"I have always imagined that paradise will be a kind of library," said Argentinian author Jorge Luis Borges. Indeed, a library is a lush landscape, full of wild and fascinating species that are disappearing from our planet. This reading list is the perfect place to start exploring endangered species conservation. Elementary and middle school students are sure to discover intriguing stories and striking images of the world's rarest creatures, and they'll emerge from each book with a deeper understanding of the challenges involved in protecting them.
Have you ever seen a hairy-nosed wombat or an Eastern barred bandicoot? Probably not. These animals are almost gone from the earth, and they're not alone. Simple, informative text and stunning cut-paper collage illustrations introduce basic endangered species concepts to young children. Organized in three sections, the first features concise facts about endangered species, the second memorializes extinct species, and the third profiles species like the whooping crane and Alpine ibex that are returning from the brink of extinction with the help of conservation efforts.
- Author/Illustrator: Steve Jenkins
- Grade Level: K to 3
- Paperback: 40 pages
- Publication Date: January, 2006
Take a journey across land and sea to meet 21 endangered and threatened animals like the mighty humpback whale, the tiny Corroboree frog, and the mysterious snow leopard. Lovely paintings and poems introduce amazing animals from around the globe and poignantly convey the dangers they face. The book also lists activities and organizations that provide more detailed information about endangered species conservation.
- Author/Illustrator: Rachel Allen Dillon
- Grade Level: K to 3
- Hardcover: 64 pages
- Publication Date: February, 2009
Written from the unique perspective of an 11-year-old author, this book engages children in the lives and challenges of endangered species, helping other young people learn about these animals as the first step toward saving them.
- Author: Alexandra Wright
- Grade Level: 3 to 6
- Illustrator: Marshall H. Peck
- Paperback: 30 pages
- Publication Date: September, 1991
This DK Eyewitness book is a comprehensive exploration of endangered creatures around the world, including factors that are driving them toward extinction and ways that we can help them survive. Blocks of text and diverse photographs keep even the most casual reader interested in turning the pages.
- Author: Ben Hoare
- Grade Level: 3 to 6
- Hardcover: 72 pages
- Publication Date: August, 2010
This fictional "eco-mystery" is led by Spinner, a city girl who has little interest in fishing until she catches a rare cutthroat trout in Wyoming's Snake River. Suddenly hooked by the mystery of the trout's presence in a place where it was thought to be extirpated, Spinner sets out on an adventure that will deepen her understanding of nature's delicate balance and her own inner strength.
- Author: Jean Craighead George
- Illustrator: Suzanne Duranceau
- Grade Level: 4 to 7
- Paperback: 160 pages
- Publication Date: March, 1999
With an array of full-color maps, charts, graphs, and photographs, this atlas vividly illustrates the plight of endangered and threatened species while also cataloging critical habitats, factors that threaten species' survival, and conservation strategies that are being used to protect animals from extinction. A concise selection of facts and figures complements engaging graphics, stimulating young minds to pick up and retain pertinent information.
- Author: Richard Mackay
- Grade Level: 4 to 9
- Paperback: 128 pages
- Publication Date: November, 2008
In this fictional "green teen" adventure, Kenzie Ryan finds herself navigating treacherous territory in the Florida Keys where she is compelled to save endangered loggerhead sea turtles by capturing the criminals who are robbing the nests. With the help of two eccentric friends, Kenzie organizes an undercover sting that risks her first romance, her mother's trust, and her own life. Readers will also find facts about sea turtle conservation and the Turtle Hospital in Marathon, Florida. Check out Kenzie's previous escapades in Island Sting and Kenzie's Key.
- Author: Bonnie J. Doerr
- Illustrators: Laurie J. Edwards and Joanna Britt
- Grade Level: 5 to 8
- Paperback: 310 pages
- Publication Date: April, 2011
The quirky characters and comic twists in this book make learning about the rare burrowing owl a hoot. Amid bullies, eco-warriors, and pancakes, new kid Roy Eberhardt gets caught up in a clandestine mission to thwart a community development project in order to save the little owls that burrow beneath the soon-to-be bulldozed site. Pulling up survey stakes, spray-painting a police cruiser's windows, and putting alligators in portable potties are just a few of the tactics Roy and his kooky cohorts will employ to protect the owls. The movie version of Hoot hit the big screen in 2006. Want more? Check out Hiaasen's latest eco-adventure, Scat.
- Author: Carl Hiaasen
- Grade Level: 5 to 8
- Paperback: 292 pages
- Publication Date: December, 2005
KJ Carson has grown up alongside the wildlife of Yellowstone National Park, but it isn't until she is assigned to write a school newspaper article that she understands the controversies surrounding the endangered wolves that have recently been reintroduced to the park. Paired with an attractive fellow student named Virgil, KJ begins researching wolves without anticipating the chaos their column will cause in a small community where conservationists clash with furious ranchers. KJ and Virgil find themselves embroiled in politics, romance, conservation efforts, and a controversy that may threaten their lives.
- Author: Kristen Chandler
- Grade Level: 7 to 9
- Paperback: 384 pages
- Publication Date: May, 2011
While not specifically classified as a children's book, one look at the crouching wolves on the cover will entice readers of all ages. The book's text is spare and powerful, employing a list of common symbols to graphically emphasize the degree to which various species are disappearing from the earth and, more optimistically, making a comeback. National Geographic photographer Joel Sartore has created captivating up-close-and-personal images of 80 species protected by the Endangered Species Act, inspiring awe and sympathy for creatures ranging from the iconic polar bear to the lowly Higgins eye pearlymussel.
- Author: Joel Sartore
- Grade Level: K to 9
- Hardcover: 160 pages
- Publication Date: March, 2010