Five favourite picture books with an environmental theme

posted in: 2. Illustrators and Authors | 5

As some of you will remember from when I reviewed What’s the point of being green?, I’ve a strong interest in environmental issues. Earlier this year I wrote a guest post for Brenna who writes at Almost all the truth, in which I selected five of our favourite picture books which are great for encouraging our kids to take care of the only planet we’ve got. Here’s my original post, with some updated resources at the end.

Today I’ve chosen five of our favourite picture books which share a common theme – that of looking after our world. I’ve chosen them for their great stories, lovely illustrations and their skill at sharing powerful, important messages without once being patronising or feeling “worthy”. I really believe they are a great way to get little ones interested in taking care of the environment and thinking about the challenges which face our planet. I hope you enjoy them as much as we do!

The Trouble with Dragons by Debi Gliori

A powerful, allegorical message about the need to look after our planet to avoid extinction. This sounds serious, but the story (told in rhyme) is brilliantly effective because of its lightness of touch, humour and gorgeous illustrations. Like all of Debi Gliori’s books this one’s full of warmth and will be enjoyed whether or not you’re looking for a story with an environmental message.

Dinosaurs and All That Rubbish by Michael Foreman

Tropical jungles, trips to outerspace and dinosaurs all feature in this book – enough to hook anyone surely? And then there’s the lovely story about the need to see the beauty and wonder of the natural environment that we have around us if we are to protect it for the future. Although out of print now (it was first published over 35 years ago), I hope you’ll be able to find a copy as its message is still very timely.

Mama Miti: Wangari Maathai and the Trees of Kenya by Donna Jo Napoli and Kadir Nelson

A biography of Nobel Peace Prize winner Wangari Maathai, who recently died, telling the story about how she steeled an army of women in Kenya to plant trees that would sustain their communities and help combat soil erosion and habitat loss. A brilliant book for encouraging you to keep faith in the idea that small changes will eventually add up to something substantial that makes a difference.

Nibbles: A Green Tale by Charlotte Middleton

A giggle-inducing, cute story about a guinea pig and dandelions, that packs a punch about sustainability and the importance of seed banks! Another book that has a really serious message at its heart, but one that is told with such good humour that there’s not a whiff of worthiness about it.

The Global Garden by Kate Petty and Jenny Maizals

A nonfiction pop-up book packed with flaps and tabs and fun helps us understand where things come from and how so many manufactured products have their roots in the natural environment. A great way to learn that there’s more to plants than just looking pretty.

Updated list of resources if you’re looking for children’s books on an environmental theme:

  • An excellent annotated bibliography of children’s literature with environmental themes, on

  • An environmentally themed fiction book list from with a more UK based focus than the above list.

  • A list from Trevor Cairney with sections focussing on the environment as creation and the metaphysical experience of our world, the relationship of people to the environment, the negative impact of humanity on the environment and a celebration of the environment, its beauty and wonder. You can find Trevor on twitter here.
  • 5 Responses

    1. Zoe

      hi Alice, Christopher Nibble is the UK edition of the same book 🙂 Lovely to hear that it is so popular in your home too.

    2. Stacey

      I am so glad you shared this list. It is so important to talk with our kids about this topic but I often think the books I find are a bit ‘preachy’. This feels like a great list.

    3. sarah zama

      We have a tactile version of Michael Recycle which is very popular with our library members. It was chosen by students at Bradfield College who turned the book into an accessible resource as part of a school project. It’s a nice simple story with great illustrations.

    4. Donna Shirley

      You should add to your list The Land That Lost Its Green. An old man tells a tale about a land that is taken over by pollution and mountain top removal. It teaches children what can happen if we don’t take care of the world around us. Available at

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