8 picture books on sustainability and environment

8 books for sustainability and environment

There’s a limited amount of time in schools, so it makes sense to make links between curriculum areas where you can.

Here’s 8 picture story books you can use as mentor texts for reading and writing that would also support any learning you’re doing around sustainability / environment/ consumerism.

I’d love to hear any other suggestions you have as well.

Consumerism mentor text

Toy Mountain by Stef Gemmill and Katharine Hall.

A young boy dreams of getting new toys so he doesn’t have to play with the same old ones all the time. He becomes a toy tester for a local toy factory and is quickly hooked on the merry-go-round of wanting more. It doesn’t take long for him to become overwhelmed by the boxes piling up at his door and he soon realises he doesn’t need the latest and greatest toys to be happy.

This would be a great book for starting discussions about consumerism and sustainability.

As a mentor text I recommend using this one for the terrific word choice. You can always count on Stef Gemmill to model the use of strong verbs living their best lives. “Sam snipped the strong and ripped the paper. Out popped a silver train that clickety-clacked down the tracks.”

Persuasive mentor text

The All New Must Have Orange 430 by Michael Speechley

Just when Harvey thinks he owns everything, a brand new toy is released and he HAS to have it! Despite the fact that he has no idea what it does, the advertising effectively convinces him to buy it. Harvey comes to realise that he has been conned and joins a long line of unhappy customers who also want to return their dud purchase.

This would be a great book for starting discussions about consumerism and sustainability.

It would be great to do a compare and contrast between this book and Stef Gemmill’s Toy Mountain. Also, to encourage students to make text to world connections between the advertising and company leaders in this book and those in the world around them.

Climate change mentor text

The Giant and The Sea by Trent Jamieson and Rovina Cai

A giant stands by the sea and watches the water. She warns a young girl that the sea is rising, saying she  should tell the townsfolk to turn off their pollution-creating machine. The business people are furious at the suggestion and ignore the young girl’s warning at their own peril.

This thought-provoking book has many parallels to our current climate change debates. It’s sure to spark deep discussion and would be a valuable addition to any sustainability units/learning.

Where the Forest Meets the Sea by Jeannie Baker

This book is an oldie but a goodie. As a child, this was the book that sparked my interest in- and awareness of- the need to protect our precious environment.  

In the story, a boy visits a beautiful rainforest with his father. They travel there by boat and enjoy a wonderful day of exploring together. At the end of the book, the boy wonders if the forest will always be there to visit in its current form (or will it be replaced with high rise buildings and development?) The final page in the book states that ‘the place, the people and the predicament are real.’ It then briefly explains the issue of the loss of rainforest area in the Daintree rainforest.

One Careless Night by Christina Booth

Australia’s last known Thylacine died on a cold night at the Hobart Zoo in 1936. This powerful book recounts an imagined version of that night and highlights the impermanence of every living species on earth- once an animal is extinct there’s no bringing it back.

This is a beautifully written book that’s full of strong verbs and carefully selected words (the word ‘carless’ in the title being one of them).

Your Planet Needs You by Philip Bunting

This engaging book about waste and the environment is full of fascinating facts alongside Philip Bunting’s quirky humour. It is aimed at younger readers and introduces them to concepts such as materialism, carbon dioxide, waste in the home, landfill and recycling in an accessible way. It finishes by pointing out ways readers can do their part for the planet

This would be a great mentor text for information writing, especially to show students that this type of writing doesn’t need to be boring!

One Plastic Bag by Miranda Paul and Elizabeth Zunon

This book tells the story of Isatou Ceesay, a Gambian woman who observed a problem with the amount of rubbish in her local village and came up with an inventive way to address the issue. It’s an inspiring story and highlights the negative impact of plastic on the environment alongside the positive impact of creative and committed change agents.

Hold on! Saving the Spotted Handfish

I’d never heard of Australia’s spotted handfish before reading this. This book not only introduces the quirky fish that walks on its hands to get around (true story!), it also focuses on scientists’ efforts to save the spotted handfish from extinction (it’s yet another victim of the dreaded Crown of Thorns starfish). The conservation efforts are super interesting and left me wanting to learn more.

This book would be great to teach students about the work of scientists in the field of animal conservation, as well as highlight the negative impacts of humans on the environment (we accidentally carried the Crown of Thorns starfish across the oceans in boats).

Do you have any other texts you’d like to add to this list? I’d love to hear about them in the comments below. (Or let us know on the Oz Lit Teacher Facebook group).

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