Protecting the Planet: Stories of Change and Innovation

Planting Peace: The Story of Wangari Maathai

The inspiring individuals whose stories are featured on this booklist hail from around the globe and have found innovative ways to solve challenges that face their communities, as well as to break new ground in the field of ecology.

See more great books in our booklist A World Filled with Wonder.

Aani and the Tree Huggers

Age Level: 6-9

Based on true events in northern India, this is the story of a little girl's bravery. Distinctive color illustrations, inspired by Indian miniature painting, accompany the moving story.

Ada's Violin: The Story of the Recycled Orchestra of Paraguay

Ada's Violin: The Story of the Recycled Orchestra of Paraguay
Illustrated by: Sally Wern Comport
Age Level: 6-9
Language: Spanish

This non-fiction book tells the story of Ada Ríos, who grew up in Cateura, a small town in Paraguay built on a landfill. She dreamed of playing the violin, but with little money for anything but the bare essentials, it was never an option...until a music teacher named Favio Chávez arrived. He wanted to give the children of Cateura something special, so he made them instruments out of materials found in the trash. It was a crazy idea, but one that would leave Ada — and her town — forever changed.

One Plastic Bag: Isatou Ceesay and the Recycling Women of the Gambia

One Plastic Bag: Isatou Ceesay and the Recycling Women of the Gambia
Illustrated by: Elizabeth Zunon
Age Level: Middle Grade (9-14)

Plastic bags are cheap and easy to use. But what happens when a bag breaks or is no longer needed? In Njau, Gambia, people simply dropped the bags and went on their way. One plastic bag became two. Then ten. Then a hundred. The bags accumulated in ugly heaps alongside roads. Water pooled in them, bringing mosquitoes and disease. Some bags were burned, leaving behind a terrible smell. Some were buried, but they strangled gardens. They killed livestock that tried to eat them. Something had to change. Isatou Ceesay was that change.

Parrots Over Puerto Rico

Age Level: 6-9

Puerto Rican parrots, once abundant, came perilously close to extinction in the 1960s due to centuries of foreign exploration and occupation, development, and habitat destruction. In this compelling book, Roth and Trumbore use collage illustrations and a unique format to recount the efforts of the scientists of the Puerto Rican Parrot Recovery Program to save the parrots and ensure their future.

Planting Peace: The Story of Wangari Maathai

Planting Peace: The Story of Wangari Maathai
Age Level: 6-9

This picture book tells the inspiring story of Wangari Maathai, women’s rights activist and one of the first environmental warriors. Wangari began the Green Belt Movement in Kenya in the 1960s, which focused on planting trees, environmental conservation, and women’s rights. She inspired thousands across Africa to plant 30 million trees in 30 years and was the first African woman to receive the Nobel Peace Prize.

Rachel Carson & Her Book that Changed the World

Illustrated by: Laura Beingessner
Age Level: 6-9

Rachel Carson was a shy child, always drawn to nature. She grew up to become a professional biologist and enter a field with few women and write a book that changed the way people looked at the environment. Soft, cartoon-like illustrations and straightforward narrative present an overview of Carson's life; sources are included at the end.

Summer Birds: The Butterflies of Maria Merian

Illustrated by: Julie Paschkis
Age Level: 3-6

Butterflies were once thought to be "beasts of the devil." Maria Merian, a perceptive young German naturalist, knew better. She recorded her notes and drawings on the butterflies' transformation in secret so that she would not be accused of witchcraft and later became a famous scientist and artist who helped the rest of the world understand natural life cycles. Margarita Engle brings her extraordinary story to life, accompanied by Julie Paschkis' gorgeous illustrations.

The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind, Young Reader's Edition

Age Level: Middle Grade (9-14)

When a terrible drought struck William Kamkwamba's tiny village in Malawi, his family lost all of the season's crops, leaving them with nothing to eat and nothing to sell. William began to explore science books in his village library, looking for a solution. There, he came up with the idea that would change his family's life forever: he could build a windmill. Made out of scrap metal and old bicycle parts, William's windmill brought electricity to his home and helped his family pump the water they needed to farm the land.

The Mangrove Tree: Planting Trees to Feed Families

Age Level: 6-9

"This moving depiction of ecological innovation centers on a project spearheaded by Dr. Gordon Sato to plant mangrove trees, which grow easily in salt water, in the village of Hargigo in the impoverished African nation of Eritrea. Graceful prose alternates with cumulative verse to relay the benefits that the trees provided for the community: 'These are the fishermen/ Who catch the fish/ That swim in the roots,/ Of the mangrove trees.' Resembling papier-mâché, Roth's textural mixed-media collages become increasingly lively as the new ecosystem flourishes." — Publisher's Weekly

We Are Water Protectors

child standing in waves holding a feather
Illustrated by: Michaela Goade

Inspired by the many Indigenous-led movements across North America, Carole Lindstrom's bold and lyrical picture book We Are Water Protectors issues an urgent rallying cry to safeguarding the Earth’s water from harm and corruption.

Water is the first medicine.
It affects and connects us all . . .

When a black snake threatens to destroy the Earth
And poison her people’s water, one young water protector
Takes a stand to defend Earth’s most sacred resource.

Zonia's Rain Forest

Zonia's Rain Forest
Age Level: 3-6

Zonia’s home is the Amazon rain forest, where it is always green and full of life. Every morning, the rain forest calls to Zonia, and every morning, she answers. She visits the sloth family, greets the giant anteater, and runs with the speedy jaguar. But one morning, the rain forest calls to her in a troubled voice. How will Zonia answer?