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Children's Nature Books That Don't Induce Ecophobia

 
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I am of the vintage of Americans that was given the recently-published The Great Kapok Tree to read in my childhood. Some things about it I just loved. But while beautifully illustrated, I want to find other books than that for my little girl to read, books that will inspire her to appreciate and work with nature without being too hurt, at this phase of her life, about what is going on in the world. Rainforest devastation is a problem to confront, but...when you are a teenager, I think. I myself didn't have the tools or social environment at age 9 to do anything about what I read there, and it just made me so sad.

So what books can I give Miss G that will help her be part of a joyful, optimistic wave of problem-solvers and solutions-builders in the next generation?

We have really enjoyed this beautifully-illustrated series, Smithsonian's Backyard:
 


And the similar Oceanic Collection:


I'd love to get a list going of good books of any vintage we can read with our children that will inspire them and give them love and hope as they begin to head into the future!
 
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You asked for eco books, but seeing as your little is a "miss" I give you the The Mighty Girl Reading List
Within "social issues" there is a subcategory for "environmental issues"

Also, you must play your little all the songs by the Aussie group Formidable Vegetables

 
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I absolutely love the book, "The Other Way to Listen" by Byrd Baylor. As the title suggests, it's about all the ways we can listen to nature. I enjoy reading it as an adult and don't think I could ever tire of re-reading it. The illustrations are gorgeous too. She has other books also.


Seconding the suggestion to share the music of Formidable Vegetable with her! Super fun, good vibes and has helped me learn permaculture in a much deeper, more embodied way. Can't imagine how much I'd have learned if I'd heard it starting as a kid.
 
pollinator
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I confess I am thoroughly puzzled by the term "ecophobia." Can someone explain?
 
Rachel Lindsay
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Douglas Alpenstock wrote:I confess I am thoroughly puzzled by the term "ecophobia." Can someone explain?


As I understand (and use) the term, "Ecophobia" is the depressing, hopeless fear of the natural world being destroyed while simultaneously feeling powerless to do anything about it. It is the exact feeling I want to avoid creating in my child, particularly since I was always a very sensitive type and developed some of it in elementary school.  (More about this meaning of the term here)
 
Rachel Lindsay
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I have read many of Jan Brett's books with my daughter, and you can't believe the incredible, detailed artistry on every page.

                                       
This book, Mossy, was Miss G's very favorite Jan Brett book as a toddler, hands down. I loved that the illustrations were creatures we could observe in nature in our part of the world (the story is set in North Carolina/Appalachia).        
     



 
Douglas Alpenstock
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Rachel Lindsay wrote:As I understand (and use) the term, "Ecophobia" is the depressing, hopeless fear of the natural world being destroyed while simultaneously feeling powerless to do anything about it. It is the exact feeling I want to avoid creating in my child, particularly since I was always a very sensitive type and developed some of it in elementary school.


Ah! Thanks, I understand. Children don't yet have a centre to weigh the media screaming matches surrounding predictions of climate doom and economic doom. They can't see the politics and machinations; all they process is the deep sense, the meta-message, that "we are doomed." You are wise to steer your child away from anger, fear and paralysis, all of which are counterproductive.
 
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I totally agree, in the (paraphrased because I'm too lazy to go find the book) words of Naomi Klein, we must first teach our children to love nature, before we ask them to save it.

Not sure if you're set on non-fiction, but here are a few I love!
Fiction:
Stand Like a Cedar - by Nicola I. Campbell
On the Trapline - by David A. Robertson
Wild Berries - by Julie Flett
Girl and the Wolf - by Katherena Vermette
Leo Lionni - Swimmy, Fish is Fish, A Color of His Own, Inch by Inch, Frederick and many more (less "nature" specific, but all full of wonderful art and animals!)
Melanie Watt - Scaredy Squirrel, Leon the Chameleon (same as above - Scaredy Squirrel is a lot of fun, but it can also be good for anxious kiddos who need a plan before they venture out! Her Chester books aren't nature specific, but they are always well loved by my students)
Big Al - by Andrew Clements
Picture a Tree - by Barbra Reid

Non-fiction:
Kate Messner - Over and Under the Pond, Over and Under the Snow, Up in the Garden and Down in the Dirt, and the newer ones I haven't read yet, Over and Under the Rainforest and Over and Under the Canyon
Dianna Hutts Aston - A Seed is Sleepy, A Nest is Noisy, A Rock is Lively, An Egg is Quiet, A Beetle is Shy, A Butterfly is Patient (I haven't read them all, but the ones I have are good!)

And some bonus urban wildlife/garden books:
Rose's Garden, Peter H. Reynolds
Flowers on the Roof, Ingibjörg Sigurðardóttir
My Garden,Kevin Henkes
The Tiny Seed, Eric Carle
Growing Vegetable Soup, Lois Ehlert
I've also heard good things about The Gardener by Sarah Stewart

Many of these books should be available at your local library or independent book store! If I think of any other great ones when I'm at school tomorrow, I'll add them. I hope this helps! I love good books. I'm a fan of many of Jan Brett's books as well, and I'm pretty sure I had Seal Pup Grows Up as a child!
 
Douglas Alpenstock
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Julia Megan wrote:I totally agree, in the (paraphrased because I'm too lazy to go find the book) words of Naomi Klein, we must first teach our children to love nature, before we ask them to save it.


I have always felt that having a gut-level sense of agency -- the ability to reach out, take action, and see local results is much more important than large virtual movements. Virtuality is the cause of this stress; the solution must be tangible. If a child plants a wildflower garden, waters it, and watches all the local pollinators coming to feed, they know in a real sense that they can pick up a shovel and fix the world. This is the regulating pendulum to the howling barrage of blah blah from all sides. My 2 cents'.
 
Rachel Lindsay
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Edna Miller's vintage books are wonderful, if your library still has them or if with very good luck you can find one in a thrift store:

 

At first they seem reminiscent of Beatrix Potter's works, but although the watercolor art of Miller's books is similarly detailed, attentive to nature, and beautiful, the animals in these stories are not made to seem human-like at all. When reading them, children get to observe North American animals "in situ" with real-life situations occurring to them, and responding in ways that real animals would actually do. As a mother I found them very re-readable to my eager toddler, and now that Miss G can read herself, she enjoys pulling them off the shelf on her own. Two thumbs up for this author, too!  


Note: we have avoided "Mousekin's Lost Woodland" due to my original concern when starting this thread!
 
Rachel Lindsay
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Flute's Journey: The Life of a Wood Thrush, written and illustrated by Lynne Cherry.

So first of all, this book is by the author of The Great Kapok Tree, which is mentioned in the first post in this thread as the first book that ever gave me ecophobia. Tentatively and hopefully I read this to my daughter this evening, and it was borderline, in that regard. But Miss G is old enough to deal with it at the level it was presented. There are several mentions during the narrative (of the life of the migratory bird) of things that humans do--such as spraying lawns and clear-cutting forests--briefly showing how these things affect the bird and other creatures of the ecosystems. However, since the birds are able to survive and overcome, the story is ultimately hopeful.

In the story there are also natural predators, such as a hawk and a cat that the wood thrushes must survive. So it is a very honest book, a realistic look at how birds in the Western Hemisphere live nowadays. The illustrations are very very detailed and beautiful: both those of the ecosystems of Maryland and other North American locations, where the bird begins his life and lives half of the year, and also of the Costa Rican landscape where the songbirds overwinter.

To sum up: lavish illustrations and good information told in story form about the life of a bird from egg to winter habitat, then back home again to raise his own family. Overall I think it was an excellent reading experience, and allowed G via a story form to see why I am constantly objecting to people spraying, building subdivisions, and various other non Permie things that I explain to her in our daily lives. In that regard, this book was a wonderful way of showing rather than telling why I do what I do in urban Permaculture. I give this children's book 4 out of 5 acorns, but parents' discretion strongly advised.
 
Rachel Lindsay
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Frightful's Daughter Meets the Baron Weasel by Jean Craighead George
For children too young for My Side of the Mountain ( same author), this charming picture book is a wonderful way to introduce the chapter book’s setting and characters, particularly the animal characters. Vividly illustrated, it is a fun book showing the balance struck between predators and prey in the natural world, and told from a youth’s perspective as he lives among them and observes them in the Catskills of New York. Highly recommended.

 
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There are so many great books mentioned.

Here are some other suggestions:

https://permies.com/t/172223/Children-Books-Infect-Permaculture-Minds
 
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Thornton Burgess wrote a number of children's novels about the day-to-day lives of different animals. He was a conservationist in the early 1900's and his writing is always a pleasant surprise with how gently he brings a conservation ethic into the stories. Dover books sells many copies for a few dollars each.
 
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We LOVED those Smithsonian books that you mentioned in your original post, and I collected the majority of them off of Thriftbook.com when my kids were younger.

We also really liked Laurence Pringle's books; the two that we own that come to mind are "An Extraordinary Life: The Story of a Monarch Butterfly" and "A Dragon in the Sky: The Story of  Green Darner DragonFly". These are both long and detailed, but are realistic, interesting stories about an individual member of each of these species, as they avoid danger and complete their life cycles. They held held my kids' attention from age 5 or 6. Now that my daughter is 9, she reads them on her own from time to time.

I really liked Jean Craigshead George's books "The Wolves Are Back" and  "The Buffalo Are Back". The way she describes the connectedness of the ecosystem, and how taking out one creature affected so many others, in a way understandable to little kids, is just wonderful. However, because both of those animals were intentionally driven to near-extinction, these books could be a bit heavy and sad for little kids. Both end with an upbeat message, since conservationists did bring them back to some degree. The illustrations are gorgeous and uplifting, and overall, I think they are fantastic. Jean Craighead George also wrote a bunch of other great picture books and chapter books for kids. Some do deal with habitat loss, so you'll have to read them and decide what you are comfortable with.

Jim Arnosky is another great author of children's nature books.
 
Rachel Lindsay
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This is such a good one, y'all!

Read and download free: True Bird Stories from My Notebooks by Olive Thorne Miller.

It's from 1903, I believe by the same woman who did the original "My Bookhouse" series. This book for children (it makes a GREAT read-aloud!) is her stories of rescue birds that she kept in her New York apartment during the winter and set free when the spring came again. My animal-lover absolutely adores these stories, (has asked to hear a particular story 3 times!), and besides learning about birds, the early 20th-century prose is definitely increasing her vocabulary as we make our way through it. 5 out of 5 stars from mother and daughter!
 
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One of my favorite topics!!
Anything by Holding C Holling

Anything by Jan Brett

Anything by Jim Arnosky

My side of the mountain!

Let me know if you would like more
 
Lila Stevens
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This "Magic and Mystery" series is so beautifully-illustrated, and packed full of bite-sized bits of info for kids. I know we have checked out the tree one and I think the bug one from our library in the past. We recently got two big books from Costco that seem to consolidate all 4 books into 2 volumes. I don't know if they shorten them down to consolidate them, though. Those big consolidated volumes were only $12 each, though if money were no object I would prefer to have 4 separate books with individual focuses.
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Lila Stevens
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This book also looks great. It even has a very simple introduction to the soil food web, which is really cool. Most permie kids will already probably know as much about that as what is in this book, but it's still neat. I could totally see using this book as part of a study unit on plants

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Lila Stevens
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I homeschool my 6-year-old and 9-year-old, and I am seriously considering buying this book and doing a study on aquatic life. It's just so pretty! And since aquatic life is such a broad subject, we could branch out from there into different habitats or creatures that spark our interest. And then I could buy more books, haha. Our local public library is very small and kinda sad, and I was thinking after doing a study unit we could donate these wonderful books to them, sharing them with others, and still get to check them out if we wanted to read them again.

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Almond Thompson
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Just thought of another one:

This book is just the cutest. I had it when I was young and bought it for several little friends and they were enamored. It's quite the unique lil book
 
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