Celebrating Youthful Curiosity and Discovery Through Books and Reading

Environmental Issues

It is never too soon to teach children about the beauty of earth and all that goes into caring for it. These books focus on nature and environmental awareness, whether introducing kids to an endangered animal or showing how and why we recycle. 

2015 Medalists

This Strange Wilderness: The Life and Art of John James Audubon

Author: Nancy Plain
Publisher: University of Nebraska Press
ISBN: 0803248849

Birds were "the objects of my greatest delight," wrote John James Audubon (1785 1851), founder of modern ornithology and one of the world s greatest bird painters. His masterpiece,The Birds of America depicts almost five hundred North American bird species, each image lifelike and life size rendered in vibrant color. Audubon was also an explorer, a woodsman, a hunter, an entertaining and prolific writer, and an energetic self-promoter. Through talent and dogged determination, he rose from backwoods obscurity to international fame.

In This Strange Wilderness, award-winning author Nancy Plain brings together the amazing story of this American icon s career and the beautiful images that are his legacy. Before Audubon, no one had seen, drawn, or written so much about the animals of this largely uncharted young country. Aware that the wilderness and its wildlife were changing even as he watched, Audubon remained committed almost to the end of his life to search out the things which have been hidden since the creation of this wondrous world. This Strange Wilderness details his art and writing, transporting the reader back to the frontiers of early nineteenth-century America.


Honouring the Buffalo: A Plains Cree Legend

Author: Ray Lavallee and Judith Silverthorne
Illustrator: Mike Keepness
Publisher: Your Nickel's Worth Publishing
ISBN: 1927756332

Through the Creator, the buffalo gave themselves as a gift for the sustenance and survival of the Plains Cree people. The largest land animal in North America once thundered across the Great Plains in numbers of 30 to 50 million. They provided shelter, food, clothing, tools, hunting gear, ceremonial objects and many other necessities if for those who lived on the Plains. 

But by 1889, just over a thousand buffalo remained,and the lives of the Plains Cree people changed. The buffalo is honoured to this day, a reminder of life in harmony with nature as it was once lived. This is the story of how the buffalo came to share themselves so freely. 


Kirby’s Journal: Backyard Butterfly Magic

Author: Charlotte Caldwell
Publisher: University of South Carolina Press
ISBN: 1611175534

On an eventful summer spent in Charleston, South Carolina, eleven-year-old Kirby, Grandma, and Grandpa plant a butterfly garden, and Kirby documents the wondrous adventures in learning that follow. Their observations, excitement, and curiosity are vividly captured through Kirby's journal and newly acquired hobby of photography as together they discover an abundance of life just outside their own backdoor. 

Including more than one hundred color photographs and a helpful glossary, Kirby's Journal inspires children of all ages to go outdoors, to watch and listen inquisitively, and to share in the magic of nature. With a playful attitude and a love of learning new things, Kirby discovers a whole new world of caterpillars, butterflies, spiders, snakes, squirrels, and more--as well as the importance of identification, classification, and conservation in learning about flora, fauna, and their natural habitats.


2014 Medalists

River Life: A Journey from Headwaters to the Sea

Author & Illustrator: Marianne D. Wallace
Publisher: Butler Books
ISBN: 1935497634

From a small stream in a Pennsylvania woodland, this book follows the seasons of river life along three connected rivers: the Allegheny during spring, the Ohio during summer and the Lower Mississippi during fall.

What animals and plants will you find along the river's edge? How do the changing seasons affect the insects, flowers and birds you might see? Why do some of the fish and other animals found in the water live among rocks and gravel while others are found in sandy or silty areas?

River Life: A Journey from Headwaters to the Sea is a great book for river exploration, even if you never leave home.


Jimmy's Gone Green

Author: Kathy Cane
Illustrator: Tracy La Rue Hohn
Publisher: Kids Smart Books and Toys
ISBN: 0984230890

Do you know what it means to be green? Being green means taking care of the earth and keeping the environment clean. Did you know you can take care of the earth and keep the environment clean by using less energy and water? It's simple you see. Follow these ten steps and you'll go green like me! With fun rhymes and colorful illustrations, Jimmy teaches kids what it means to be green and ten simple steps they can take to help protect the environment. 


The Cardboard Sisters Save the World

Author & Illustrator: L.A. Ocampo
Publisher: Dover Publications
ISBN: 0486493466

Ivy and Olive love pretty things, and with a bit of imagination, they turn shoeboxes, empty paper towel tubes, and other discarded items into flowerpots, decorative signs, toys, and other playful and practical items. Soon their friends and neighbors are inspired by the recycling trend — and you can join in, too! From garden ornaments to a pet house, this activity-filled storybook is packed with fun projects, all made from recyclable materials.


The Soda Bottle School

Author: Seno Laura Kutner and Suzanne Slade​
Illustrator: Aileen Darragh
Publisher: Tilbury House Publishers
ISBN: 0884483711

In a Guatemalan village, students squished into their tiny schoolhouse, two grades to a classroom. The villagers had tried expanding the school, but the money ran out before the project was finished. No money meant no wall materials, and that meant no more room for the students. Until they got a wonderful, crazy idea: Why not use soda bottles, which were scattered all around, to form the cores of the walls? Sometimes thinking outside the box or inside the bottle leads to the perfect solution.


2013 Medalists

When Rivers Burned: The Earth Day Story

Author: Linda Crotta Brennan
Illustrator: Lisa Greenleaf
Publisher: Apprentice Shop Books
ISBN: 0984254994

Once, in America... chemicals killed plants and animals. Cars and factories filled the air with toxic fumes. Oil spills destroyed ocean life. The sewage floating along America's rivers was so thick it sometimes caught fire. The Earth was dying. Senator Gaylord Nelson believed that attitudes about ecology could change if people understood what was happening. He charged student organizer, Denis Hayes, with setting a plan for a national Earth Day in motion. What these men began on April 22, 1970, would change the world for the better.


Douwlina: A Rhino’s Story

Author: Grace Borgeson
Publisher: Bright Sky Press
ISBN: 1936474638

Douwlina's story began with great sadness when she lost her mother to poachers, but it has a happy ending. From the time Douwlina was rescued, loving people”and even animals”have stepped forward to care for her. In Africa, where Douwlina lives, there were once over 100,000 of these smart, magnificent animals. Now, there are less than 20,000 on the entire continent, and one is poached every day in the Kruger Park alone. Rhino are killed illegally for their horn, because people believe it has power in traditional medicine and rituals. The cost for an ounce of horn can be as high as five times the price of gold. This tender story shows how each animal and human who has been part of her life has helped her. It highlights the bonds between people and animals and reminds us of the importance of being good stewards of the animals who share the planet with us.


Fidget's Folly

Author: Stacey Patterson
Illustrator: Vadim Gorbatov
Publisher: Mountain Press Publishing/The Raptor Education Foundation
ISBN: 0878425942

Fidget and her brother Echo are two young peregrine falcons embarking upon their first adventures of freedom. Both falcons were hatched in an incubator by humans and then placed in a box nestled on a cliff. Fidget's Freedom, the first in this two-book story, describes their lives up to Fidget's first flight. Fidget's Folly takes up the story as the two youngsters learn to hunt and fend for themselves. New adventures await them as they grow into wild, independent masters of the sky.

This fictional but biologically accurate story is based on the experiences and observations of scientists who successfully reintroduced peregrine falcons into the wild in North America. The peregrine s population had dwindled by the 1960s because of the use of the pesticide DDT, which causes egg shells to be thin and then break during incubation. Two subspecies of peregrine falcons were placed on the federal list of endangered species in 1970, and DDT was banned in 1972. Because of extensive reintroduction efforts with chicks like Fidget and her brother, peregrine falcons were delisted in the 1990s.


2012 Medalists

101 Ways to Save the Planet

Author: Deborah Underwood
Publisher: Raintree / Capstone
ISBN: 1410943852

This book gives 101 things you can do to make the world a better, brighter place.


The Young Birder’s Guide to Birds of North America

Author: Bill Thompson III​
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
ISBN: 0547440219

Covering 300 of the most common birds in all of the United States and Canada, The Young Birder’s Guide to Birds of North America is loaded with color photographs, drawings showing typical behaviors, range maps, an easy-to-use checklist, fun facts, and authoritative information about each bird, its vocalizations, and its habitat. 

While other field guides might overwhelm kids who are new to birding, The Young Birder’s Guide to Birds of North America was created with help from kids. Bill Thompson’s own son and daughter and their elementary school classes helped select the content. Kid tested, kid approved! 


Relatives with Roots

Author & Illustrator: Leah Marie Dorion
Publisher: Gabriel Dumont Institute
ISBN: 1926795008

Relatives With Roots: A Story About Métis Women’s Connection to the Land is a heartfelt story about a Métis grandmother who takes her granddaughter out into the bush to teach her how to pick traditional medicines. As the granddaughter learns the traditional beliefs and stories about how the Métis people use the plants for food and medicine, she feels happy to be a Métis child with access to such wonderful cultural knowledge. This charming and vibrant book introduces young readers to key concepts in the traditional Métis worldview while focusing on the special relationship between a young Métis girl and her grandmother. 


Moon Over Bioko: Sea Turtles of Bioko Island

Author: Heidi Rader
Illustrator: Holly Smith
Publisher: Wildlife Conservation Publishers
ISBN: 0983431000

Winner of six national and two international book awards, Moon Over Bioko is the enchanting story of Deme, a 10 year old boy from the village of Ureca who dreams of someday following in his father's footsteps working as a member of the sea turtle census team collecting data and monitoring the nesting habits of four endangered species of sea turtles that nest on the black sand beaches of Bioko Island, Equatorial Guinea, West Africa. His father promises Deme that if he studies his school lessons and does well, he will allow him to accompany him one night on a turtle census. Impressed by Deme's desire to learn, his father makes good on his promise. Moon Over Bioko follows Deme as he discovers on his journey from the classroom to the black sand beaches, the value of an education, and the importance of the preservation of not only the sea turtles of Bioko Island, but of all living things, through good conservation practices.


2011 Medalists

Sofia's Dream

Author: Land Wilson
Illustrator: Sue Cornelison
Publisher: Little Pickle Press
ISBN: 1939775116

In this magically illustrated and delightfully rhyming bedtime story, little Sofia befriends the Moon and sets off on a dreamy adventure to visit her friend. She sees our planet from the Moon’s point of view and is inspired to do whatever she can to protect our Earth. When she wakes, Sofia encourages others to do the same.

“Once you see from this distant view,
Awareness may come over you.
By far your gift of greatest worth
Is our dear home, this planet Earth.”

Sofia’s Dream was inspired by the author’s interviews with three Apollo astronauts, about how viewing Earth from space affected their sense of responsibility for the health of our planet.


What If There Were No Sea Otters? A Book About the Ocean Ecosystem

Author: Suzanne Slade
Illustrator: Carol Schwartz
Publisher: Picture Window Books
ISBN: 1404863974

The ocean ecosystem is huge, covering most of our planet. Countless animals and plants live there. So what difference could the loss of one animal species make? Follow the chain reaction, and discover how important sea otters are.


At Home with the Gopher Tortoise: The Story of a Keystone Species

Author: Madeleine Dunphy
Illustrator: Michael Rothman
Publisher: Web of Life Children’s Books
ISBN: 0977753956

At Home with the Gopher Tortoise: The Story of a Keystone Species teaches young readers about the gopher tortoise and the more than 360 different kinds of animals that depend on it for survival. From owls to rabbits, from skunks to scorpions, the gopher tortoise provides creatures with shelter, food, or a place to raise their young. In this fascinating tale of ecological interdependency, glorious illustrations reveal the gopher tortoise's world both below and above ground, showing children how the fate of one species is important to so many others.


2010 Medalists

Not Your Typical Book About the Environment

Author: Elin Kelsey
Illustrator: Clayton Hanmer
Publisher: Owlkids Books
ISBN: 189734984X

We live in a time of heightened environmental awareness, and this knowledge is creating a generation of children with feelings of eco-anxiety — the world is doomed, isn't it? Maybe not. Not Your Typical Book about the Environment allays kids’ fears by showing how all is not lost. Young readers learn about the remarkable time they live in: smart technologies, innovative ideas, and a growing commitment to alternative lifestyles are exploding around the world. Awareness is creating a future that will be brighter than we sometimes might think. Each chapter begins by taking familiar objects — T-shirts, video games, bikes — and using these as launching pads to delve into related environmental issues. Plus, profiles of unexpected personalities, like happiness researcher Catherine O'Brien, show how many are seeking viable solutions to the serious problems facing our planet.


Hannah and the Talking Tree

Author & Illustrator: Elke Weiss
Publisher: Free Focus Publishing
ISBN: 0982674716

Hannah is a little girl with a special and unique gift. She has very, very big ears which enable her to hear things in the world all around her that other people do not notice.She can hear the grass grow, the wind sing, and the ants march one by one. She can hear birds chirping far away and even hear the trees drinking water. Unfortunately, she is teased and criticized by other children and runs away to be alone. With her extra special powers she finds and befriends a very special and solitary tree and learns about the tragic fate of the trees around her. And now the last tree is threatened as well. Is there any way to save the lone tree from destruction? Will anyone listen to Hannah's cry for help? Instead of just giving up and letting the last tree get cut down, Hannah decides to be brave and do something herself to help save the last tree and create a world worthwhile living in.


Bear-ly There

Author: Rebekah Raye​
Publisher: Tilbury House Publishers
ISBN: 0884483142

What do you do when there's a bear in your backyard? A big black bear shows up one moonlit night and creates a real ruckus, first breaking into the shed where the grain is kept for the geese (who aren't too happy about it), then raiding the bird feeders. The bear is also causing problems at other homes in the neighborhood, getting into the trash and compost and eating dog food that was left out overnight.

One neighbor offers to shoot it. Another one suggests calling the game warden to have the bear tranquilized and relocated. But the child among them knows what is best. A bear belongs in the woods, he says, but how can he convince the bear? Together with the adults he clears the yards in the neighborhood of any food that would tempt the bear. His dad comes up with a good idea for warning the bear away--and it works!


You Can Be a Nature Detective

Author & Illustrator: Peggy Kochanoff
Publisher: Mountain Press Publishing
ISBN: 087842556X

Why do a tree's leaves change color in autumn? How can mushrooms suddenly appear overnight? What made those tracks in the snow? You Can Be a Nature Detective helps you delve into these and other intriguing mysteries of the natural world. With the goal of getting kids outside exploring, author Peggy Kochanoff uses breathtaking watercolors and informative text to spark readers interest in investigating the wonders of Mother Nature.

Learn which moth or butterfly that caterpillar will turn into. Use clues left behind on the bark of trees to figure out what animal has been there. Study tiny holes in the ground to discover which creatures have been burrowing in the soil. Part field guide and part whodunit, You Can Be a Nature Detective has something for naturalists of all ages.


2009 Medalists

Help Your Parents Save the Planet

Author: Gregory Rutty
Publisher: PlayBac Publishing
ISBN: 1602140855

This is the first green guide for kindergarteners and first-graders who are ready to get busy and make a difference. An uncomplicated guide for kids who know they "know better," How to Help Your Parents Save the Planet is filled with actions you can take immediately and implement easily. The style is light, informative, and—above all: kid-friendly. With a focus on the Three R's—Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle—this is the perfect introduction to a lifetime of care and nurturing of planet Earth. 


Energy: 25 Projects Investigate Why We Need Power and How We Get It

Author: Kathleen M. Reilly
Illustrator: Mary Takacs-Moore
Publisher: Nomad Press
ISBN: 1934670340

Energy is a valuable resource that comes in many different forms. This book will help kids learn about the history and science of the world’s sources of energy, from nonrenewable fossil fuels such as coal, oil, and natural gas to renewable energy sources such as solar and wind power. Sidebars and fun trivia break up the text, making it easily accessible and engaging, while hands-on projects encourage active learning. Activities range from constructing a battery to recreating an oil spill to explore how difficult cleanup can be.


If Trees Could Talk: Stories About Wisconsin Trees

Author: R. Bruce Allison​
Publisher: Wisconsin Historical Society Press
ISBN: 087020419X

Inside the pages of If Trees Could Talk, Allison gives readers aged 7 to 12 fascinating stories that introduce them to noteworthy trees, both past and present, across Wisconsin. From Kenosha's buried forest on the shores of Lake Michigan to the Wyalusing maple that saw the last of the passenger pigeons; from Aldo Leopold's "good oak" to the disappeared elms of State Street in Madison, these stories open up a fascinating ecological and social history of Wisconsin to young readers. Other stories showcase the state's history: readers will encounter Chief Black Hawk hiding in a hickory, Civil War soldiers enlisting for battle under "sign-up" trees, and trees used to hang criminals without a trial. They will also learn of large and unusual trees like the Columbus Cottonwood, which was over 26 feet around or, in the words of the author, so large that "it would take you and eight of your friends with your arms outstretched to reach all the way around it!"


Think Green!

Author: Jeanine Behr Getz
Illustrator: Jenny Nightingale
Publisher: Kids Think Big
ISBN: 097973620X

Think Green! introduces 16 simple everyday ideas to help keep the earth clean and safe for all people, animals, fish and birds. 

There's a page for your child to be an author and illustrator too and write & draw their own green ideas. 

Great messages, easy delivery! Positive repetitive reinforcement writing style and colorful illustrations. 

Think big, think green and change the world...


2008 Medalists

A Child's Introduction to The Environment

Author: Michael Driscoll & Prof. Dennis Driscoll
Illustrator: Meredith Hamilton
Publisher: Black Dog & Leventhal Publishers
ISBN: 1579124291

A Child's Introduction to the Environment provides an entertaining and instructive tour of the Earth's varied environments, along with activities and materials to encourage young environmentalists.

Kids aged 9-12 and their parents will appreciate this upbeat yet clear-eyed, interactive look at our magnificent planet and how we can safeguard it.

Exploring in turn the water, land, and air around us, the book looks at the wide variety of environmental regions of the world (deserts, forests, cities, farms, ice caps, oceans) as well as the atmosphere, weather, energy sources, plants, and animals of each area. Short features throughout offer fun facts, projects, and experiments that kids can do with parents or on their own. And a special packet inside the front cover contains a reusable lunch sack, peel-off stickers with messages such as "TURN OFF THE LIGHTS," "RECYCLE," and "UNPLUG," and a special poster from the NRDC.


In My Backyard

Author: Margriet Ruurs
Paper Sculpture: Ron Broda
Publisher: Tundra Books
ISBN: 0887767753

From the singing of little wrens in spring to paper wasps building their nests in summer; from baby bats drinking mother’s milk in fall to baby possums climbing into mother’s pouch in winter, In My Backyard celebrates nature and backyard animals through the seasons. Wildlife artist Ron Broda’s detailed paper-sculpture art beautifully complements Margriet Ruurs’ lyrical text, and young readers will discover a captivating variety of animals and insects.

Find the ladybug in each illustration, along with a hidden animal, which becomes featured on the next page. A detailed legend and helpful hints on how to turn your own backyard into an inviting place for animals to live make this book a must-have for wildlife and nature lovers alike.


The Forever Forest: Kids Save a Tropical Treasure

Author: Kristen Joy Pratt-Serafini with Rachel Crandell
Illustrator: Kristin Joy Pratt-Serafini
Publisher: Dawn Publications
ISBN: 1584691018

The 54,000-acre Childrens Eternal Rainforest in Costa Rica began as an idea, a few kids, and a bake sale. Word spread and children from over 44 countries raised the funds to make it happen in 1987. Here is its story with a fresh twist, as young Peter discovers that his mother was one of those original kids. What a terrific way to learn both about cooperation and a magnificent habitat! Kristin Joy Pratt has done it again with a style that kids--and environmental educators - love.


Adventures of Riley: Tigers in Terai

Author: Amanda Lumry & Laura Hurwitz
Illustrator: Sarah McIntyre
Publisher: Eaglemont Press
ISBN: 0545068428

An award-winning, innovative 12-book series that captures the wonder of conservation through a blend of photography, illustration, fiction, and nonfiction.

Riley journeys to the Terai Arc region of India and Nepal in search of the elusive Bengal tiger. Riley's research leads to exciting encounters with some weird and wild indigenous animals (an Asian rhino, a king cobra, langur monkeys and more!) as well as a better understanding of the local culture.


Planet Earth: 25 Environmental Projects You Can Build Yourself

Author: Kathleen M. Reilly
Illustrator: Farah Rizvi
Publisher: Nomad Press
ISBN: 1934670049

Planet Earth: 25 Environmental Projects You Can Build Yourself provides an engaging guide to the natural world and encourages children ages 9 and up to get their hands dirty and actively connect with the environment. It then introduces key environmental issues—wind and solar power, pollution, endangered species, global warming, and recycling—and posits potential solutions. Trivia, fun facts, and 25 captivating hands-on projects investigate ecology basics, such as the food chain, oxygen, and animal habitats, as well as ways to lessen the strain on Earth's resources by reducing human consumption and waste. With Planet Earth kids will learn how to respect and protect our unique planet.