Best Books About Practically Everything: Best Kids Books

Sharon December 10th, 2009

Here I’m mostly looking for non-fiction books that help teach kids about ecology, gardening, climate change, energy issues, although I’m open to good fiction that teaches the values of a fair share life, or the science involved.  It is so important that we begin to figure out how to address these things from the beginning with our kids. 

BTW, it would be great if you’d tell me why you like a book, and also give me a rough age guide for how old the kids should be to read it.

Thanks so much folks - from you prior suggestions, I have a reading list as long as my arm!


26 Responses to “Best Books About Practically Everything: Best Kids Books”

  1. John Powerson 10 Dec 2022 at 12:52 pm

    Perhaps a bit off the topic is “Yonder” by Tony Johnston illustrated-beautifully-by Lloyd Bloom. Johnston “uses a plum tree to trace the generations of a 19th-century farm family.” The book is recommended K-2; my sense of things is that picture books are often quite appropriate for older children. That’s especially true if they are the ones sharing with younger children.

    Kids are trying to figure out their places in the world. How difficult it is for adults who know things in the world are changing toward some hard times to help children find a place. I love that this book connects the history of a family to the history of a place, births, celebrations and deaths are commemorated in trees. The trees of course live in seasons and the seasons connect from the past into the present. Readers discover that there is a natural history to people’s lives, that people are a part of nature.

  2. Lornaon 10 Dec 2022 at 1:00 pm

    The Beaver Pond by Tresselt and Duvoisin. Wonderful book about how a beaver pond changes and helps the wildlife and plants in its habitat. A beautiful, quiet book, not preachy at all. Lovely illustrations. It’s out of print, I used to ponder the ethics of stealing it from the library so we could own it-I didn’t but finally tracked down a used copy.

  3. Liseon 10 Dec 2022 at 1:09 pm

    Fresh in my mind because we’ve been reading it today…Old MacDonald Had an Apartment House, by Judi and Ron Barrett. The super of an apartment house cuts down the hedge to plant veggies in the front yard. Eventually, as tenants move out, he replaces them with gardens in the apartments, changes the heart of the outraged owner (Mr. Wrental), and they go in together to sell local veggies from their city farm. My 3 and 4 year olds see the humor in it and ask lots of questions that get them thinking. Older children would get more from it and would find even more humor in it.

    I’ll think about it and send more…kids’ books are my passion!

  4. Wendyon 10 Dec 2022 at 1:29 pm

    The Lorax by Dr. Seuss. Timeless, and still as appropriate as it was back when it was written.

  5. John Powerson 10 Dec 2022 at 1:46 pm

    Non-fiction should be simple, but is a bit confusing to me as a category somehow. A book, and certainly an approach, I recommend is “Teaching Science Process Skills” by Joyce Ramig, Jill Bailer, and John Ramsey.

    I would also recommend “Sunship Earth” by Steve Van Matre. I think sometimes folks are a bit leery of “acclimatization” experiences as they seem not really learning at all. Institute for Earth Education sometimes invites controversy when they come up. But surfing through the site I think it will be evident that there is a genuine knowledge-base to their educational materials.

    We we think about nonfiction we tend to think in terms of facts. But when we think about how to learn and teach engagement is essential, and engagement isn’t just the facts, but isn’t fiction either.

  6. Liseon 10 Dec 2022 at 2:06 pm

    Ok, here are a few more. I teach preschool (0-5), so my books are all appropriate for those ages, but often for older children, as well. I have an obscenely-large children’s book library. These are some of my favorites on the topics you request (minus some that are already on your 100 books list from a previous post):

    “And the Good Brown Earth” by Kathy Henderson. Grandma and grandson, gardening together, “and the good brown earth got on with doing what the earth does best…” Beautiful, simple.

    “The Gardener” by Sarah Stewart. (better for older children) Set in the great depression, with obvious relevance for your purposes. A girl is sent from the country to live with her cranky uncle in the city because her family is going through hard times. The girl brings her love of gardening, and her grandmother supplies her with seeds. She transforms the roof of his building into a lush garden, making him smile at last.

    “A Seed is Sleepy” by Dianna Huts Aston. Gorgeous. Adults love pouring over it as much as children. Basic what-a-seed-is nonfiction, done beautifully.

    “The Compost Heap” by Harlow Rockwell. So simple and wonderfully vintage (70s). Father and son create and nurture a compost pile.

    Can’t wait to see the whole list! :-)

  7. Ashley Payneon 10 Dec 2022 at 2:19 pm

    Ever since reading “A Wizard of Earthsea” I have been captivated by it: It’s a great book for the more mature child (say 13+). The idea that creating plenty somewhere with magic causes a famine elsewhere is related to resource issues, and it deals with hubris and thoughtless pride as well.

  8. aimeeon 10 Dec 2022 at 2:51 pm

    I agree with John! “Yonder” is one of my all time favorite kid’s books. It is usually called a book about death; but I don’t agree. It is a book about the seasons of life, told as the seasons on a farm. It is poetic, beautifully illustrated, and in my mind the best children’s book on the subject I’ve ever read. The only problem is trying to read it out loud without crying. I still can’t, but someday I’ll make it!

  9. Laurenon 10 Dec 2022 at 3:35 pm

    Here’s one I haven’t actually read yet, but have heard WONDERFUL things about and plan to buy:

    “When I Was Young in the Mountains” by Cynthia Rylant

    Here’s an excerpt from a review:

    “An evocative remembrance of the simple pleasures in country living; splashing in the swimming hole, taking baths in the kitchen, sharing family times, each is eloquently portrayed here in both the misty-hued scenes and in the poetic text.”-Association for Childhood Education International. Caldecott Honor Book. Full-color illustrations.

  10. kristineon 10 Dec 2022 at 3:50 pm

    i love the keeper series…keeper of the earth, …of the night, …of the animals…plus they have a native gardening book.

  11. Brad K.on 10 Dec 2022 at 4:53 pm

    I loved Rufus the Red-Tailed Hawk, Big Red, and Son of Big Red by Jim Kjelgaard.

    And even though fiction, I found a kind of intro to science in Danny Dunn and the Dinosaur Egg, and Danny Dunn and the Weather Machine.

  12. Bethon 10 Dec 2022 at 4:53 pm

    Seedfolks by Paul Fleischman . Ages 9-12. Wonderful, short book, all about an urban community garden and the variety of people who maintain it. Great for all ages and very entertaining.

  13. Jenon 10 Dec 2022 at 5:58 pm

    Lise those are some of my faves too:)

    These are two I love:

    “The Animal Hedge” by Paul Fleischman.
    -”There once lived a farmer whose heart glowed like a hot wood stove with the love of animals.”

    ” A Tree is Nice” by Janice May Udry

  14. Dan Vieon 10 Dec 2022 at 6:26 pm

    check out “Home” by Jeannie Baker.

    see work at:

    love your blog! more later…

  15. Louiseon 10 Dec 2022 at 9:12 pm

    I second Jeannie Baker, although I would mention “Window” and “Belonging” (along the same lines as “Home”, these two were published earlier)

  16. Sueon 10 Dec 2022 at 10:43 pm

    I have to recommend two kid-oriented “survival in nature” type stories. Aimed at 8-12 age group, roughly.

    First is “My Side of the Mountain” by Jean Craighead George”. A classic, a boy runs away from home and makes a home in the woods, living in a burned out tree stump and befriending a raptor.

    The other is “Hatchet” by Gary Paulsen, an award-winning young adult author. A boy survives a plane crash into a lake in the Canadian wilderness, and must learn to survive with only what he had in his pockets, plus the hatchet he wore on his belt. There are a few sequels to Hatchet: The River, which I didn’t like as much, Brian’s Winter, which I did like a lot, and Brian’s Return, which I haven’t read yet.

    Paulsen has also written a wonderful book titled “Dogsong” which is about a young Eskimo teen who rejects the modernization and shallowness of the modern culture that has crept into his arctic village, and instead turns to a village elder to show him the old ways of survival.

    Guess that’s three, but they’re all winners.


  17. Sarahon 10 Dec 2022 at 11:22 pm

    “Potato: A Tale from the Great Depression”, by Kate Lied. A family helps with the potato harvest during the Great Depression and gleans fallen potatoes to take home after the work is over. Good for 2-4th graders…I particularly liked this one for striking a good balance of presenting a difficult topic (economic collapse, unemployment, poverty, etc.) in a gentle yet not sugar-coated way.

    “The Chicken-Chasing Queen of Lamar County”, by Janice N Harrington and Shelly Jackson (also available on tape!). A young black girl growing up on her mother’s farm loves to chase chickens until she discovers that her favorite hen has a new nest of chicks. This one is just *fun*, teaching about responsibility towards animals while being completely non-preachy, and has the most amazing collage illustrations I’ve ever seen (fence made of sheet music! Chicken made of lace patterns!). Best for K-2nd grade.

  18. Erikon 10 Dec 2022 at 11:31 pm

    There are some wonderful picture books that we read with our daughter often when she was younger, that deal with or facilitate making the spiritual and emotional connection with the natural world that is such an important aspect of the wish to take action. I want to call these out in particular because good non-fiction books about science and nature are pretty easy to come by, but quality books about our *relationship* to the natural world are much harder to find.

    Bel Mooney, “The Green Man”. A boy living in a city housing project becomes involved with a neighbor lady and her allotment garden, and starts hearing the call of “the Green Man” to help bring the city back into balance with nature.

    Dennis Haseley, “My Father Doesn’t Know About the Woods and Me”. A boy and his father take a walk in the woods, during which the boy imagines(?) that he and his father transform into various animals and experience the woods as they would. Simply magical.

    Douglas Wood, “Grandad’s Prayers of the Earth”. A boy (yes, I know… she has lots of stories with heroines as well, but these three on this theme happen to all be about boys! :) and his grandfather walk in the woods and talk about how everything in nature prays; and this connection helps the boy deal when his grandfather passes away. A beautiful and touching book.

    And one more book that I believe EVERY child should read who will ever have anything to do with nature: Gary Larson’s “There’s a Hair in my Dirt”!

  19. Erikon 10 Dec 2022 at 11:34 pm

    On the more general topic, there was a really good picture book about a farm that was abandoned and reverted to wilderness, but I can’t remember the title or author at the moment. :(

  20. Sierra Blackon 11 Dec 2022 at 12:19 am

    My favorite non-fiction kids books that relate to sustainability are:

    - Roots, Shoots, Buckets and Boots, by Sharon Lovejoy - best kids’ gardening book ever! Sunflower houses, pizza gardens, and so much more!

    - Pretend Soup, by Molly Katzen - a delightful vegetarian kids’ cookbook with pictorial recipes. We made hide-n-seek muffins from it today for a class potluck and my daughter could not stop showing them off to her teachers.

    - The Handbook of Nature Study - this tome isn’t for kids to read, but it’s a fantastic guide for parents helping their kids learn about the natural world in a gentle, intimate way.

    For fiction, we love:
    - The Beeman, by Laurie Krebs - this story is told from a kids’ POV, about her grandfather the Beeman and his activities as a beekeeper. Very simple, clear and educational, it teaches kids about bees and about natural cycles.

    - The Year At Maple Hill Farm, by Alice and Martin Provenson. I grew up with this book; its the simplest possible look at the life a farm and what the animals and plants do as the seasons turn.

    - Pumpkin Circle, by George Levinson - delightful photographs match simple text in this book about the life cycle of a pumpkin. The book follow a group of kids growing pumpkins from seed to jack o’lantern.

  21. Lizon 11 Dec 2022 at 11:41 am

    I wasn’t going to post any because for nonfiction, it seems best to buy books that follow the interest of the kids. My kids were really into condors for a while so we read as much as we could on condors (and saw them in the wild) then, they were really into wolves so we went that direction. I find that the best way to teach them about ecology is to first help them nurture their relationship with nature and help them develop empathy and compassion towards all things so that social and environmental justice flow out of that. On that note, I agree with many of the posts above. My kids loved My Side of the Mountain (and its a trilogy). I read Julie of the Wolves to my older daughter (it has one inappropriate part for younger kids…a possible rape scene, so I just skipped that page because she wasn’t ready for that, yet). The Animal Friends at Maple Hill Farm is a GREAT picture book (wry and just hysterical as well ). I mentioned previously that I love the Swallows and Amazon series because it features siblings playing well, together, having independence and having simple adventures in the outdoors. Rascal by Sterling North is another read aloud as the language is difficult for younger kids but thoroughly enjoyed by the adults in this family, as well. (That’s one is my favorite, actually). My kids really like Farley Mowat. We got Owls in the Family on disk and they listen to it all the time. Another audio they listen to regularly is The City Under the Back Steps. Its about ants. Others on our bookshelf: Over in the Meadow (Keats), I Took a Walk (Cole), What you Know First (MacLachlan), Miss Rumphius (Cooney), All the Places to Love (MacLaughlin), Zen Shorts (Muth), Whoever You Are (Mem Fox), We Are All Alike, We Are All Different (written by a kindergarten class), Touch the Earth(Baskwill), The Little House (Burton), Making Minestrone (Blackstone and Brooks), Full Worm Moon…The Reason for a Flower…Owl Moon…Jessie’s Island (a girl explaining why she likes living on an island and enjoying nature rather than having access to tv and video games), How Groundhogs Garden Grew, Beatrice’s Goat (Heifer), Salmon Forest (Suzuki)…etc. etc.

  22. Karinon 11 Dec 2022 at 5:30 pm

    “The Curious Garden” a beautiful picture book about how a boy starts a small garden in a gray city and the city becomes beautiful and vibrant.

    Roots, Shoots, Buckets and Boots; Gardening with Children by Sharon Lovejoy.

    For Fiction, I can’t recommend ” The City of Ember” Series enough. An alternate reality story which include themes of scarcity, conservation and cooperation.

    My all time favorite book in the world, “The Ox-Cart Man” by Don Hall and Barbara Cooney.

    Any Gail Gibbons books. She tackles, pumpkins, gardening, the night sky in non-fiction picture books that are great for the 5-8 year old set.

  23. Meganon 11 Dec 2022 at 8:14 pm

    There is a series of Henry Thoreau books featuring Henry with bear with beautiful artwork great for ages 3-7 by D. B. Johnson. Same age range: A Garden for Groundhog (featuring subsistance farming and old fashioned housekeeping with appropriate menus!) by Lorna Balian.

  24. pamelaon 12 Dec 2022 at 7:45 am


    This Boston based publisher of children’s books has some absolutely beautiful books that celebrate seasons, culture, connection to families, rooted cultural myths. I have really enjoyed these-to share with my family and as gifts.

    The Boy Who Grew Flowers
    The Giant Turnip
    The Beeman
    Tenzin’s Deer
    A Forest of Stories- Magical Tree Tales
    Grandmother’s Stories
    Book of Blessings

  25. pamelaon 12 Dec 2022 at 7:47 am

    oops— the publisher link is for Barefoot Books

    Oh, I forgot to metion there are spoken word and Putumayo CDs, too.

  26. The Ravenon 12 Dec 2022 at 11:51 am

    So many of our favorite books are listed above!

    My 10yo son just read the new Omnivore’s Dilemma for kids and really liked it. He can’t stop talking about it and now eats no meat outside of our house (where he knows the farmer who raises his meat). Supposedly, the author who helped write it for children did the same thing for Al Gore’s new book-but we have not seen it yet.

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