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Eco-Literacy in Children’s Books

By Nicole Haynes, Emma Rogers and Rosie Pinder


Children’s books act as fantastic resources for learning about various aspects of the world. In recent years, eco-literacy has flourished in both fiction and non-fiction children’s genres. From the likes of David Attenborough to Beatrix Potter, environmental themes increasingly dominate top-selling children’s books. For use at bedtime or in a classroom, these are the Children’s team's favourite books discussing the environment.


Early Years


Wave by Suzy Lee (2008)


This is a beautifully simple story told wordlessly through a series of gorgeous water colour illustrations. A little girl spends a day on the beach, interacting with the wild waves and sandy shore. This is a great introduction to the landscape of the sea for young readers.


Flotsam by David Wiesner (2006)


Also wordless, Flotsam follows a young boy who goes hunting for washed-up treasures on the beach. Amongst the lost toys and bottles, which introduce to young readers the idea that the things we cast away might end up in the sea, he finds a discarded underwater camera – a very exciting discovery indeed!


Pip & Egg by Alex Latimer (2021)


A touching story about an unlikely friendship, Pip & Egg follows the lives of two best friends against a beautiful natural backdrop. When they meet, they are two peas in a pod, but when Pip begins to grow roots and Egg grows feathery wings, they begin to move in seemingly opposite directions. Teaching children about the cycle of life and the power of friendship, Pip & Egg shows that despite their different paths, true friends always find each other in the end.


Clean Up! by Nathan Bryon (2019)


In Clean Up!, Nathan Bryon reintroduces science-mad Rocket who first appeared in his picture book, Look Up!, as she sets sail to a Caribbean Island to visit her grandparents. On arrival, Rocket is shocked by the pollution that is putting the local sea at risk and spoiling their home. So, she makes it her mission to find a way to save the day. This picture book educates young readers on the dangers that threaten our planet and empowers them to make a change.


Fantastically Great Women Who Saved the Planet by Kate Pankhurst (2020)


Kate Pankhurst returned in 2020 with another accessible and educational picture book about powerful women in history. This book tells the stories of women who have been helping our natural world since before it became a political agenda. From fairtrade shopping with Anita Roddick to deforestation with Wangari Maathai, this book shows that everybody has a part to play in the fight against climate breakdown.


Middle Grade


Where The World Turns Wild by Nicola Penfold (2020)


Juniper is the inspiring heroine of Where The World Turns Wild, questioning the world she has grown up in where she has been taught that nature is something to be feared. This is an incredibly engaging dystopian environmental read that makes you truly question our relationship with nature.


How You Can Save The Planet by Hendrikus van Hensbergen (2021)


How You Can Save the Planet is a guide for young people who want to help our planet. This book is full of DIY activities as well as practical tips and stories from children around the world and shows that small changes can have a big impact. Author Hendrikus van Hensbergen also has his work featured on BBC Bitesize, making this the perfect read for children at KS2.


Young Adult


When Life Gives You Mangoes by Kereen Getten (2020)


Set on the beautiful island of Sycamore, When Life Gives You Mangoes follows a young girl named Clara, who can’t remember the details of her previous summer here. She decides to roam the island in the hope of remembering what happened last year by unearthing an old family secret. When the island’s storm hits, Clara slowly begins to remember what happened last year. Now she must come face to face with the events of the previous summer.


October, October by Katya Balen (2020)


Winner of the Carnegie Medal 2022, this book follows the story of October and her dad, who live in the woods. October prefers not to go to school and instead learns about nature and the old-fashioned way with her dad. But when her father is injured in an accident, she has to go and live with her mum in London, a place that feels foreign to her. Will October ever be able to return to the wild or can she adjust to her tamed city life?

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