Picture books are a great entry point to many difficult conversations with our kids. Read on for more about this creative project to help kids connect with and understand the global social and environmental justice goals as defined by the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals in an age-appropriate way.
This picture book list is part of a series of picture book lists that align with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. We’ve created a picture book list for each of the 17 United Nations Sustainable Development Goals as well as a FREE coloring poster to track progress and explore the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals with kids.
Learn More & Download The Free Coloring Poster
To learn more about the FREE coloring poster and see all 17 picture book lists, head to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals Coloring Poster and Picture Book List homepage. Alternatively, simply sign up for our email list below and receive a link to download the FREE coloring poster.
What Are The United Nations Sustainable Development Goals?
In 2015, the United Nations adopted 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), a collective framework for peace and prosperity for people and the planet, now and into the future. The Sustainable Development Goals have broad intentions to end poverty and other deprivations while recognizing the need to simultaneously improve health and education, reduce inequality, spur economic growth, and tackle climate change.
Climate Action | United Nations Sustainable Development Goal #13
Through this United Nations SDG, the organization intends to take urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts. This goal involves considering how climate change affects communities around the world, especially marginalized communities and those who are feeling the impacts of climate change most immediately. The goal considers impacts on the atmosphere, water supplies, natural disasters, and more through issues like sea-level rise, ocean acidification, and air pollution.
A Note on Buying and Borrowing Books
I’ve included affiliate links to each of the books below. If you purchase through one of these links, Honestly Modern earns a very small commission that has no impact on your purchase price.
If you can find the books from your local library, from a friend, at an independent bookstore, or through a used book shop, those sources are ideal. Using the library is zero waste, saves money, and saves space in your home because you can read all the books without storing all the books on your bookshelves. If you’re not sure of the best way to use your local library, check out these tips to make the most of your local library. With a little exposure, your kids will learn to LOVE the library!
If you prefer to listen to audiobooks, I recommend using Libro.fm, my favorite audiobook app. I’ve tried several audiobook apps, and I love that Libro.fm supports independent bookstores and offers a great user experience.
Picture Books About Climate Action
The following list of picture books about climate change introduces and discusses topics like planting trees and deforestation, caring for the Earth in a variety of ways, how to be more environmentally-responsible at home, how climate change is impacting our world, and more.
Wangari’s Trees of Peace by Jeanette Winter
After growing up in Kenya and attending school in the United States, this woman returns to her hometown in Kenya to realize that nearly all of the trees and lush vegetation she knew as a child are gone. The book tells the story of her mission to bring trees back to the barren Kenyan landscape and how her efforts spread across the country to revive the tree landscape in many parts of the country.
Heal The Earth by Julian Lennon
Jump aboard the White Feather Flier, a magical plane that takes readers around the world to engage them in helping to save the environment and to teach one and all to love our planet. In this book, readers dive below the ocean to bleached coral reefs, visit the city to create green spaces, help the rain forests, and more.
The Tree Lady: The True Story of How One Tree-Loving Woman Changed a City Forever by H. Joseph Hopkins
A leader and change-maker in so many ways, Kate Sessions grew up loving nature and the trees around her. When she moved to San Diego, she found a dry dessert as well as a handful of trees surviving quite well in the arid conditions. She wanted to change the landscape of San Diego, so she quit her teaching job to become a gardener and began planting trees around the city.
Her efforts led to many city parks, the most notable of which is the current Balboa Park that spans a large part of the city. This book shares the true story of her journey in a fun and enlightening way for children and adults alike.
Arthur Turns Green by Marc Brown
I love all the Arthur books and think they are such a fun and light series that always has a good message for kids. My boys seem to really enjoy them as well. In this book, Arthur and his class receive assignments from their teacher to find ways to make our planet a better place. Arthur and his classmates share lots of ways children can create an impact on the environment and help encourage our communities to take better care of the Earth.
If Polar Bears Disappeared by Lily Williams
Starting with the polar bears, this book travels through the food chain in the Arctic discussing what would happen if the polar bear disappears. It discusses how certain impacts from global climate change are hurting the polar bears’ homes and causing them to suffer. It’s a little technical for young children but is a great introduction for elementary-aged children to the chain of events that can happen from climate change matters that may not seem all that meaningful in our everyday lives.
Greta and the Giants by Zoe Tucker
Inspired by Greta Thunberg’s activism, this story shows the power of small children and animals to protect their forests from the onslaught of giants. Without being scary or overwhelming, the giants represent big governments and corporations who are destroying the environment through the pursuit of endless growth and advancement without realizing the collateral damage they are causing. This is a great book to inspire children to stand up for their space.
Combining history with science, this book charts the changes in our Earth’s climate, from the beginnings of the planet and its atmosphere to the Industrial Revolution and the dawn of machinery. Readers learn all about the causes of climate change, such as factory farming and pollution, and the effects that climate change has on humans and animals across the world.
As well as discovering the effects of global warming, readers discover practical ways we can work together to solve it, from using renewable energy to swapping meat for vegetables in our diet.
Our World Out of Balance: Understanding Climate Change and What We Can Do by Andrea Minoglio
This book is a bit longer and geared toward older elementary and middle school students, but I think it can be helpful to all children depending on how it’s used.
Filled with engaging big ideas that will inspire children to think about their role in keeping our world healthy, Our World Out of Balance details how humans have thrown the planet off-balance and ways we can work together to be part of the solution and create a healthier world.
Featuring brave scientists, young activists, and many groups working collectively to protect our future, Our World Out of Balance will leave readers feeling empowered and inspired.
One Earth by Eileen Spinelli
Designed for younger children, kids count reasons to love the planet and ways to protect it in the pages of this conservation-themed book. The gentle verse reminds the reader of Earth’s beauties–starting with “one wide sweeping sky, two honey bees” and continuing all the way to “ten fields to plow.”
The text then starts counting backward, listing simple ways children can help, such as reducing waste and reusing items. The conclusion takes us back to number one with the book’s key message: “One Earth so beautiful. Remember–only one.” This book will encourage children to take better care of the planet.
Earth Feeling The Heat by Brenda Z Guiberson
Each page tells a simple story of one animal around the world who is facing trouble from climate change and poses the question of who can help this animal. The book ends by placing the power to help in the hands of the people, and even children. Hopefully, this story can help highlight for children how climate issues are harming animals around the globe and empower them to be the force of change.
The Secret Of Black Rock by Joe Todd-Stanton
Too often, we often don’t appreciate nature when we can’t understand it. Such is the case when a seemingly large rock formation routinely creates apparent danger for local fishermen. The town residents decide to destroy the rock, but a little girl advocates to save the rock after discovering how much life it supports just below the surface of the water.
The book encourages children to respect our environment and look beyond what something might initially appear to be. It’s also a great reminder that children can have power and influence to protect and care for what matters to them.
The Great Kapok Tree: A Tale of the Amazon Rainforest by Lynne Cherry
A man comes to the Amazon rainforest to chop down a great Kapok tree. He falls asleep in the serene rain forest. While he sleeps, many animals and a young child who rely on the tree remind him of all the reasons the tree is important and he should not chop it down. In the end, he wakes and decides not to chop down the tree. This story helps our children understand the interconnectedness of the rainforest as well as appreciate all the value a single tree brings to our world.
The Meadowlands: A Wetlands Survival Story by Thomas F Yezerski
Many years ago, the Meadowlands of New Jersey not far outside New York City was teeming with wildlife. Industry and urbanization killed off many of the animals that lived there and also caused many others to leave. In recent years, however, preservation and restoration efforts have welcomed wildlife back to the area. It’s not returned yet to its initial status, but it’s making significant progress. It’s a great lesson for children about how we as humans can help rebuild natural areas to support wildlife even if we’ve done a lot of damage to them in the past.
My Friend Earth: Earth Day Book with Environmentalism Message for Kids by Patricia MacLachlan
Our friend Earth does so many wonderful things! She tends to animals large and small. She pours down summer rain and autumn leaves. She sprinkles whisper-white snow and protects the tiny seeds waiting for spring.
Readers of all ages will pore over the pages of this spectacular book. Its enticing die-cut pages encourage exploration as its poetic text celebrates everything Earth does for us, all the while reminding us to be a good friend in return.
Many: The Diversity of Life on Earth by Nicola Davies
The more we study the world around us, the more living things we discover every day. The planet is full of millions of species of plants, birds, animals, and microbes, and every single one — including us — is part of a big, beautiful, complicated pattern. When humans interfere with parts of the pattern, by polluting the air and oceans, taking too much from the sea, and cutting down too many forests, animals and plants begin to disappear. What sort of world would it be if it went from having many types of living things to having just one?
The Mess That We Made by Michelle Lord
This book explores the environmental impact of trash and plastic on the ocean and marine life, and it inspires kids to do their part to combat pollution. The first half of the book portrays the growing magnitude of the issue, and the second half rallies children and adults to make the necessary changes to save our oceans.
Jingo in the Jungle: Saving the Jewels of the Earth by Serena Lane Ferrari
Venture deep into the rainforest to meet an orangutan who loves his beautiful jungle habitat. One day, he sees bulldozers arrive and gathers together his friends to protect their precious home from destruction. Parents will enjoy an engaging story that speaks directly to kids showing what deforestation can do to animals and wildlife habitats.
The Hidden Spaceship: An Adventure Into Environmental Awareness by Serena Lane Ferrari
Amelia and Noah stumble on a magic spaceship that takes them on a special journey learning about how to help save the Earth’s ecosystem. They learn about things like reusing and reducing, planting gardens, carbon-free transportation, and more.
Miss Fox’s Class Goes Green by Eileen Spinelli
In this story, a school teacher shares with her students all the ways they can be more green. Then each child shares the idea they tried with their family to make a small but meaningful impact on the environment.
As the students practice being green, others join in the fun and the whole school community gets involved. I liked that it creatively offered lots of actionable ideas that kids can implement in their own homes.
Follow The Moon Home by Philippe Cousteau and Deborah Hopkinson
As one little girl learns about the baby turtles that hatch on the beach in her community, she realizes that many turtles are dying because the lights from homes on the beach are confusing turtles and causing them to travel in the wrong direction to find water and home. She leads her community to educate and spark action among her neighbors to help solve this problem. This is another story that encourages children to be activists in their community without making activism feel too large to tackle.
Our House Is On Fire: Greta Thunberg’s Call to Save the Planet by Jeanette Winter
This book shares the story of who Greta Thunberg is and how she came to lead a world of young people in advocating to save the Earth. It highlights several of the key moments she has experienced to date as an international icon for young climate activists.
We Will Live In This Forest Again by Gianna Marino
Sometimes we think only about the impacts of climate change on humans. This book shares the story of animals who lose their home to wildfire from the perspective of the animals. Although there is fire and tragedy, they also have a hopeful perspective at the end that they will one day return home as the forest recovers.
The Great Big Green Book by Mary Hoffman
Take children on a brief journey around our planet to learn about what it’s made of and what life lives on our planet. They the author shares a lot of ideas that are accessible to young children about why we need clean air and water, ways we can be mindful at home about resource usage, and how we can encourage others to do the same. The book has lots of relevant and interesting illustrations as well to help kids connect with environmental action.
This book is a hybrid of a picture book and a non-fiction kids’ resource book. The book uses mythical monsters to represent threats of climate change against which we need to take action. Readers learn how each monster is fed (perpetuated) and what its weaknesses are so we can tackle it.
Planet SOS is the perfect handbook for any eco-hero who wants to learn about our global environmental crisis. A gatefold highlighting monster-beating actions kids can take, a gatefold world map showing where these environmental problems can be found, glossary, index, and source notes are also included.
I Am Earth: An Earth Day Book for Kids by James McDonald
I Am Earth introduces kids to the basic concepts of Earth science while also encouraging the importance of taking care of our special planet through environmental awareness and sustainability. Keeping Earth a happy healthy place to live is important for everyone big and small. In this Earth science book for beginners, kids learn what makes our planet so uniquely special and how people can work together to keep it a healthy home.
Greta’s Story: The Schoolgirl Who Went on Strike to Save the Planet by Valentina Camerini
This book shares the story about how Greta Thunberg became frustrated with the lack of political action for environmental protection, started protesting in front of the Parliament building, and eventually become a world figure for youth participation in climate action.
Do you have any favorite picture books about climate action, especially that feature young kids? If so, tell us about them in the comments!
And if you have not done so already, be sure to check out the other booklists aligned with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals and print out the FREE Coloring Poster!