Science Literacy Week: Biodiversity Reading List

We need nature and nature needs us. Studies show that kids and families who spend time outdoors are happier and healthier. And the better we understand our role in biodiversity — the jigsaw of life — the more likely we are to take action to protect our planet.

Lucky for us, there are many wonderful books from Canadian creators that help children get to know more about the natural world and their place in it.

We at clearwaterkids.org, a new interactive website to inspire kids to explore nature and science, are proud to present this booklist that we hope will be useful for parents, teachers and librarians. Many thanks to the Natural Science and Engineering Research Council and the Canadian Children’s Book Centre for making this timely initiative possible.

Watch the video version of the booklist below or download the PDF here.

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Animals


Acting Wild 
by Maria Birmingham, illustrated by Dave Whamond (Owlkids Books, 2019) Ages 7-10

How are humans different from other animals? This is a question scientists have long tried to answer. As it turns out, some of the very things researchers once though distinguished humans—our creativity, our problem-solving ability, our capacity for planning or abstract thought—actually make us very similar to other animals! This nonfiction book introduces several different behaviors that humans and other animals share, including farming, teaching, laughing, building, mourning, communicating, grooming, playing, traveling, using tools, and working together.

 

Running Wild: Animals in Motion by Galadriel Watson, illustrated by Samantha Dixon (Annick Press, 2020) Ages 7-11

A squid jets through the ocean like a rocket. A cheetah races after a zig-zagging gazelle. A fishing spider walks on water with its eight hairy legs. All animals must move. Whether on the hunt for something to eat, on the run from being eaten, or in search of a mate or a safe place to live, their lives depend on marvelous motion.

 

Animals at the EDGE by Marilyn Baille and Jonathon Baillie (Owlkids Books, 2016) Ages 7-12

EDGE (Evolutionarily Distinct and Globally Endangered) species are evolutionarily unique, which means if they don’t survive, there will be no similar species left on Earth. But all hope is not lost. EDGE researchers are working hard to locate, create awareness of, and ensure a safe future for these special creatures. In Animals at the EDGE, readers will meet some of these intrepid scientists and follow them on expeditions that take them to the limits of the Earth — from the heights of the Cyclops Mountains in Papua, New Guinea to the depths of China’s Yangtze River, to the forests of Haiti, and across the vast stretches of the Gobi Desert. These extraordinary creatures include the long-beaked echidna, a rare spine-covered mammal with relatives that date back to dinosaur times; the long-eared jerboa, a big-eared mouse-sized creature that hops like a kangaroo; and the tiny bumblebee bat, so small it can fit on a fingertip.

 

Animals Illustrated: Muskox by Allen Niptanatiak, illustrated by Kagan McLeod (Inhabit Media, 2016) Ages 4-8

Animals Illustrated mixes fun-filled animal facts suitable for the youngest of readers with intricately detailed illustrations to create a unique and beautiful collection of children’s books on Arctic animals. Each volume contains first-hand accounts from authors who live in the Arctic, along with interesting facts on the behaviours and biology of each animal. 

Kids will learn how Muskoxen raise their babies, what they eat and how they forage, where they can be found, and other interesting information, like the many fascinating adaptations they exhibit that allow them to live in colder habitats than most other animals!

The Wolves Return by Celia Godkin (Pajama Press, 2017) Ages 6-9

In 1995-96 twenty-three grey wolves were released in Yellowstone National Park where, due to over-hunting, there had been no wolves at all for almost seventy years. This reintroduction project was an overwhelming success. Over twenty years later we can still see the changes the grey wolves brought to Yellowstone National Park. Now that the elk graze higher ground, seedlings are growing tall, rivers are getting deeper as beavers return, and a lively pond ecosystem is developing. This true story offers an important lesson about the difference one creature can make in creating a healthy, thriving world.

My Book of Birds by Geraldo Valério (Groundwood Books, 2016) Ages 4-10

Geraldo Valério is an artist who loves birds, from majestic Golden Eagles and Snowy Owls to brilliant cardinals and jays to the tiniest of hummingbirds. Here he presents his favorites, with beautiful collage illustrations and brief descriptions that highlight intriguing facts about each one.The illustrations show a variety of feathered creatures in their natural habitats as they hunt for food, impress their mates, nest, and care for their young. The concise, accessible text provides information ranging from clever techniques for finding food to remarkable physical features to fascinating behaviors.

Hello, Crow! by Candace Savage, illustrated by Chelsea O’Byrne (Greystone Kids, 2019) Ages 4-8

Will Franny ever prove to her dad that crows and kids can be friends? Franny has a new friend—a crow who brings her presents in its beak. Like a red button! And a silver heart! Franny’s dad doesn’t believe her. He says crows and kids can’t be friends. But Franny knows better. How will Franny prove her new playmate is real? And what will the crafty crow bring next?


Oceans, Lakes and Water

Cute as an Axolotl by Jess Keating, illustrated by Dave DeGrand (Knopf Books for Young Readers, 2018) Ages 5-10

The Internet pretty much runs on cute animal photos, but “cute” is so much more than clickbait kittens and insta-pups. Cute is for feathery-gilled axolotls (pronounced: ax-uh-LOT-ulz), shy pygmy hippos, poisonous blue dragons, and armoured pangolins. All of these animals are cute, but they’ve also adapted remarkable ways to survive in their unique environments. With her signature blend of humour and zoological know-how, Pink Is for Blobfish author Jess Keating shows how cute animals can be more than just a pretty face in this latest installment of the World of Weird Animals.

Do Fish Fart? Answers to Kids’ Questions About Lakes by Keltie Thomas, illustrated by Deryk Ouseley (Firefly Books, 2016) Ages 7-10

This intriguing collection of questions and answers about our lakes and freshwater systems will fascinate, amaze and inform young readers and anyone who is curious about this world of water. The book answers questions submitted by youngsters curious about water and life in a watershed. This book reveals the common ecology of freshwater lakes. Loaded with illustrations and photographs, the authors tackle the science, plants, fish and animals, and geography. The book also answers questions about what it will take to keep our rivers and lakes clean.

Turtle Pond by James Gladstone, illustrated by Karen Reczuch (Groundwood Books, 2018) Ages 4-7

In Turtle Pond, a child and his parents visit their local public garden throughout the year, observing the turtles as they play, dive, feed, bask, climb, hide and doze. James Gladstone’s lively prose poem reveals the pleasure and curiosity that come from spending time with the turtles. Karen Reczuch’s stunningly beautiful illustrations accurately portray these extraordinary creatures, both in and out of the water, surrounded by lush plants and the changing seasons beyond the greenhouse windows.

The Seal Garden by Ian McAllister, photographs by Nicholas Read (Orca Book Publishers, 2018) Ages 5-8

When storms roar and orcas are on the prowl, it’s the seal gardens of the Great Bear Sea that provide safety and shelter to sea lions, otters, a variety of seals and other sea mammals. Ian McAllister’s glorious photographs reveal the beauty and mystery of this rarely seen place of refuge. This is the third title in the My Great Bear Rainforest series, following Wolf Island and A Bear’s Life.

A Whale’s World by Ian McAllister, photographs by Nicholas Read (Orca Book Publishers, 2018) Ages 5-8

Past rocky shores and through kelp forests, they observe foraging wolves, hungry grizzly bears, curious black bears, graceful fin whales, splashing porpoises, slippery seals and other members of the Pacific coastal food web. The book gives readers a fun introduction to the many ways that marine and land animals interact with their environments and with each other.

My Ocean is Blue by Darren Lebeuf, illustrated by Ashley Barron (Kids Can Press, 2020) Ages 3-7

“This is my ocean,” the young girl begins as she heads over the dunes with her mother. Then, as they pass the whole day at the seaside, she lyrically describes her ocean in simple, sensory detail. It’s both “slimy” and “sandy,” “sparkly” and “dull.” It has wonderful sounds, as it “splashes and crashes and echoes and squawks.” And it contains so many colours, from “rusted orange” to “runaway red,” “faded white” to “polished green.” Though “mostly it’s blue.” Nothing the girl experiences escapes her careful observation and appreciation. And at day’s end, she can’t wait for her next trip to the beach.

Author Darren Lebeuf, an award-winning photographer, uses spare text and a rhythmic style to create an evocative read-aloud.

From the same series:

My Forest is Green by Darren Lebeuf, illustrated Ashley Barron (Kids Can Press, 2019) Ages 3-7

With art supplies in tow, a young boy explores the urban forest near his home and, using different artistic mediums like collage, photography, paint and more, the boy creatively depicts the many shapes, textures and colours of his natural surroundings. He is a keen observer who uses poetic, rhythmic language to describe the diversity he finds through all four seasons.

The Sockeye Mother by Brett D. Huson, illustrated by Natasha Donovan (HighWater Press, 2017) Ages 9+

To the Gitxsan people of Northwestern British Columbia, the sockeye salmon is more than just a source of food. Over its life cycle, it nourishes the very land and forests that the Skeena River runs through and where the Gitxsan make their home. The Sockeye Mother explores how the animals, water, soil, and seasons are all intertwined.

The Sockeye Mother is the winner of the Science Writers and Communicators of Canada book award for books published in 2017, youth books category. The Sockeye Mother is also the winner of the McNally Robinson Book for Young People Awards, Younger Category, at the 2018 Manitoba Book Awards.

Nibi Emosaawdang / The Water Walker, written and illustrated by Joanne Robertson, translated by Shirley Williams and Isadore Toulouse (Second Story Press, 2019) Ages 6-9

The story of a determined Ojibwe Grandmother (Nokomis) Josephine-ba Mandamin and her great love for Nibi (water). Nokomis walks to raise awareness of our need to protect Nibi for future generations, and for all life on the planet. She, along with other women, men, and youth, have walked around all the Great Lakes from the four salt waters, or oceans, to Lake Superior. The walks are full of challenges, and by her example Josephine-ba invites us all to take up our responsibility to protect our water, the giver of life, and to protect our planet for all generations.


Insects

The Bug Girl by Sophia Spencer and Maragret McNamara, illustrated by Kerascoet (Tundra Books, 2020) Ages 4-8

Sophia Spencer has loved bugs ever since a butterfly landed on her shoulder — and wouldn’t leave! — at a butterfly conservancy when she was only two-and-a-half years old. In preschool and kindergarten, Sophia was thrilled to share what she knew about grasshoppers (her very favourite insects), as well as ants and fireflies . . . but by first grade, not everyone shared her enthusiasm. Some students bullied her, and Sophia stopped talking about bugs altogether. When Sophia’s mother wrote to an entomological society looking for a bug scientist to be a pen pal for her daughter, she and Sophie were overwhelmed by the enthusiastic response — letters, photos and videos came flooding in. Using the hashtag BugsR4Girls, scientists tweeted hundreds of times to tell Sophia to keep up her interest in bugs — and it worked!

A Children’s Guide to Arctic Butterflies by Mia Pelletier, illustrated by Danny Christopher (Inhabit Media, 2019) Ages 9-12

There are 20,000 species of butterflies in the world, but only several dozen are found on the tundra of the North American Arctic. Many Arctic animals have warm, woolly coats, downy feathers, or thick layers of blubber, and Arctic butterflies appear fragile with their fluttering, delicate wings. Yet the hardy butterflies that live at the top of the world have many clever ways to keep themselves warm in cool summers and endure icy-cold winters. In A Children’s Guide to Arctic Butterflies, young readers learn about twelve of the butterflies that call the Arctic home and how they survive on the tundra from one season to the next.


Urban Life

A Forest in the City by Andrea Curtis, illustrated by Pierre Pratt (Groundwood Books, 2020) Ages 8-12

This beautiful book of narrative non-fiction looks at the urban forest, starting with a bird’s-eye view of the tree canopy, then swooping down to street level, digging deep into the ground, then moving up through a tree’s trunk, back into the leaves and branches. It discusses the problems that city trees face such as the abundance of concrete, poor soil and challenging light conditions. It traces the history of trees in cities over time, showing how industrialization and the growth of populations in urban centres led to the creation of places like Central Park in New York City, where people could enjoy nature and clean air.

Be a City Nature Detective written and illustrated by Peggy Kochanoff (Nimbus Publishing, 2018) Ages 4-9

From the author of Silver Birch-nominated Be a Nature Detective series comes a new adventure full of fascinating facts and original watercolours. From scuttling cockroaches to waves of starlings to burdock heads on your clothes, Kochanoff takes the reader through city streets to show them the amazing nature growing there. Features a glossary, identification page, and further reading.


Trees, Plants and the Earth

Dirty Science: 25 Experiments with Soil by Shar Levine and Leslie Johnstone, illustrated by Lorenzo Del Bianco (Scholastic Canada, 2013) Ages 7-11

Think that the dirt beneath your feet is boring? Wrong! There’s more to dirt than, well, dirt. In fact, don’t call it dirt to a scientist — it’s soil! Soil can tell you a lot about where you live and what’s going on behind, or beneath, the scenes. Learn how to make a Berlese funnel that brings out tiny unseen bugs in soil; learn the differences between various soils; even change a blue hydrangea to a pink one! Is it magic? Nope… it’s science!

Tree Of Life: The Incredible Biodiversity of Life on Earth by Rochelle Strauss, illustrated by Margot Thompson (Kids Can Press, 2013) Ages 8-12

If every known species on Earth were a leaf on a tree, that tree would have 1 750 000 leaves. Since humans count for just one leaf on the tree, we have a lot to learn about the millions of other forms of life with which we share the world. A dazzlingly illustrated and child-friendly introduction to biodiversity, Tree of Life shows how living things are classified into five kingdoms — and how each has much to tell us about all aspects of life on our planet. Tree of Life is part of CitizenKid: A collection of books that inform children about the world and inspire them to be better global citizens.

The Mushroom Fan Club written and illustrated by Elise Gravel (Drawn & Quarterly, 2018) Ages 4-11

Elise Gravel takes readers on a magical tour of the forest floor and examines a handful of her favourite alien specimens up close. From the fun-to-stomp puffballs to the prince of the stinkers, the stinkhorn mushroom, Gravel shares her knowledge of fungi by bringing each species to life in full felt-tip-marker glory. This title is also available in French as Le Fan club des champignons.


The Environment

Canadian Biodiversity by Sheryl Normandeau (Beech Street Books, 2018) Ages 10-11

Books in this series will each examine Canadian technology as it relates to sustainability and stewardship. Books will describe what is happening in Canada today as well as provide a look forward into the future of these technologies.

On Our Nature Walk by Dr. Jillian Roberts, illustrated by Jane Heinrichs (Orca Book Publishers, 2020) Ages 6-8

This illustrated non-fiction picture book by child psychologist Dr. Jillian Roberts introduces children to the important topic of the environment. Crafted around a conversation between a grade-school-aged child and an adult, this inquiry-focused book using age-appropriate language and tone will help children shape their understanding of the natural world and how they participate in protecting it. Dr. Roberts starts the discussion with the types of pollution and trash that children might notice on a nature walk or a trip to the beach, how they are caused and how to work to improve things in their own lives and communities.


Check Out More Books!

Animals

Animals at Night
by Katy Flint, illustrated by Cornelia Li
Wide Eyed Editions, 2019
Ages 4-7

Bat Citizens
by Rob Laidlaw
Pajama Press, 2018
Ages 8-12

How to Save a Species
by Ellen Butcher, Jonathan Baillie and Marilyn Baillie
Owlkids Book, 2014
Ages 8-12

Sea Otters: A Survival Story
by Isabelle Groc
Orca Book Publishers, 2020
Ages 9-12

The Toad
by Elise Gravel
Tundra Books, 2016
Ages 6-9

The Worm
by Elise Gravel
Tundra Books, 2012
Ages 6-9

West Coast Wild Babies
by Deborah Hodge, illustrated by Karen Reczuch
Groundwood Books, 2020
Ages 4-7

West Coast Wild
by Deborah Hodge, illustrated by Karen Reczuch
Groundwood Books, 2015
Ages 4-7
Birds

Birds (Nature All Around)
by Pamela Hickman, illustrated by Carolyn Gavin
Kids Can Press, 2020
Ages 7-11

Oceans, Lakes & Water

Be a Pond Detective
by Peggy Kockanoff
Nimbus Publishing, 2016
Ages 4-9

If You Want to Visit a Sea Garden
by Kay Weisman, illustrated by Roy Henry Vickers
Groundwood Books, 2020
Ages 4-7

Ocean Speaks
by Jess Keating, illustrated by Katie Hickey
Tundra Books, 2020
Ages 4-8

Red Sky at Night
by Elly MacKay
Tundra Books, 2018
Ages 3-7

The Brilliant Deep
by Kate Messner, illustrated by Matthew Forsythe
Chronicle Books, 2018
Ages 6-8

Who Needs a Reef?
by Karen Patkau
Tundra Books, 2014
Ages 7-10

Insects

Natsumi’s Song of Summer
by Robert Paul Weston, illustrated by Misa Saburi
Tundra Books, 2020
Ages 3-7

The Case of the Vanishing Caterpillar: A Gumboot Kids Nature Mystery
by Eric Hogan and Tara Hungerford
Firefly Books, 2019
Ages 4-7

What’s the Buzz? Keeping Bees in Flight
by Merrie-Ellen Wilcox
Orca Book Publishers, 2015
Ages 8-12

Urban Life

Going Wild: Helping Nature Thrive in Cities
by Michelle Mulder
Orca Book Publishers, 2018
Ages 9-12

Trees, Plants & the Earth

And Then the Seed Grew
by Marianne Dubuc
Kids Can Press, 2019
Ages 5-9

Deep Roots: How Trees Sustain Our Planet
by Nikki Tate
Orca Book Publishers, 2016
Ages 9-12

Peter and the Tree Children
by Peter Wohlleben, illustrated by Cale Atkinson, translated by Jane Billinghust
Greystone Kids, 2020
Ages 4-8

Trees (Nature All Around)
by Pamela Hickman, illustrated by Carolyn Gavin
Kids Can Press, 2019
Ages 7-11

You Are Stardust
by Elin Kelsey, illustrated by Soyeon Kim
Owlkids Books, 2012
Ages 4+

You Are Never Alone
by Elin Kelsey, illustrated by Soyeon Kim
Owlkids Books, 2019
Ages 4+

The Environment

Flow, Spin, Grow: Looking for Patterns in Nature
by Patchen Barss, illustrated by Todd Stewart
Owlkids Books, 2018
Ages 4-8

Great Bear Rainforest: A Giant-Screen Adventure in the Land of the Spirit Bear
by Ian McAllister and Alex Van Tol
Orca Book Publishers, 2019
Ages 9-12

Planet Ark: Preserving Earth’s Biodiversity
by Adrienne Mason, illustrated by Margot Thompson
Kids Can Press, 2013
Ages 8-12

The Fog
by Kyo Maclear, illustrated by Kenard Pak
Tundra Books, 2017
Ages 4-8

The Not-So Great Outdoors
by Madeline Kloepper
Tundra Books, 2019
Ages 3-7

Shaping Up Summer
by Lizann Flatt, illustrated by Ashley Barron
Owlkids Books, 2014
Ages 5-7

Who Needs a Desert?
by Karen Patkau
Tundra Books, 2014
Ages 7-10

Who Needs a Prairie?
by Karen Patkau
Tundra Books, 2014
Ages 7-10