Dora Celebrates Earth Day by Emily Sollinger

I wish we could wind up this series on Earth Day books with a bang, with a really amazing book, but the fact is I gave you all the good titles early so you wouldn’t miss them. Dora Celebrates Earth Day isn’t *bad*, it’s just not particularly *good*.

Essentially, Dora goes around her neighborhood and asks her friends what they do to help the environment. Most are simple things, well within the grasp of a preschooler (though I still don’t know why “playing outdoors” saves energy?) There’s no guilt trip involved, no making the children responsible for the state of the planet, just small things they can do to help, which I appreciate.

Overall, it’s a book aimed at your average Dora-obsessed child. If you have one of those, this book will go over well. If your child is more neutral toward the character, there are more interesting books available.

Available on Amazon

Dora Celebrates Earth Day by Emily Sollinger, ill. by Dave Aikins. Simon Spotlight/Nickelodeon, 2009.

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Earth Day (Rookie Read-About Holidays) by David F. Marx

The Rookie Read-About series is one of my favorites for non-fiction suitable for toddlers, and their treatment of Earth Day does not disappoint.With short, simple sentences and real-life photographs of children, this book is easy for small kids to follow.

The content is agreeable, too. There is no assigning of blame for environmental problems, just statements of that problems exist. There is no grand call for kids to save the world, just do a little something to help. Perhaps there is no grand vision, but there is plenty for a 2- or 3-year old to grasp.

There are several other holidays in this series, including Chanukah, Christmas, Kwanzaa, and New Year’s Day.

Available from Amazon

Earth Day (Rookie Read-About Holidays) by David F. Marx. Children’s Press, 2001.

Let’s Celebrate Earth Day by Connie and Peter Roop

Non-fiction books on Earth Day that don’t read like a documentary are somewhat hard to find. Let’s Celebrate Earth Day is one of the best that I’ve found.

It does have a lot of text. This is a book for kids who can sit still and pay attention for 15 minutes or so. Fortunately, it does have some very appealing artwork, which helps if you remember to take the time to let the child explore the illustrations.

Be sure you take time to read the selection of quotes inside the front and back covers. They’re aimed at adults, not kids, but they’re well chosen. I was impressed at the variety of speakers – Chief Seattle, the Bible, Rachel Carson, and Dr. Seuss, among others.

The book is arranged in a series of two-page spreads. The left page is a short (2-3 paragraph) on an environmental subject, and the right page offers riddles, project ideas, or factoids about the topic. The factoids are a good opportunity to practice critical thinking with your child – ask “What does that mean?” For example, one says,

Each day thousands of trees in America are cut down

Well, yes, that is factually accurate, but there’s no context provided. What does it mean to the child? You can talk about all the useful things made from the trees, or the jobs provided. Even better, you can talk about reforestration – how the companies that cut the trees also replant new trees to grow (Did you know that young, growing trees are better at removing carbon from the air than old trees? In some ways, cutting and planting is GOOD for the environment!)

I especially liked the fact that Let’s Celebrate Earth Day makes an attempt at showing that “tree-hugging, animal-loving” environmental sentimentalism isn’t scientifically sound. Two of the topics covered are “Should we protect every plant and animal?” (the answer is no) and “Are forest fires good or bad?”.

There are a couple of simple experiments at the end of the book that are easy for a child to do. My favorite is a model of the greenhouse effect, using a car with the windows up on a sunny day – clever!

Let’s Celebrate Earth Day is not a fast read, and will probably need several readings for your child to fully grasp, but well worth your time.

Available on Amazon

Let’s Celebrate Earth Day by Connie and Peter Roop, illustrated by Gwen Connelly. Millbrook Press, 2001.

No Place Like Earth (Mickey Mouse Clubhouse) by Susan Amerikaner

No Place Like Earth isn’t a wonderful book, but if you have a kid who’s crazy about Mickey Mouse Clubhouse, it might fit the bill for you. The Club members are celebrating Earth Day by listening to Professor Von Drake give a lecture. Doesn’t that sound like fun? Apparently the Club members don’t think so either, because the poor Professor can’t get a single sentence out without being interrupted!

The result is a book that feels somewhat frenzied, and can be rather taxing to read out loud, but it does give a pretty close feel to the TV show your kids probably know. The artwork is done in very recognizable Disney graphics, too.

The message of the book itself is very light on Earth Day itself, focusing mostly on ways to conserve resources. Some kids will be able to do on their own, like turning off the water when they brush their teeth and turning off lights when they leave a room, but many of them are really a grownup’s responsibility – walk rather than drive, use reusable shopping bags, and the like.

In short, if you need the Mickey Mouse “hook” to get your kid to listen to a story about conservation, this will do it, but there are many better books out there.

Available on Amazon

No Place Like Earth, by Susan Amerikaner, illustrated by Loter, Inc. Disney Press, 2009.

Earth Day – Hooray! by Stuart J. Murphy

It almost feels like a cheat to call this book “about” Earth Day, because that’s really just a cover for something sneaky… a math lesson!

The kids at Maple Street School are cleaning up the park for Earth Day, and they’d sure like to plant some flowers to make it look pretty. But where to get the money? How about they collect and recycle some aluminum cans? Their teacher thinks 5,000 cans should about do the job.

The math lesson taught is place value – ones, tens, hundreds, and thousands – making this a book for older preschoolers who are curious about numbers (the published suggests ages 7 and up, but I think that’s too high).  Beyond that, Earth Day – Hooray! offers some good lessons on team work, civic action, promoting a cause, and overcoming a disappointment. Oh, yeah, there’s quite a bit about recycling, too, but it’s tucked away in little signs and balloons in the illustrations. You almost have to search out the Earth Day message.

The illustrations are colorful and done in a cartoon style. The last two pages of the book offer ideas for grownups to extend the lessons – both math and environmental – and offers suggestions of additional books on the topics.

Overall, I have to say I like getting two different lessons in one book. Lots here to talk about; expect to have to repeat it several times while your child gets a firm grasp of the material.

Available on Amazon

Earth Day – Hooray! by Stuart J. Murphy, illustrated by Renee Andriani. HarperCollins Publishers 2004.

Earth Day Birthday by Pattie Schnetzler

Earth Day Birthday is a book the kids might like more than you do. The main theme is a poem set to the tune of “The Twelve Days of Christmas”. Didn’t we get enough of that one in December? Anyway, each of the twelve days features a different animal from North America. Most will be familiar to most children, but I would be surprised if you get all the way through without at least one “What’s that?” question.

The biggest strength of Earth Day Birthday is the gorgeous illustrations by Chad Wallace. Truly art-quality work, and the animals are only slightly idealized. Wallace’s bio notes at the end indicates that Earth Day Birthday is the fourth children’s book he’s done; I’ll be looking for the rest.

As for the text, it’s a fair match to the song, but not overly inspired. I found myself faltering occasionally – just how does the “four calling birds” verse go? – but in case you get totally lost the music is provided in the back.

The message of Earth Day Birthday seems a bit unpolished. It’s as if the author got through all twelve verses and then suddenly realized she didn’t actually *say* anything. The summary page tells children,

On the day known as Earth Day, as every day should be, we care for creatures as our family.

Take from that what you will.

The final page is a short informative article about the origin of Earth Day (and it mentions “giving thanks” for the Earth, which is nice but shallow), followed by a few simple ideas for things a child can do to celebrate Earth Day.

Available on Amazon

Earth Day Birthday by Pattie Schnetzler, illustrated by Chad Wallace. Dawn Publications, 2003.

Introducing an Earth Day series

Up next will be a series of posts on the best books I’ve found on the subject of Earth Day. Now, fair warning, Earth Day is not one of my favorite holidays. Although it had it’s official birth in 1970, it wasn’t celebrated or even much discussed when I was a kid, and it’s always held a slight feel of a manufactured holiday to me. Still, it *is* a part of our kids’ worlds, so it’s only right that we should be part of helping them understand it.

Earth Day is celebrated on April 22 each year. Begun in 1970 as a “teach-in” to help make people aware of environmental issues, today it is often a focus for encouraging environmentally-aware behaviors such as energy conservation and recycling. I’ve seen many children’s organizations promoting the idea of celebrating the holiday by doing “something” for the planet – perhaps cleaning up a streambed, planting a tree, or collecting the family’s recyclables. Occasionally Earth Day is expanded to a week-long observance, I can only presume in order to give more people the opportunity to participate.

For the next week (okay, 8 days) I’ll be providing reviews of a number of books on Earth Day. Hopefully they’ll provide you with some wonderful books for you to share with your kids.