Q: Got any recommendations for some earth-friendly kids’ books for very young children?

A: You bet. As an MNN writer and a mother, instilling a love of our planet in my kids is important to me. In fact, my son’s first words were “algae biodiesel.” (OK fine, maybe they weren’t.) Truth be told, there is no shortage of books for kids that explicitly discuss saving the planet, but for this article, I’ll instead focus on a few books that send a more subtle message. In my humble opinion, these books will help your kids develop an appreciation and a love for the beautiful world around them.

“The Very Hungry Caterpillar,” by Eric Carle. This book is one of my all-time favorites, and is loved by children all over the world, for good reason. In it, Carle tells the story of one caterpillar’s quest for food. Over the course of one week, his eyes and his stomach grow bigger and bigger, and he eats first one apple, two pears, and then finally stuffs himself silly on Saturday with everything from a sausage to a cupcake. We watch and laugh as the caterpillar grows bigger and bigger, builds himself a cocoon, and finally, on the last page of the book, emerges into a beautiful butterfly. As a child, I couldn’t wait to get to the last colorful page. In its simplicity, “The Very Hungry Caterpillar” shows a child the wondrous things in our world, like the transformation of a caterpillar to a butterfly, that we often take for granted.

“The Snowy Day,” by Ezra Jack Keats.The Snowy Day” is the story of one little boy’s adventures in the snow on a winter morning. Keats both wrote and illustrated the book. Choosing each word carefully, Keats uses deceptively simple language to tell his story. The pictures perfectly illustrate Peter’s wonderment at the snow — making snow angels, tracking footprints in the snow, even trying to save some snow for later in his pocket. This book has young children everywhere longing for that first snowfall of the winter. 

“A Child’s Good Morning Book,” by Margaret Wise Brown. Definitely not the most famous of her books (“Goodnight Moon,” anyone?), “A Child’s Good Morning Book” tells the gentle story of the world and all the beautiful flowers and animals in it waking up. The text gives way to vivid, friendly illustrations drawn by beloved children’s author Karen Katz and will charm babies and toddlers alike.

“The Giving Tree,” by Shel Silverstein. Though this isn’t a book for very young children, its sweet yet serious message is an important one. “The Giving Tree” illustrates the friendship between a little boy and a tree over the course of the boy’s life. The tree extends herself in many ways throughout the book, giving the boy her branches to swing from, her shade for the boy to sit in, and finally, making the ultimate sacrifice, letting the boy cut her down in order to make a boat to sail away. The tree is left a stump, which the boy returns to in his old age, to sit on and rest. While the tree is still there for the boy at the end of his life, the fact that the tree remains nothing but a stump after the boy cuts him down is a sobering message.

This is just a sampling of a few of my favorites. I’d love to hear about other earth-loving kids titles (and maybe even write a Part II to this column), so please post below if you’ve got one!

— Chanie

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4 earth-friendly books for young children
Here are some fun reads for budding environmentalists.