Great Kidlit Books about Famous Conservationists

Over the years, the National Wildlife Federation has recognized conservationists whose names are less familiar to most Americans, but whose impressive accomplishments clearly merit recognition. These names include amazing advocates like John James Audubon, Hugh Bennett, John Burroughs, Rachel Carson, Anna Botsford Comstock, Jacques Cousteau, and many more.

Many readers (of all ages) wonder who the “most famous” conservationist is and I think that answer is tough because not only is it hard to choose, it’s oftentimes a matter of perspective.

Some would say that John Muir, who is known as the “Father of Our National Park System, ” would be in the running. Others might say it is Gifford Pinchot, the first chief of the U.S. Forests Service. He is known as the “father of conservation” and is credited for launching the conservation movement in the United States by urging Americans to preserve the past in order to protect the future.

But just as many would look to incredible advocates and thought leaders like Steve Irwin who exuded an unmatched passion for wildlife and showed us all that even crocs are “gorgeous.”

Luckily, there is a treasure trove of books available to help the youngest generation learn about our past and present conservation leaders so they can love nature and wildlife too.

I am Jane Goodall (Ordinary People Change the World) by Brad Meltzer (Author), Christopher Eliopoulos (Illustrator)
(Part of: Ordinary People Change the World which is a series of 31 books!)

Chimpanzee scientist and conservationist Jane Goodall is the 10th hero in the New York Times bestselling picture book biography series for ages 5 to 8.

After receiving a stuffed animal chimpanzee for her first birthday, Jane Goodall\’s love of animals only grew. She saw what humans and animals had in common, not what makes us different, and used that to advocate for animal rights everywhere, becoming famous for her work with chimpanzees.

Evelyn the Adventurous Entomologist: The True Story of a World-Traveling Bug Hunter by Christine Evans

Back in 1881, when Evelyn Cheesman was born, English girls were expected to be clean and dressed in frilly dresses. But Evelyn crawled in dirt and collected glow worms in jars. When girls grew up they were expected to marry and look after children. But Evelyn took charge of the London Zoo insect house, filling it with crawling and fluttering specimens and breathing life back into the dusty exhibits. In the early 1920s, women were expected to stay home, but Evelyn embarked on eight solo expeditions to distant islands. She collected over 70,000 insect specimens, discovered new species, had tangles with sticky spider webs, and tumbled from a cliff. Inspire children to believe in their dreams and blaze their own trail with the story of Evelyn\’s amazing life!

Buzzing with Questions: The Inquisitive Mind of Charles Henry Turner by Janice N. Harrington

Can spiders learn? How do ants find their way home? Can bugs see color? All of these questions buzzed endlessly in Charles Henry Turner’s mind. He was fascinated by plants and animals and bugs. And even when he faced racial prejudice, Turner did not stop wondering. He constantly read, researched, and experimented.

Author Janice Harrington and artist Theodore Taylor III capture the life of this inspiring scientist and educator in this nonfiction picture book, highlighting Turner\’s unstoppable quest for knowledge and his passion for science. The extensive back matter includes an author\’s note, timeline, bibliography, source notes, and archival images.

This Strange Wilderness: The Life and Art of John James Audubon by Nancy Plain

Birds were “the objects of my greatest delight,” wrote John James Audubon (1785–1851), founder of modern ornithology and one of the world’s greatest bird painters. His masterpiece, The Birds of America depicts almost five hundred North American bird species, each image—lifelike and life-size—rendered in vibrant color. Audubon was also an explorer, a woodsman, a hunter, an entertaining and prolific writer, and an energetic self-promoter. Through talent and dogged determination, he rose from backwoods obscurity to international fame.

In This Strange Wilderness, award-winning author Nancy Plain brings together the amazing story of this American icon’s career and the beautiful images that are his legacy. Before Audubon, no one had seen, drawn, or written so much about the animals of this largely uncharted young country. Aware that the wilderness and its wildlife were changing even as he watched, Audubon remained committed almost to the end of his life “to search out the things which have been hidden since the creation of this wondrous world.” This Strange Wilderness details his art and writing, transporting the reader back to the frontiers of early nineteenth-century America.

Greta and the Giants: inspired by Greta Thunberg’s stand to save the world by Zoë Tucker

This inspiring picture book retells the story of Nobel Peace Prize nominee Greta Thunberg—the Swedish teenager who has led a global movement to raise awareness about the world’s climate crisis—using allegory to make this important topic accessible to young children.

Greta is a little girl who lives in a beautiful forest threatened by Giants. When the Giants first came to the forest, they chopped down trees to make houses. Then they chopped down more trees and made even bigger homes. The houses grew into towns and the towns grew into cities, until now there is hardly any forest left. Greta knows she has to help the animals who live in the forest, but how? Luckily, Greta has an idea…

A section at the back explains that, in reality, the fight against the “giants” isn’t over and explains how you can help Greta in her fight.

Manfish: A Story of Jacques Cousteau (Jacques Cousteau Book for Kids, Children’s Ocean Book, Underwater Picture Book for Kids) by Jennifer Berne

Once upon a time in France, a baby was born under the summer sun. His parents named him Jacques. As he grew, Jacques fell in love with the sea. He dreamed of breathing beneath the waves and swimming as gracefully as a fish. In fact, he longed to become a manfish. Jacques Cousteau grew up to become a champion of the seas and one of the best-known oceanographers in the world. In this lovely biography, now in paperback, poetic text and gorgeous paintings come together to create a portrait of Cousteau that is as magical as it is inspiring.

Happy Reading!

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