Earth Day Biographies

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.

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.

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

Illustrated by: Elizabeth Zunon
Age Level: 9-12

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.

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: 9-12

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

Wangari's Trees of Peace

"Wangari lives under an umbrella of green trees in the shadow of Mount Kenya in Africa." So begins this tribute to Wangari Maathai, a young woman who saw deforestation turn the lush lands of Kenya into a barren desert. Wangari began to plant seedlings and encouraged the women around her to do the same. By 2004, 30 million trees had been planted and Wangari won the Nobel Peace Prize. Jeanette Winter skillfully presents both Wangari's successes and challenges through spare text and bold illustrations. An author's note provides additional information about Wangari's life story.