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Books and activities to build background knowledge — from Reading Rockets

collage of images of kids learning through books and hands-on activities

Children's books and activities

Nature: Our Green World

Do you know any outdoorsy kids who are happiest dipping their toes in a freshwater pond, searching for animal tracks, listening for birds, or hiking to a waterfall? We've gathered up a great collection of books, activities, apps, and websites for learning all about nature.

Try pairing fiction with nonfiction books and exploring different genres (like poetry and biographies) and formats (like graphic novels and audio books). You'll be creating your own "text sets" — collections of texts focused on a specific topic, such as nature and the environment. Reading widely in this way helps children build background knowledge, vocabulary, and comprehension skills.

Nature: Our Green World

Great Fiction & Nonfiction Books

Age Level: 3-6 years old

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A Boy Named Isamu: A Story of Isamu Noguchi

By: James Yang

Age Level: 3-6 years old

Nonfiction

Stones look like birds. And birds look like stones. Imagine a day in the boyhood of Japanese...

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cover of Bear Came Along with illustration showing brown trees and the top of a bear's head.

Bear Came Along

By: Richard T. Morris

Age Level: 3-6 years old

Fiction

Once there was a river flowing through a forest. The river didn't know it was capable of...

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Can You See Me?

By: Ted Lewin

Age Level: 3-6 years old

Sharp eyes are needed to see most of the well-camouflaged creatures in the Costa Rican...

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Eddie's Garden and How to Make Things Grow

By: Sarah Garland

Age Level: 3-6 years old

The garden that Eddie and his Mum plant while his younger sister "helps" grows in the...

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Every Autumn Comes the Bear

By: Jim Arnosky

Age Level: 3-6 years old

As the seasons change, a large black bear prepares for hibernation. In his search for a den, he...

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Fabulous Frogs

By: Martin Jenkins

Age Level: 3-6 years old

Endpages show swimming tadpoles; turn the page and the progression from tadpole to frog appears...

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Flip, Float, Fly: Seeds on the Move

By: JoAnn Early Macken

Age Level: 3-6 years old

The many ways seeds get to where they can grow is revealed in poetic language enhanced by...

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Green

By: Laura Vaccaro Seeger

Age Level: 3-6 years old

Textured illustrations cleverly incorporate die-cuts exploring the many shades of green. Language...

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Green Green: A Community Gardening Story

By: Marie Lamba, Baldev Lambda

Age Level: 3-6 years old

Fiction

Green grass is wide and fresh and clean for a family to play in, and brown dirt is perfect for...

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Hello, Crow

By: Candace Savage

Age Level: 3-6 years old

Fiction

Gently motivates kids and their families to be observant when exploring parks, backyards,...

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illustrated cover of Hey, Water! showing girl in waves of water with snorkel mask on.

Hey, Water!

By: Antoinette Portis

Age Level: 3-6 years old

Nonfiction

An introduction to the water cycle and water conservation for the youngest readers. Join a young...

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How Did That Get in My Lunchbox? The Story of Food

By: Lucia Gaggiotti

Age Level: 3-6 years old

Nonfiction

Ever wonder how the food we eat came to be in a lunchbox? Brief text and lively illustrations...

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In the Small, Small Pond

By: Denise Fleming

Age Level: 3-6 years old

A child (and a small green frog) witness the change of seasons in a small, critter-filled pond....

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Inside Outside

By: Lizi Boyd

Age Level: 3-6 years old

There are things to do indoors and outside. But the inside goes outside and the reverse with...

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Jo MacDonald Had a Garden

By: Mary Quattlebaum

Age Level: 3-6 years old

In this version of a familiar tune, Jo MacDonald (the old farmer's granddaughter) and her cousin...

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Kate, Who Tamed the Wind

By: Liz Garton Scanlon

Age Level: 3-6 years old

Fiction

A wild wind blows on the tippy-top of a steep hill, turning everything upside down for the man...

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On Meadowview Street

By: Henry Cole

Age Level: 3-6 years old

Fiction

Caroline doesn't see much of the name of their new street, Meadowview, as she and her family...

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Out on the Prairie

By: Donna Bateman

Age Level: 3-6 years old

The prairie is home to lush and unique plants and animals. Here they are introduced in the cadence...

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Picture a Tree

By: Barbara Reid

Age Level: 3-6 years old

There are many ways to picture a tree throughout the seasons. Sometimes a tree plays "a game of...

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Plant a Little Seed

By: Bonnie Christensen

Age Level: 3-6 years old

Nonfiction

Two children start to plan their community garden while snow is still on the ground. Come spring...

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Planting a Rainbow

By: Lois Ehlert

Age Level: 3-6 years old

A dazzling celebration of the colorful variety in a flower garden and the cyclical excitement of...

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Plants Feed Me

By: Lizzy Rockwell

Age Level: 3-6 years old

"I am a plant eater," announces a boy with a wide grin eating munching on a slice of watermelon and...

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Redwoods

By: Jason Chin

Age Level: 3-6 years old

Giant redwoods are usually found in the Northwest United States, so how does a boy on a New York...

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Secrets of the Garden

By: Kathleen Zoehfeld

Age Level: 3-6 years old

A child and her family plan and plant a garden and observe it as it grows. Her narration includes...

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Seed, Soil, Sun: Earth's Recipe for Food

By: Cris Peterson

Age Level: 3-6 years old

Earth's recipe for the food we eat — seed, soil, and sun — are presented in crisp...

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The Big Green

By: Peggy Gifford

Age Level: 3-6 years old

How many types of green exist? There’s “anaconda green, electric-eel green, green-iguana-in-the-...

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The Curious Garden

By: Peter Brown

Age Level: 3-6 years old

Fiction

Liam discovers that he can help his dreary city blossom into a green place that draws everyone out...

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The Forever Garden

By: Laurel Snyder

Age Level: 3-6 years old

A young girl and an older woman, Honey, bond over Honey’s garden and her chickens. When Honey...

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The Little Plant Doctor: A Story About George Washington Carver

By: Jean Marzollo

Age Level: 3-6 years old

George Washington Carver was always curious and grew into a recognized scientist in spite of the...

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illustrated cover of The Water Walkway showing girl walking through woods holding a stick with a bird's head on top of it.

The Water Walker

By: Joanne Robertson

Age Level: 3-6 years old

Fiction

The determined story of an Ojibwe grandmother (nokomis), Josephine Mandamin, and her great love...

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There Was a Tree

By: Rachel Isadora

Age Level: 3-6 years old

Textured borders contain each double-page illustration which places the familiar cumulative song on...

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They Say Blue

By: Jillian Tamaki

Age Level: 3-6 years old

Fiction

An exploration of color and the seasons in a lyrical, philosophical way that is rooted in a...

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We Are Grateful: Otsaliheliga

By: Traci Sorell

Age Level: 3-6 years old

Nonfiction

Sorell, a citizen of the Cherokee Nation, offers readers a look at contemporary Cherokee life as...

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We Are Water Protectors

By: Carole Lindstrom

Age Level: 3-6 years old

Fiction

An Ojibwe girl confronts a grave situation by channeling age-old wisdom. The “black snake” of an...

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We're Sailing to Galapagos: A Week in the Pacific

By: Laurie Krebs

Age Level: 3-6 years old

Nonfiction

Two people in bright, stylized garb sail to the islands known as the Galapagos. On successive...

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Where the River Begins

By: Thomas Locker

Age Level: 3-6 years old

Fiction

Nature is the star in this affecting tale of a boy and his grandfather who journey to a waterway's...

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Why Do We Need Bees?

By: Emily Bone

Age Level: 3-6 years old

Why do we need bees? Where do they live? Who's who in a beehive? This lift-the-flap book answers...

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Age Level: 6-9 years old

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111 Trees: How One Village Celebrates the Birth of Every Girl

By: Rina Singh

Age Level: 6-9 years old

In a small village in India, a boy grows up to make a huge difference in his community by...

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A Garden to Save the Birds

By: Wendy McClure

Age Level: 6-9 years old

Fiction

Callum and his sister, Emmy learn that the U.S. has lost a lot of birds in recent years ― and...

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A Whiff of Pine, a Hint of Skunk: A Forest of Poems

By: Deborah Ruddell

Age Level: 6-9 years old

A range of forest inhabitants are presented imaginatively in a variety of poetic styles. From the "...

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Beneath the Sun

By: Melissa Stewart

Age Level: 6-9 years old

While children cavort through a sprinkler on a suburban lawn, animals thrive or survive in other...

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Blockhead: The Life of Fibonacci

By: Joseph D'Agnese

Age Level: 6-9 years old

Nonfiction

As a young boy in medieval Italy, Leonardo Fibonacci thought about numbers day and night. He was...

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Butterflies Belong Here: A Story of One Idea, Thirty Kids, and a World of Butterflies

By: Deborah Hopkinson

Age Level: 6-9 years old

Nonfiction

In this story of community conservation, a girl finds a home in a new place and a way to help...

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Chavela and the Magic Bubble

By: Monica Brown

Age Level: 6-9 years old

Chavela loves chomping chicle — chewing gum and blowing bubbles. One day, while out with her...

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City Green

By: DyAnne DiSalvo-Ryan

Age Level: 6-9 years old

Fiction

There is a garbage-filled, vacant lot on the street where Marcy lives. Instead of growing...

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E-I-E-I-O: How Old MacDonald Got His Farm

By: Judy Sierra

Age Level: 6-9 years old

Fiction

When Old MacDonald tires of cutting his large suburban lawn, he gets a goat and then a very...

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Energy Island: How One Community Harnessed the Wind and Changed their World

By: Allan Drummond

Age Level: 6-9 years old

Nonfiction

It's windy on the Danish island of Samsø. Meet the environmentally friendly people who now...

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Everglades

By: Jean Craighead George

Age Level: 6-9 years old

As an Indian storyteller guides a boat of children down the sea of grass, he reveals the story...

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Eyewitness Plant

By: David Burnie

Age Level: 6-9 years old

Detailed, full-color photographs complement the interesting facts about the fascinating world of...

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Farmer Will Allen and the Growing Table

By: Jacqueline Briggs Martin

Age Level: 6-9 years old

Martin shares the remarkable life story of former professional basketball player Will Allen,...

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First Garden and How It Grew

By: Robbin Gourley

Age Level: 6-9 years old

White House gardens started with John Adams in 1800 and continue with Michelle Obama. History...

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Follow the Moon Home: A Tale of One Idea, Twenty Kids, and a Hundred Sea Turtles

By: Philippe Cousteau, Deborah Hopkinson

Age Level: 6-9 years old

Nonfiction

To help baby loggerhead turtles find their way back to the sea, a group of children involve...

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Fresh Picked Poetry: A Day at the Farmers’ Market

By: Michelle Schaub

Age Level: 6-9 years old

As the weather warms farmers’ markets begin to open. Celebrate the start of the season through...

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Galápagos Girl / Galapagueña

By: Marsha Diane Arnold

Age Level: 6-9 years old

Nonfiction

As a Galápagueña, Valentina spends her days observing the natural world around her. This...

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Get Outside: The Kids Guide to Fun in the Great Outdoors

By: Jane Drake, Ann Love

Age Level: 6-9 years old

Nonfiction

Outdoor adventures await adults and children throughout the year. Illustrated, easy to follow...

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Gone Again Ptarmigan

By: Jonathan London

Age Level: 6-9 years old

Nonfiction

Follows a year in the life of a willow ptarmigan, giving young children a delightful...

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Greta and the Giants

By: Zoe Tucker

Age Level: 6-9 years old

Fiction

This picture book retells the story of Nobel Peace Prize nominee Greta Thunberg—the Swedish...

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How Does My Garden Grow?

By: Gerda Muller

Age Level: 6-9 years old

Sophie lives in a big city but eagerly anticipates summer at her grandparents. There, she learns...

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How to Make a Better World: For Every Kid Who Wants to Make a Difference

By: Keilly Swift

Age Level: 6-9 years old

Nonfiction

This guide to making the world a better place is packed with inspiring ideas and tips for kids...

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Jack's Garden

By: Henry Cole

Age Level: 6-9 years old

Nonfiction

In this cumulative tale, Jack plants, tends and harvests his garden. Not only will readers...

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Life in the Amazon Rainforest

By: Ginjer Clarke

Age Level: 6-9 years old

Crisp, clear, full-color photographs are carefully placed with text to present an overview of...

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Little Dandelion Seeds the World

By: Julia Richardson

Age Level: 6-9 years old

Nonfiction

Did you know dandelions thrive on all seven continents? The cheery blooms are among the most...

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Mario and the Hole in the Sky: How a Chemist Saved Our Planet

By: Elizabeth Rusch

Age Level: 6-9 years old

Nonfiction

Mexican-American Mario Molina is a modern-day hero who helped solve the ozone crisis of the...

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Marshes and Swamps

By: Gail Gibbons

Age Level: 6-9 years old

Nonfiction

Get an introduction to the concept of wetlands (swamps have trees, and marshes do not) and learn...

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Meadowlands: A Wetlands Survival Story

By: Thomas R. Yezerski

Age Level: 6-9 years old

Nonfiction

The 20,000 acres of wetlands in New Jersey now known as the Meadowlands were once home to...

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Miss Rumphius

By: Barbara Cooney

Age Level: 6-9 years old

Fiction

Miss Rumphius leaves the world more beautiful with an unusual legacy. This gentle story can...

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Nature Log Kids: A Kid's Journal to Record Their Birding Experiences

By: DeAnna Brandt

Age Level: 6-9 years old

Birds are everywhere — even the most urban neighborhood is a good place to look for birds and study...

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No Monkeys, No Chocolate

By: Melissa Stewart, Allen Young

Age Level: 6-9 years old

Most kids like something chocolate-y, right? But there wouldn't be chocolate without cocoa beans...

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Olivia's Birds: Saving the Gulf

By: Olivia Bouler

Age Level: 6-9 years old

Nonfiction

One 11 year-old girl can make a difference, as young ornithologist and artist Olivia Bouler has...

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Our School Garden!

By: Rick Swann

Age Level: 6-9 years old

The garden at Michael’s new school is full of fresh sensations. Thirteen poems describe holding...

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Over and Under the Pond

By: Kate Messner

Age Level: 6-9 years old

Discover the plants and animals that make up the rich, interconnected ecosystem of a mountain...

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Pedal Power: How One Community Became the Bicycle Capital of the World

By: Allan Drummond

Age Level: 6-9 years old

Nonfiction

How one person helped make one community into the bicycle capital of the world is told in...

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Planting the Trees of Kenya: The Story of Wangara Maathai

By: Claire Nivola

Age Level: 6-9 years old

Wangari Maathai's native Kenya was a changed land, literally blowing away because its trees...

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Poetree

Poetree

By: Shauna LaVoy Reynolds

Age Level: 6-9 years old

Poetry

The snow has melted, the buttercups are blooming, and Sylvia celebrates winter's end by writing...

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Rachel Carson and Her Book That Changed the World

By: Laurie Lawlor

Age Level: 6-9 years old

Rachel Carson was a shy child, always drawn to nature. She grew up to become a professional...

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Seed by Seed: The Legend and Legacy of John "Appleseed" Chapman

By: Esme Raji Codell

Age Level: 6-9 years old

Nonfiction

John Chapman, better known as Johnny Appleseed, changed his world "seed by seed, deed by deed"...

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Stand Up! Speak Up!: A Story Inspired by the Climate Change Revolution

By: Andrew Joyner

Age Level: 6-9 years old

Fiction

Celebrate young climate change activists in this charming story about an empowered girl who...

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Start Now! You Can Make a Difference

By: Chelsea Clinton

Age Level: 6-9 years old

Nonfiction

What can I do to help save endangered animals? How can I eat healthy? What do I do if I'm being...

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Story Worlds Nature

By: Thomas Hegbrook

Age Level: 6-9 years old

Examine each double page spread in this oversized book. See the realistically pictured animals...

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Swirl by Swirl: Spirals in Nature

By: Joyce Sidman

Age Level: 6-9 years old

Strong lines and evocative language call on readers to observe the natural world around them in...

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Thank You, Earth: A Love Letter to Our Planet

By: April Pulley Sayre

Age Level: 6-9 years old

Nonfiction

This love letter to Earth is an exploration of the beauty and complexity of the world around us...

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The Boy Who Drew Birds: A Story of John James Audubon

By: Jacqueline Davies

Age Level: 6-9 years old

Nonfiction

The story opens with 18-year-old French naturalist John James Audubon roaming Pennsylvania...

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The Fog

By: Kyo Maclear

Age Level: 6-9 years old

Fiction

When a fog rolls into Icyland, it prevents Warble, a small yellow warbler, from enjoying his...

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The Green Frogs: A Korean Folktale

By: Yumi Heo

Age Level: 6-9 years old

Fiction

Have you wondered why frogs croak on the edge of streams? It all started long ago with two...

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The Sun Shines Everywhere

By: Mary Ann Hoberman

Age Level: 6-9 years old

Poetry

This rhyming read-aloud celebrates how we’re all connected under the sun. As readers are...

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The Tree Lady

By: H. Joseph Hopkins

Age Level: 6-9 years old

Nonfiction

The true story of green-thumbed pioneer and activist Kate Sessions, who helped San Diego grow...

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The Vast Wonder of the World: Biologist Ernest Everett Just

By: Mélina Mangal

Age Level: 6-9 years old

Nonfiction

Ernest Everett Just was not like other scientists of his time. His keen observations of sea...

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The Year Comes Round: Haiku through the Seasons

By: Sid Farrar

Age Level: 6-9 years old

Poetry

The seasons of a year are presented in realistic illustrations and thoughtful, evocative haikus. A...

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Up We Grow! A Year in the Life of a Small, Local Farm

By: Deborah Hodge

Age Level: 6-9 years old

This look at one local farm presents a look at work on a farm raising food and animals while...

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Watch Me Grow! A Down-to-Earth Look at Growing Food in the City

By: Deborah Hodge

Age Level: 6-9 years old

Growing fruits and vegetables doesn't take a lot of space; they can even grow in crowded...

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illustrated cover of "What if there were no bees?" showing flowers and bees

What If There Were No Bees?

By: Suzanne Slade

Age Level: 6-9 years old

Grassland ecosystems can be found on nearly every continent. Countless animals and plants live...

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When Green Becomes Tomatoes: Poems for All Seasons

By: Julie Fogliano

Age Level: 6-9 years old

Short poems and gentle illustrations present seasons almost as a journal. Each entry captures...

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Where Once There Was a Wood

By: Denise Fleming

Age Level: 6-9 years old

This book is a good introduction to the effects people can have on the environment. The simple...

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Wilderness: An Interactive Atlas of Animals

By: Hannah Pang

Age Level: 6-9 years old

A conversational tone and flaps to lift on each double page look at different biomes are sure to...

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Age Level: 9-12 years old

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A Green Place to Be: The Creation of Central Park

By: Ashley Benham Yazdani

Age Level: 9-12 years old

Nonfiction

How did Central Park become a vibrant gem in the heart of New York City? Follow the visionaries...

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Citizen Scientists: Be a Part of Scientific Discovery from Your Own Backyard

By: Loree Griffin Burns

Age Level: 9-12 years old

Nonfiction

Anyone can get involved in gathering data for ongoing, actual scientific studies such as the...

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Condor Comeback

By: Sy Montgomery

Age Level: 9-12 years old

Nonfiction

Scientists are working to save the endangered California Condor. In rich narrative, the author...

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Earth Verse: Haiku from the Ground Up

By: Sally Walker

Age Level: 9-12 years old

Sophisticated haiku and illustrations done with colored pencil explore the Earth inside and out...

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Leaf Litter Critters

By: Leslie Bulion

Age Level: 9-12 years old

Default blurb text. Just the good ol' boys, never meanin' no harm. Beats all you've ever saw,...

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Least Things: Poems about Small Natures

By: Jane Yolen

Age Level: 9-12 years old

Short poems (haiku) were written in response to but also evoke creatures shown in crisp close-up...

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Luz Makes a Splash

By: Claudia Davila

Age Level: 9-12 years old

Fiction

With a heat wave and a drought threatening the city's water supply, Luz and her friends dive...

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Small History of a Disagreement

By: Claudio Fuentes

Age Level: 9-12 years old

Fiction

A lively introduction to voting, democracy, and activism for kids. Should an ancient monkey...

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The End of the Wild

By: Nicole Helget

Age Level: 9-12 years old

Eleven-year old Fern lives near an old-growth forest which her family relies on to forage for...

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The Tragic Tale of the Great Auk

By: Jan Thornhill

Age Level: 9-12 years old

Nonfiction

The Great Auk was a northern penguin that lived and thrived in the cold waters of the Atlantic....

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Water: A Deep Dive of Discovery

By: Christy Mihaly

Age Level: 9-12 years old

Concept Book

A friendly water droplet character guides children through topics ranging from melting and...

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Wishtree

By: Katherine Applegate

Age Level: 9-12 years old

Fiction

Red is an oak tree who is many rings old. Red is the neighborhood "wishtree"―people write their...

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