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Five Children’s Books for Earth Day 2024

 

EARTH DAY 2024

∼ A ROUNDUP ∼

 

 

 

 

Love, The Earth cover Earth with a face watching child.LOVE, THE EARTH
Written by Frances Stickley
Illustrated by Tim Hopgood
(Candlewick Press; $17.99,  Ages 3-7)

In Love, the Earth, by Frances Stickley, our beautiful blue planet promises to take care of us, if only we will take care of it. Scenes unfold showing us all the Earth has to offer: “Please share my food, my lakes, my land . . . / and try to lend a helping hand.” Yet, we also see that the Earth can’t do it without us.

The mixed-media illustrations by Tim Hopgood are lush and layered. The Earth is present throughout, either smiling benevolently or saddened when its land is covered in litter. The book concludes with the Earth signing off, “With All My Love, the Earth,” a heartfelt reminder of how the planet has sustained a truly vast amount of life.

 

Solar Bear cover boy and polar bearSOLAR BEAR
Written by Beth Ferry
Illustrated by Brendan Wenzel
(HarperKids; $19.99, Ages 4-8)

Starred Review – Booklist

In Beth Ferry’s rhyming picture book, Solar Bear, a magical solar bear gathers bears from around the globe to share stories about species extinction. By shining their glowing light “[on] otters, sloths, and manatees. / On coral reefs and chimpanzees,” they hope to foster a generation of “solar kids” who learn as much as possible about our animals, mindfully use resources, and talk to others to encourage environmental stewardship.

The art by Brendan Wenzel illuminates the animals. This is beautiful but also a preview of how close many of them are to becoming ghosts. When the solar animals interact with children worldwide, the love and hope come through in his illustrations rendered in “watercolor, pencil, acrylic, colored pencil, and pretty much everything else under the sun including an iMac.” While this blurb is funny, it’s also a great representation of pulling together to create. The heartwarming image on the cover sets the tone for this hopeful but urgent request for action.

 

Green: The Story of Plant Life on Our Planet cover boy dog tree.GREEN: THE STORY OF PLANT LIFE ON OUR PLANET
Written by Nicola Davies

Illustrated by Emily Sutton
(Candlewick Press; $18.99, Ages 5-8)

Starred Review – Kirkus

Nicola Davies’s nonfiction picture book, Green: The Story of Plant Life on Our Planet, opens with a line about how the tree pictured doesn’t seem to be doing much, just standing around being big and green. However, we come to find the many fascinating things that trees do from the huge importance of photosynthesis to its opposite: respiration, which keeps our air in balance. We learn the history of how plants have trapped carbon dioxide, changing the air from toxic to inhabitable for all kinds of life forms.

Emily Sutton’s illustrations showcase the color green. One scene shows green existing only on a single rooftop apartment building in a city where industry is upsetting the world’s delicate balance. The story finishes with a heartwarming companion image to the opening one that sums up why green is the “most important color in the world.”

 

Sona Sharma: Looking After Planet Earth cover Sona among plants.SONA SHARMA: LOOKING AFTER PLANET EARTH
Written by Chitra Soundar

Illustrated by Jen Khatun
(Candlewick Press; $15.99, Ages 6-9)

In Sona Sharma: Looking After Planet Earth (book two of the Sona series by Chitra Soundar), Sona Sharma’s personality continues to shine. This time, Sona and her friends Renu and Joy learn that the Earth is in trouble. Their teacher, Miss Rao, has them pledge to help look after the planet. Well-meaning Sona takes this to heart and starts making changes at home—without anyone’s consent. Who needs lights? Diapers—no more!

While the story is funny, the reality of this crisis comes through, showing ways we all can pitch in. The setting is vivid as are the characters. I particularly like how much of the plot is centered around the town’s annual kolam-making contest (“traditional designs that people draw in front of their homes to celebrate the winter months and the festival season”). Paatti (Grandma) uses rice flour to make the design but Sona’s other grandmother, the President, includes colored powders, glitter, and plastic decorations. Sona’s determined to stop participants from using artificial, bad-for-the-environment art supplies, but the contest is happening soon and it seems the rules allow these materials. Or do they . . .?

The black-and-white sketches by Jen Khatun throughout bring us right into Sona’s world showing her multigenerational family and the lovely kolam designs.

 

Be a Nature Explorer! cover backpack on grass.BE A NATURE EXPLORER!:
OUTDOOR ACTIVITIES AND ADVENTURES
Written by Peter Wohlleben

Illustrated by Belle Wuthrich
English translation by Jane Billinghurst
(Greystone Books; $12.95, Ages 6-10)

Fans of Peter Wohlleben’s best-selling books about trees will be glad to see he now has a hands-on guide for children in an easy-to-carry size to encourage exploration of nature, Be a Nature Explorer!: Outdoor Activities and Adventures. This illustrated 100-page book contains 52 activity ideas to keep kids busy for many outings, or even when they’re just in the backyard.

“Following Slugs and Snails” is one of my favorites because I find these creatures fascinating. I learned that snail shells almost always spiral to the right (clockwise) and sit on the right side of their bodies. If you find a snail whose pattern runs counterclockwise, they’re called “snail kings”—so exciting, like finding a four-leaf clover! You can even record a snail or slug’s slime trail imprint onto a piece of plastic wrap, then add that to your journal as part of your collection and for further observations.

This fun guide’s pages are enlivened with illustrations by Belle Wuthrich, and photos. This winning combo elevates this book to the top of my list for gift-giving. Pair this welcoming book with a blank journal and watch kids get their nature explorer groove on. Parents will thank you!

 

 

Click here to read reviews from last year’s roundup.

 

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Children’s Activity Book – This Is How I Do It

THIS IS HOW I DO IT:

One Day in the Life of You
and 59 Real Kids from Around the World

Written and illustrated by Matt Lamothe

(Chronicle Books; $12.99, Ages 5-8)

 

 

 

This Is How I Do It  by Matt Lamothe is a great activity book to open kids’ eyes to the lives of children around the world and get them thinking about their own. Following the success of his picture book, This Is How We Do It: One Day in the Lives of Seven Kids from around the World, Lamothe was inspired by how one teacher in particular in Fiji was using the book to have children document their lives. The result is this unique activity book that focuses on different aspects of 59 real children’s lives from countries as varied as America to Vietnam, Bangladesh to Uruguay. 

 

This Is Me int
Interior illustration from This Is How I Do It written and illustrated by Matt Lamothe, Chronicle Books ©2019.

 

This hands-on 56-page book not only documents almost 60 kids’ lives from around the globe, but it provides an opportunity for young readers to get introspective and fill in the blanks about their daily life (when not in a pandemic). There’s even a die-cut opening in the cover, an inviting feature for children to put in a picture of themselves or draw one. Kids will also find the cool looking postcards and stickers in the back matter appealing for use in their own artwork or on the postcards Lamothe’s designed. A bonus is a fold-out map both in color and labeled with all the countries covered in the book. There’s also a blank map kids can fill in with the names of the places where they’ve visited, lived or want to see in the future. Parents or teachers might want to share with kids/students the website www.thisishowwedoitbook.com where “great resources for communicating with other kids” can be found.

 

Who I Live With int
Interior illustration from This Is How I Do It written and illustrated by Matt Lamothe, Chronicle Books ©2019.

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From the very beginning of the book, in the “This is me,” illustration, Lamothe welcomes readers into the book with the warm faces of four international children. This is followed by a spread of “Hello” labels featuring the greeting shown in different languages from China, Kenya, Ukraine, Israel, Ethiopia, Iraq, and Greece. Readers will see different types of housing, beautiful views from out the windows, as well as assorted clothing the kids wear, what they eat for breakfast, lunch and dinner, how they get around, where they learn, who their teachers are, how their food is cooked, and what they get up to in the evening.

I like that the examples given are never boring, sometimes unexpected, and always thought provoking. In “This is how I get around” children learn that Lurongdeji, from China, “lives with his mom and grandmother, who are both farmers. They use a modified motorcycle to get around.” The front is a motorcycle, but the back has been altered into an open truck bed for carrying crops, tools, animals or whatever! In a mouthwatering spread titled “This is a fruit or vegetable that grows near me,” I was surprised to see a picture of a red seaweed called dulse that is dried and eaten as a snack on the west coast of Ireland. My favorite illustration would have to be the one showing some favorite books read around the world with blank lines for kids to fill in with their favorite book, too. It’s nice that Lamothe ends the tour with bedtime and the places where some of the children in the story sleep at night. But this is anything but a bedtime book. It’s ideal for daytime reading and dreaming and will definitely give children stuck indoors a chance for interesting armchair travel.

  • Reviewed by Ronna Mandel

Click here to read Dornel Cerro’s review of This Is How We Do It.

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Holiday Gift Guide – Play-Doh Christmas Craft Fun

PLAY-DOH HELPS KIDS MAKE MAGIC THIS CHRISTMAS

Cover art for Play-Doh Christmas Craft Fun
Play-Doh Christmas Craft Fun, by Susan Amerikaner with art by Kara Kenna, Silver Dolphin Books, 2013.

Play-Doh Christmas Craft Fun, written by Susan Amerikaner and illustrated and digitally composed by Kara Kenna (Silver Dolphin Books, $14.95; Ages 3 and up), is reviewed today by Rita Zobayan.

Christmas is upon us, which undoubtedly means presents. Why not combine two perennial kid favorites—Play-Doh and books—and delight the youngsters in your life? Silver Dolphin Books and Hasbro have done exactly that. The Play-Doh Christmas Craft Fun set includes four cans of Play-Doh, a plastic knife and roller, and 15 projects wrapped into a 32-page activity book.

Santa is on his way to Jolly Town, and Penguin, Cat, and Dog need your help to get the town ready! Help them prepare a tree, a candy cane, a bow, advent candle, a stocking and 10 more fun, Christmas-themed items. Each project is presented in three easy-to-follow steps with accompanying photographs.  Then the project is highlighted in the two-page spread artwork.

Time for presents! Let’s make one.

1. Shape two square in any colors you like. Make one thinner than the other. Then make five small rolls.

2. Put the thin square on top of the bigger one. Flatten the rolls into strips and fold them over. Roll out several tiny round pieces.

3. Use the folded strips to make a bow. Make a ball for the middle of the bow. Decorate with the tiny round pieces.

This gift is ready to go under the tree! Great job! Maybe next year you can work at the North Pole!

The artwork consists of Play-Doh figures on a backdrop. They’re fun and inviting scenes. See the cozy fireplace where you can hang your stockings. Step into Mrs. Claus’ kitchen where she’s busy baking gingerbread cookies, with your help, of course! Watch the snowflakes cover the trimmed tree!

Create some Christmas memories with the Play-Doh Christmas Craft Fun activity book and set.

 

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Where in the World?

ImageMy Big World: Facts and Fun, Questions and Answers, Things to Make and Do ($18.95, Thames and Hudson, Ages 4-8) is not your every day children’s book. It was written, designed and illustrated by a group of London-based professionals called Okido who create a children’s art and science magazine of the same name.

My Big World is about a girl named Koko and her fellow explorers who want to learn more about planet earth. At the beginning of the book, readers learn about Koko and her friends and are then invited to make a paper chain representing each member of their own families. We also read more about human geography such as different kinds of foods and where they come from, houses, gardens and how to get around town. There’s even a Busy Town game board in the book that looks like a lot of fun.

Naturally, physical geography is covered and includes rivers and streams, beaches, forests and mountains. There are pages covering weather, animals, oceans, islands, day and night and sun, moon and stars. All throughout the book are activities and games children can play, and some indicate an adult is needed – making a pinwheel for the beach, making veggie burgers, growing your own seedlings.

The book works because it makes kids think about their own surroundings and the way they live as well as how other children who are very different from them live. It also makes them appreciate the environment and encourages them to want to explore new places. Much of the copy is written in short sentences inside speech bubbles making it easy and interesting to read.

This is a big and sturdy 64-page hardbound book, printed on thick paper with lots of color and imagination. There’s a whole lot of information inside, and I love that it is meant to be used as a reference guide for the littlest readers with colorful and inviting illustrations. Between the information and the activities, My Big World will keep curious kids busy for many wonderful hours.

-Reviewed by Debbie Glade

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Interactive Farm Fun

Playbook Farm by Corina Fletcher and illustrated by Britta Teckentrup ($24.00, Nosy Crow, ages 3 and up) is reviewed by Rita Zobayan.

Playbook Farm is a multi-faceted treat that has engaged my three-year old daughter for hours. It is a combination of a pop-up book and a 3-D play mat that comes in an 8.5” box with an inner flap to store the stand-up animals and farm vehicles. The bottom side of the mat is the book. Children can read about the important work that farm animals do in simple, straight-forward language written by Corina Fletcher.  All the animals on the farm have jobs to do. Can you guess what they are? What do farm cats do? Farms cats keep the mice away and stop them from eating the wheat. What do sheep do? Sheep give us wool to keep us warm.

The sturdy 3-D mat opens up to roughly 24”x32”. There is a path that winds through the farm and takes us through the fields and pastures past the windmill, chicken coop, and more. Along the path is text that explains what we are passing: “Moo, moo, moo!” The cows are ready for morning milking. Whoosh, whoosh, whoosh, whirs the windmill, grinding the grains of corn. The pop-up buildings have movable parts, such as doors and gates that open and windmill blades that turn.

The stand-up animals and vehicles are easy for little fingers to move across the mat. Move the tractor driven by the female farmer across the corn fields. Drive the truck through the farm to pick up supplies. Have the sheep dog guide the sheep and goat into their pen. Set the rooster high on the roof to announce the dawn. This tactile introduction to farm life is a treat.

The illustrations by Britta Teckentrup are delightful and present the images of an idyllic farm that children so enjoy.  Beyond the farm and its environs, there are duck ponds, trees, flowers, insects and various birds that dot the landscape. Details abound! Find the mother cat and her kittens. Count how many chicks are following the hen. What’s hiding near the flour sacks by the windmill? Who’s peeking at the horses through the wheat field? The illustrations alone provide great fun for youngsters who will eagerly look for the cleverly placed details.

Playbook Farm is play and learning stored nicely in a box.

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