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Environment and Sustainability Classroom Books and Novels

A Child’s Enchanted Garden. Stewart, H.E.
Grades: Pre Kindergarten to Grade 2
Themes: Seasons, cycles, interconnection
In this story, the author follows the change of seasons in grandfather’s garden. The author explores the co-existence of the apple tree and the birds, the animals and insects that live on or around it. In the winter, all is quiet. Spring arrives, and along come the robins to build their nest and lay their eggs. The birds hatch, and soon they are learning to fly. In the summer, the birds and the apples are growing; and in the fall, it is time for apple picking.

The Elders are Watching. Bouchard, David and Vickers, Roy Henry.
Grade 4 and up
Themes: First Nations, sustainability, respect for the environment
The Elders Are Watching is a plea to respect the natural treasures of the environment and a message of concern from Aboriginal leaders.

Farewell to Shady Glade. Peet, Bill.
Grades 1 to 4
Themes: Development, urban sprawl
Although this story was written in 1981, the moral in Farewell to Shady Glade continues to have strong relevance in today’s society. As a result of urban development and sprawl, a family of racoons is about to lose their home to the efforts of a bulldozer. They leave their shady glade, ironically, on the very instrument that brought humans so quickly across the continent, a train, in search of a new shady glade. With beautiful sketches, a strong moral and memorable characterization of woodland creatures, Farewell to Shady Glade resonates today just as much as it did 30 years ago.

For the Birds. Atwood, Margaret and Bianchi, John.
Grades 3 to 7
Themes: Stewardship, cause and effect, birds
Samantha, newly moved to the big city, is feeling lonely and homesick. She takes her frustration out on some birds by throwing rocks at them, and a cardinal is hurt. Ms. Merganser, her neighbour, is very angry and tells Samantha that she needs to be taught a lesson. All of a sudden, Samantha and Ms. Merganser magically transform into birds. Samantha and Ms. Merganser fly off on an adventure that takes them from the city to the countryside and all the way down to South America, on a path that follows bird migration routes. Along the way, Samantha learns about birds and the environmental hazards they face.

The Little Hummingbird. Yahgulanaas, Michael Nicoll.
Kindergarten to Grade 12
Themes: Forest, inspiration, courage, activism
This inspiring fable is based on a South American indigenous story about a hummingbird who doesn’t give up as she tries to save the forest from a wild fire. This book also includes a positive message from Wangari Maathai who is an environmental activist, advocate for civil society and women’s right and the founder of the Green Belt Movement. The beautiful illustrations are depicted in Haida art.

The Lorax. Seuss, Dr.
Grades 4 to 12
Themes: Pollution, forestry, environmental disconnection, and hope
The Lorax is an ecological caveat arising from modern humanity’s relationship with the environment in conjunction with growth-based capitalism. In genuine Dr. Seuss style, the rhymes are lyrical, the characters eccentric, the illustrations wondrous, and the tale moralistic. It is a story of opportunity, extraction, exploitation, remorse, and consequence. With an overarching urgency for change, The Lorax culminates with a message of hopefulness in humanity’s ability to choose a different relationship with the planet.

Mama Miti: Wangari Maathai and the Trees of Kenya. Napoli, Donna Jo and Nelson, Kadir.
Kindergarten to Grade 3
Themes: Trees, green belt, woman’s issues, and activism
Mama Miti is a biography of Wangari Maathai, the Kenyan environmental activist who received the 2004 Nobel Peace Prize for helping Kenyan village women solve problems from hunger to dirty water with the same solution: “Plant a tree.” Eventually, Maathai’s green belt movement became a worldwide mission. The illustrations are breathtaking, vibrant collages.

Pacific Wild Books. McAllister, Ian and Read, Nicholas.
Grade 5 and up
Themes: Grizzly Bears, wolves, ocean life, ecology, biodiversity, and indigenous culture
Pacific Wild books addresse a number of the Prescribed Learning Outcomes for grades 5 to 12 established by the B.C. Ministry of Education.

The Race to Save the Lord God Bird. Hoose, Phillip.
Grade 6 and up
Themes: Birds, cause and effect, endangered species
This book is a historical overview, using drama, suspense, and mystery to tell the story of the ivory-billed woodpecker, the first modern endangered species. In 1800, the large and impressive woodpecker lived in the south eastern United States, from Texas to the Carolinas and as far north as Indiana. By 1937, it could be found on only one tract of land in north eastern Louisiana. Its last confirmed sighting was in Cuba in 1987. Hoose introduces each individual involved through interesting, historically based scenes.

A River Ran Wild. Cherry, Lynne.
Grades 1 to 6
Themes: Rivers, history, timeline, industrial revolution, teamwork, activism, change
In a River Ran Wild, Cherry traces the ecological evolution of the Nashua River—how it was respected by generations of First Nations, polluted and ultimately deadened in the wake of the industrial revolution and then restored in recent years through the efforts of concerned citizens. This is an American case study, with tremendous relevance to the welfare of all rivers.

Tale of a Great White Fish: A Sturgeon Story. De Vries, Maggie and Benoit, Renne.
Grades 1 to 4
Themes: Fraser River, conservation, fishery, sturgeon
Big Fish is ancient and enormous. In her 177 years, she’s brushed against death more than once—stalked by panners in the gold rush of 1858, nearly crushed in a rock slide in 1913, almost stranded when the lake drained into the river in 1924, and threatened by a mysterious disease that killed many other sturgeons in the early 1990s. This exciting adventure tale offers science, history, and environmental lessons supplemented with a glossary, a diagram, and interesting facts about the biology and history of the sturgeon.

Wump World. Peet, Bill.
Grades 1 to 4
Themes: Pollution, appreciation, consequences, colonization, technological determinism
After polluting their planet beyond habitability, the Pollutions blast off into outer space to claim another planet as their home. Wump World is already home to a thriving population of Wumps who are more than happy to co-exist with nature, just the way it is. Wump World is an entertaining, pro-environment children’s book with messages about pollution, nature appreciation, taking care of the precious planet we live on, and hope.

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