Happy Earth Day, everyone! It's a very special Earth Day in a very strange time. I find it quite poignant that Earth Days' 50th anniversary should fall as the world is called to stay at home during the Covid_19 pandemic. We are looking past our immediate surroundings out into a world that is quiet...not filled with the constant hum of human busy-ness and we actually have time to look; to consider. And when we look at the planet, the environment, the climate crisis, we see that slowly but noticeably, Earth is healing. Pollution levels are that little bit lower. The sky is quieter and clearer. The water, cleaner. It is amazing that, without human interference, she is getting better. What would she be able to accomplish if we remained conscious of this and limited our activities in an effort to help?
But I did promise you some favourite picture books to celebrate. While there are loads of wonderful nonfiction books to inspire you and your children, I am going to focus on a few story books. Having raided my shelves, here are some that (for me in my quiet little corner of the world) really take me on a magical, wonder-filled journey and bring me joy, understanding and appreciation of the natural world, cause my imagination to dance and sing and they make me consider how we humans behave and interact on the planet. Fictional stories bring much to the table. See what you think....

On A Magical Do-Nothing Day by Beatrice Alemanga sees a child taken
away from their game of zapping aliens and thrown into the the forest surrounding their home. Here, for maybe the first time, eyes are opened to the intricate patterns and events of nature. Meeting small, busy creatures, hearing the squelchy sounds of tramping through the rain and marching across a mushroom covered hill, the child finds a joy and wonder previously unknown and something of themselves that they were completely unaware of...all in the natural world.

Likewise, The Little Gardener by Emily Hughes invites the reader into the earthy, busy place inhabited by a very little gardener. He loves his garden and works very hard to make it grow, but discovers he can't do it on his own. The garden needs much and working day and night takes its' toll on the little fellow. But, wondrously, help is at hand. This book is filled with detailed illustrations that express a great deal about the life of plants and the little creatures in the garden. And there is a charming message about cooperation and how working in harmony with each other and nature can create amazing results.
Jeanne Willis and Gwen Millward teamed up to write and illustrate The Bog Baby and The King of Tiny Things. These books are a sheer delight as they tell stories of little creatures that live and flourish in the outside world. In The Bog Baby, we are enchanted when the girls bring home a wild bog baby, hoping to keep him and taking very good care of him. But the bog baby is a wild thing and not meant to live inside. If they truly want the best for him, they must set him free. The King of Tiny Things introduces us to the wonderful nighttime lives of bugs and grubs and creepy crawlies, while showing our two girls that the dark is nothing to be afraid of. In fact, the nature is full of night magic. Both of these beautiful stories give a good look at our role and responsibilties in protecting and understanding the natural world.
If there is one book that expresses an essence of Earth Day, it has to be Grandad's Prayers of the Earth by Douglas Wood, illustrated by PJ Lynch. This book, with its' glorious, natural illustrations in a palette that evokes the world around us, takes us on walks through the woodlands and fields shared by a grandfather and grandson. Here, the world seems vast and somehow, right. As the boy sees how tall the trees are, how they reach for the heavens, which must be a prayer; he wonders what the trees are praying for...and do their prayers get answered? Through Grandad he learns that sometimes, a prayer is its' own answer. The sense of the natural world, its endurance and its urgency rings strongly throughout this tale of intergenerational love. Simply exquisite.

Just a few favourites here, but I wanted to show that giving a sense of environmental awareness doesn't just inhabit the realm of nonfiction, "fact" books for children, nor should it. While nonfiction books are an amazing, exciting journey for children in and of themselves, to give kids a story touches a different part of their imaginations and sensibilities that bring knowledge in a more full-bodied way. It is all in how you share a story. And please, please...share a story for Earth Day.

And...a very Happy Earth Day 2020 to you all...


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