Books to Inspire Environmental Awareness

A Sense of Wonder

By Pete Angilello and Lee Bock

If a child is to keep the inborn sense of wonder without any such gift from the fairies, (the child) needs the companionship of at least one adult who can share it, rediscovering (together) the joy, excitement and mystery of the world we live in.

Rachel Carson
from The Sense of Wonder

The following books have been selected with the “sharing” ideal suggested by Rachel Carson. Each has the potential to inspire curiosity and wonder about the natural world. The picture book format of most of the books makes them appropriate for use by a wide range of ages. Some books are out of print (“o.p.”), but may still be available at your local library.

Appreciation and Wonder

I’m in Charge of Celebrations. Byrd Baylor. Illus. by Peter Parnall. 1986. Macmillan. Reasons for private celebrations abound in the southwest desert country—from Dust Devil Day to the Time of Falling Stars.(32 pg.)

Your Own Best Secret Place. Byrd Baylor. Illus. by Peter Parnall. 1979. Scribners. A surprised child happens on another boy’s secret hiding place, and shares that hollow tree in his absence. (32 pg.)

The Way to Start a Day. Byrd Baylor. Illus. by Peter Parnall. 1977. Scribners. “You have to make a good world for the sun to live its one-day life in” is the sentiment woven throughout this book of insights into what is fundamental in many cultures. (32 pg.)

Sense of Wonder. Rachel Carson. 1956. Harper. The author of Silent Spring affirms her belief that those who live with the mysteries of earth, sea, and sky are never alone. Narrative charts paths for adults and children to follow together. (95 pg.)

Natural History. M.B. Goffstein. Illus. by author. 1979. Farrar. o.p. A lively portrait of a world in which there is much to celebrate and a plea for tenderness between all beings. (32 pg.)

School of Names. M.B. Goffstein. Illus. by author.1986. Harper/Charlotte Zolotow. A simple expression of a desire to name (and know) the pieces of the earth and universe. Innocent yet powerful images. (32 pg.)

Once there was a Tree. Natalia Romanova. Translated from Russian.1985. Dial. (Originally published in the Soviet Union) Change witnessed through a tree split by lightening, then felled, create an awareness of environment and the interrelatedness of the world. (32 pg.)

Poetry and Myth

The Stranger. Chris Van Allsburg. Illus. by the author.1986. Houghton Mifflin. Who is this peculiar stranger who comes in the autumn to live with the Bailey farm family? What is the answer to the puzzles his presence creates? Masterful myth and illustration. (32 pg.)

Where the Buffaloes Begin. Olaf Baker. Illus. by Stephen Gammell. 1981. Warne. A gripping legend of the courage of an Indian boy and the mysterious power and origin of buffaloes. Told in breathtaking prose. Caldecott Honor Book. (32 pg.)

When Clay Sings. Byrd Baylor. Illus. by Tom Bahti. 1972. Scribners. Pieces of pottery discovered in the desert spark poetic musings about Indian life in earlier times. (32 pg.)

Four Corners of the Sky. Theodore Clymer. Illus. by Marc Brown. 1975. Little Brown. o.p. Startling, bright illustrations complement the poems, chants and oratory of Native Americans. (32 pg.)

Eskimo Songs and Stories. Translated by Edward Field. Illus. by Kiakshuk and Pudlo. 1973 Delacorte. o.p. Much about the fears, beliefs and joys of the Eskimo people is revealed in this material collected by Danish explorer Knud Rasmussen. (102 pg.)

Earth Songs. Myra Cohn Livingston. Illus. by Leonard Everett Fisher. 1986. Holiday. A robust, poetic tribute to the earth and its natural features—hot volcanoes, rising waters, restless deserts—“patched together/with land and sea”. (32 pg.)

Ring of Earth. Jane Yolen. Illus. by John Wallner. 1986. Harcourt, Brace, Joeranovich. A circle of seasons in eloquent poetry/illustrations which reflect the intertwined nature of all things. Exquisite. (32 pg.)

Observations in the Natural World

Turtle Watch. George Ancona. Photographs by author. 1987. Macmillan. Efforts of oceanographers and Brazilian fishermen and their children to preserve the giant sea turtle are particularly well documented in a black and white photo essay. (32 pg.)

Secrets of a Wildlife Watcher. Jim Aronsky. Illus. by author. 1983. Lothrop. Intriguing observations and tips from a reknown naturalist and artist. Very readable. (32 pg.)

Desert Voices. Byrd Baylor. Illus. by Peter Parnall. 1981. Macmillan. Many desert creatures eloquently speak for themselves—jackrabbit, rattlesnake, coyote. Insightful. (32 pg.)

Earth Calendar. Una Jacobs. Illus. by author.1986. Silver. Beautiful illustrations enhance brief explanations of basic cycles on/in earth. (32 pg.)

Sun Calendar. Una Jacobs. Illus. by author.Silver. The cycles of the sun and its influence are creatively explored through brief explanations and fine illustrations. (32 pg.)

The View from the Oak. Judith and Herbert Kohl. Illus. by Roger Bayless. 1977. Sierra Club. o.p. The world through perspectives of various other-than-human inhabitants is engagingly explored. Raises some intriguing questions. (110 pg.)

Forest Log. James Newton. Illus. by Irene Brady. 1980. Harper. The life in and around a decaying forest log is simply explained and illustrated with fine charcoal drawings. (32 pg.)

Wallaby Creek. Joyce Powzyk. Illus. by author. 1985. Lothrop. Quiet watercolors and readable observations of Australian animals in their natural habitat. Shared discoveries of a naturalist at work. (32 pg.)

Restoring Our Earth. Laurence Pringle. Illus. by author. 1987. Enslow. Short, readable and well-researched account of current conservation efforts to restore our deteriorating natural environment. (64 pg.)

The Earth Speaks. Steve Van Matre and Bill Weiler. 1983. Institute for Earth Education. Warren Wheel, IL. A moving collection of poetry and prose by dozens of authors on a variety of earth related themes. Excellent line drawings.

What Happens in Autumn? Suzanne Venino. Photographs. 1972 National Geographic Society. Full-color, plentiful photographs give great appeal to this basic introduction to fall changes in the natural world. (32 pg.)

Between Cattails. Terry T. Williams. Illus. by Peter Parnall. 1985 Macmillan. Astonishing world of the marshland comes to life with poetic prose and enchanting Peter Parnall art work. (32 pg.)


Sharing Nature with Children. Joseph Bharat Cornell. 1979. Ananda Publications. Some old familiars and many fun and inventive activities/games to increase children’s awareness of the environment. The best book of its kind. (142 pg.)

Rainbows, Mirages and Sundogs. Roy A. Gallant. Illus. by Andrew Mudryk and with photographs. 1987. Macmillan. Observations of interesting/puzzling sky phenomena and recommended activities turn kids into active skywatchers. (112 pg.)

Nature with Children of All Ages. Edith Sisson. Illus. by the author. 1982. Prentice. Activities and adventures to nurture enthusiasm and joy for the world around us. (196 pg.)

Hug a Tree and Other Things to do Outdoors with Young Children. Robert E. Rockwell and Robert A. Williams. 1983. Gryphon House. Many practical suggestions for introducing and exploring the natural world with pre-schoolers. (112 pg.)

Novels — Awareness and Survival in the Natural World

Incident at Hawk’s Hill. Allan Eckert. 1971. Little, Brown. Newbery Medal Honor Book. An account of an true incident in Saskatchewan at the turn of the century, involving a six year old Ben McDonald, who is lost and nurtured by a female badger for two months before being found. Grade 5+ (173 pg.)

Julie and the Wolves. Jean Craighead George. 1972. Harper. Newbery Medal. Lost in the Alaskan wilderness, Julie survives by being accepted by wolves. Grade 5+ (176 pg.)

The Fledging. Jane Langton. 1980. Harper. Newbery Medal Honor Book. Quiet Georgie yearns to fly—and learns to fly from Prince Goose, a large, old Canadian goose. A magical, unforgettable story. Grade 4+ (192 pg.)

Island of the Blue Dolphins. Scott O’Dell. Houghton Mifflin. An Indian girl’s courage and adaptability keep her alive and well for eighteen years, alone on an island. Grade 4+ (192 pg.)

Hatchet. Gary Paulsen. 1987. Bradbury. Newbery Medal Honor Book. A boy’s survival and triumph in the Canadian wilderness. Exciting reading. Grade 5+ (208 pg.)