By Ellen Lomonico
Eco-literacy books are on the rise for young readers, and it’s no wonder. With youth leaders like Greta Thunberg at the forefront of the climate change conversation, youths are becoming an increasingly outspoken and respected voice in the environmental moment. Riding this wave of awareness and eco-consciousness, publishers are seeing a rise in environmental children’s books.
Goldman Prize winners can be found sprinkled throughout these books. As prominent environmentalists, Prize recipients provide children with a model of commitment, leadership, and diversity.
As we adapt to living and learning at home, we hope these children’s books will provide an educational escape for young readers. And, with beautiful illustrations and inspirational topics, we think that adults just might enjoy them, too.
A to Z Environmentalists
1. Climate Rebels by Ben Lerwill
Join hand-in-hand with prominent environmental leaders from around the world in their quest to save our planet. Climate Rebels includes the true stories of Goldman Prize recipients Bayara Agvaantseren (Mongolia, 2019), who protected snow leopard habitat from mining, Wangari Maathai (Kenya, 1991), who started Kenya’s Green Belt Movement, and Wendy Bowman (Australia, 2017), who saved her family farm from a powerful multinational mining company. The book is so good, Jane Goodall wrote the forward.
New York Times best seller Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls presents the stories of past and present female leaders in 100 one-page bedtime stories. The book seamlessly transforms each woman’s struggles and triumphs with the allure of a fairytale. An additional testament to the book’s global and empowering spirit is that the illustrations are by women from around the world.
3. Planting the Trees of Kenya by Claire A. Nivola
Planting the Trees of Kenya is one of many wonderful books written about Nobel Prize recipient Wangari Maathai (Kenya, 1991). The book follows Wangari from her childhood in Kenya to her return after college. Keeping with the theme of the story, the book is printed on recycled paper.
4. Wangari’s Trees of Peace by Jeanette Winter
Starting with a single seed in her backyard, Wangari’s vision grew and grew—nine seedlings would become millions of trees. Wangari’s Trees of Peace pairs a succinct writing style with full page illustrations. The book is also printed on recycled content.
5. Seeds of Change: Wangari’s Gift to the World by Jen Cullerton Johnson
Wangari first learned to respect nature from her mother and would take these lessons with her throughout her life. Seeds of Change: Wangari’s Gift to the World follows Wangari’s journey to promote the rights of her people and the environment. Appropriate for ages five to eleven, the book also features an accompanying reading guide.
6. What a Country Without… by Ndyakira Amooti
Rather than being written about a Prize winner, these books are written by one. In a series of five books, Goldman Prize winner and children’s writer Ndyakira Amooti (Uganda, 1996) seeks to create environmental consciousness in children aged nine to twelve. His books follow Kazoora, a young man who learns about his environment by speaking with his grandfather. Published in 1998, the first book, What a Country Without Animals!, is followed by What a Country Without Birds, What a Country Without Grasslands, and What a Country Without Wetlands. Rare treasures, these books are difficult to find for sale, but may be available at your local library.
About the author:
Ellen is a passionate storyteller for the environment. She manages the Prize’s digital presence, produces written and visual content, and contributes to strategic communications planning. Prior to joining the Prize, Ellen held various roles in the solar industry, from marketing to education program management. She holds a BA in Geography and Environmental Studies, with minors in Spanish and Environmental Systems and Society from the University of California, Los Angeles.
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