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11 beautiful and thought-provoking kids' books for Earth Day

The author and illustrator of Caldecott winner 'We Are Water Protectors' pick 11 books to share with kids of any age this Earth Day.

Whether your kids are digging in dirt or marching behind Greta Thunberg, they'll be the first to tell you every day should be Earth Day.

There's no better way to kick off Earth Day 2021 on April 22 than with books that celebrate kids' budding environmentalism.

Last year's Caldecott-winning picture book, "We Are Water Protectors," is a luminous tale of an Ojibwe girl who rises up to protect the Earth's water from harm, inspired by many Indigenous-led movements across North America. We asked the book's author Carole Lindstrom and illustrator Michaela Goade to suggest children's books for Earth Day 2021 for kids of all ages.

Picture books for Earth Day

"The Water Walker," by Joanne Robertson

Lindstrom and Goade find inspiration in this story of Grandmother Josephine Mandamin, an early water protector. "She walked around the Great Lakes to raise awareness of our need to protect the water for future generations," Lindstrom said.

"Kate, Who Tamed the Wind," by Liz Garton Scanlon and Lee White

A girl with a wind problem discovers a natural solution in trees, providing an opportunity for conversation about their importance.

"Zonia's Rain Forest," by Juana Martinez-Neal

"Zonia and her family are Asháninka, members of the largest Indigenous group of the Peruvian Amazon. When she notices a deforested area in her beloved rainforest, she pledges to act to protect her home," Lindstrom said.

"One Plastic Bag," by Miranda Paul and Elizabeth Zunon

Lindstrom is inspired by this "true story of how one African woman began a movement to recycle the plastic bags that were polluting her community."

"Every Color of Light," by Hiroshi Osada and Ryoji Arai

Lindstrom loves this "bedtime story told by the elements." "Harmonizing our human experience to the natural world, Arai invites the reader to hold imaginative space for our oneness with the natural world."

"What Is a River?" by Monika Vaicenavičiene

An inquisitive girl asks her grandmother what a river is. "The river becomes a vessel for enormous complexity, a lens through which the interconnectedness of our shared earth can be understood," Lindstrom said.

"Plastic: Past, Present and Future," by Eun-ju Kim and Ji-Won Lee, translated by Joungmin Lee Comfort

This look at the life cycle of plastic shows "how plastics are produced and recycled, the many uses of plastics throughout the last century, how our plastic use and pollution has spiraled out of control, and what we can do about it," Lindstrom said.

"The Last Tree," by María Quintana Silva and Silvia Álvarez

"One night, the last tree in the forest decides it’s time to uproot and leave," LIndstrom says. "A little boy realizes the consequences this will have for animals, humans and the environment. He sets off to counteract the damage that has already been done."

Middle grade books for Earth Day

"Let's Eat: Sustainable Food for a Hungry Planet," by Kimberly Veness

This book for older readers "teaches about sustainable food and lays out historic and current perspectives on agriculture in an engaging format," Lindstrom says. "Definitely gets kids thinking about what’s on their plates."

"The Whale Child," by Keith T.A. Egawa & Chenoa T.Y. Egawa

This middle grade book introduces young readers to environmental challenges through the eyes of Coast Salish characters and authors.

YA book for Earth Day

"We Rise: The Earth Guardians Guide to Building a Movement that Restores the Planet," by Xiuhtezcatl Martinez

"We Rise" provides step-by-step information on how to start and join a movement. Lindstrom called it "an action guide on how to face the biggest problems of today, including climate change, fossil fuel extraction, and industrial agriculture."