello, Fish! Visiting The Coral Reef
by Dr. Sylvia Earle
This National Geographic book features a map of the world’s coral reefs and introduces young readers to some of the coral reef’s most fascinating animals and fish. Includes large, detailed photographs. Recommended ages 3-7.
Ocean Sunlight: How Tiny Plants Feed the Seas
by Molly Bang & Penny Chisholm
This book explains the importance of phytoplankton, the tiny plants that form the basis of the ocean’s cyclical food chain. “Acclaimed Caldecott artist Molly Bang and award-winning M.I.T. professor Penny Chisholm use poetic language and dazzling illustrations to introduce the oceanic world. From tiny aquatic plants to the biggest whale or fish, Bang and Chisholm present a moving, living picture of the miraculous balance sustaining each life cycle and food chain deep within our wondrous oceans.” There are several pages of additional scientific information at the back of the book that I found helpful. Recommended ages 4-8.
Killer Whales: Animal Predators
By Sandra Markle
This book is a little older but the information seems accurate. It mainly focuses on how orcas hunt collaboratively and how they raise their young. I’m featuring this one because I’ve read several children’s books about orca and so far, most have inaccuracies. Recommended ages 9-11.
The Spirit of Springer: The Real-Life Rescue of an Orphaned Orca
by Amanda Abler
This is a nonfiction story about the 2003 rescue of Springer, a Northern Resident Orca who got separated from her pod after her mother (likely) passed away. Several organizations and scientists worked together to identify, rehabilitate, and return her to her pod off of the coast of British Columbia. It’s an endearing and accurate account of Springer’s journey. The book features additional information and resources as well. Recommended ages 7-10.
Why Are the Ice Caps Melting? The Dangers of Global Warming
by Anne Rockwell
This book teaches about global warming and its major contributors. It’s very easy to understand for all age levels, and it offers many ways humans can change their behaviors and actions to make a difference. The illustrations help tell the story as well for younger children. My favorite part is that the book addresses the belief by some that global warming is a natural process. Even if it is natural, “it’s still a good idea for us to do whatever we can to try to stop the amount of greenhouse gases from increasing.” Absolutely, we should all be doing what can – and we should be teaching our children to do what they can. Recommended ages 4-8.
by Jason Chin
In this story, the boy reads a non-fiction book about Redwood trees while riding the train. His imagination while reading brings him to the California forests while learning about their history, growth, ecosystem, and great importance. It is packed with information, and I even learned a lot that I didn’t know, just from reading it to my son. It has beautiful illustrations and a page at the end about the endangerment of the Redwood forests. Recommended ages 4-8.
Wangari Maathai: The Woman Who Planted Millions of Trees
by Franck Prevot
Wangari Maathai was the founder of the Green Belt Movement, a movement under the National Council of Women of Kenya to respond to the needs of rural Kenyan women, deforestation, and environmental degradation. This is an amazing true story about female leadership, racial divides, and environmental crises. Maathai’s work and the Green Belt Movement continue today. The book is also beautifully illustrated with vibrant scenery and people. Recommended ages 6-9.
Planting the Trees of Kenya: The Story of Wangari Maathai
by Claire A. Nivola
This is a wonderful book about the 2004 Nobel Peace Prize winner, who worked tirelessly to save the Kenyan environment and the people who live and work there. The story explained how the land was cleared of trees to plant crops to sell, and this changed how the local people ate. They no longer grew their own food and instead bought their food from stores, which was more expensive and less nutritional. Then, the land, stripped of trees with deep roots to hold moisture and hold soil in place, began eroding and drying out. This caused water shortages and small dust storms. Wangari worked to establish tree planting and educated people about the importance of preserving the local environment through the Green Belt Movement. Recommended ages 5-9.
Before The Saltwater Came
by Captain Wendy Wilson Billiot, aka “The Bayou Woman”
This adorable story features an otter family which lives in the wetland marshes of Louisiana. Wetland loss and landscape changes over generations affect how the otters eat, play, and inhabit their environment. This story rings true to the damaging effects of dredging and oil digging, as well as global warming. We are losing one of the most important wetlands in the world. Recommended ages 8-12.
When the Whales Walked: And Other Incredible Evolutionary Journeys
by Dougal Dixon
This book is an excellent scientific exploration of evolution. It was awarded an Outstanding Science Trade Book for Students: K–12 in 2019 from the National Science Teachers Association and the Children’s Book Council. It is well-organized, beautifully illustrated, and fascinating. While a children’s book, I learned a good deal from it myself and recommend that anyone who wants to learn about evolution read it. We borrow most books from the library, but this is a book I plan to purchase and keep on the shelf for my son. Recommended ages 8-12.
The BP Oil Spill
by Peter Benoit
This book was an honest account of the Deepwater Horizon BP oil spill in 2010. Written for ages 7-9, it explained the spill in an open way, showing how BP was responsible for causing the disaster. The author explained many of the economical and environmental consequences resulting from this and oil spills in general. These included tourism, the fishing industry, endangering already threatened species, the effects on the entire food chain, and damage to the Gulf of Mexico, the ocean, and the environment. This is a really good introduction to those topics. Recommended ages 7-9.
Plastic Sucks!: How YOU Can Reduce Single-Use Plastic and Save Our Planet
by Dougie Poynter
This is a cleverly written book about the environmental problems caused by plastic. The author interviews many leaders in the environmental movement and offers many inspiring tips on ways that kids can help. Self-described as “just your average person who has a love for wildlife and the oceans and a natural curiosity and concern about pollution,” he teaches kids how to lead by example and spread the message positively. “With a bit of awareness and the right course of action, even the smallest changes in our everyday lives are having a huge impact.” The book was written from the UK, but plastic is a global problem so the information is relevant in any part of the world. Recommended ages 8-12.
A Kids Guide to Giving
by Freddi Zeiler
This guide provides kids with the knowledge to be able to give money, raise money, donate goods, and/or volunteer for charitable organizations. It includes practical safety measures and how to verify that a charity is legitimate. Although it could use an update since it was published in 2006, much of the material is still relevant and this is a great guide for children and young teens to get started with. Recommended ages 9-14.
Storybook Whale Fail: Does it matter if children’s books deliver inaccurate science?