GirlChild turned six earlier this month, and green is her favorite color. In honor of this fact (and, you know, Earth Day and all that), I did a catalog search for children’s books with the word “green” in the title. Here are some of the eclectic results!
Green, by Laura Vaccaro Seeger (2012–toddler to elementary): This incredibly simple book featuring lush paintings and cut-outs to peep from one page to the next defines green in a number of settings and ways. Each page has just two words, an adjective and the word “green,” and the pre-green words rhyme in an alternating pattern (like slow green, faded green, glow green, shaded green, although the first and third don’t always rhyme). Although it’s clearly meant for younger readers, I can see many elementary readers getting engrossed in the art, so it might be a good book to keep in an art classroom, too! It was also a Caldecott Honor book in 2013.
Where Is the Green Sheep?, by Mem Fox, illustrated by Judy Horacek (2004–toddler/preschool): All different kinds of sheep are found, from colorful sheep to sheep doing a variety of different things, but the green sheep remains elusive. In the end, the green sheep is found sleeping, camouflaged behind a bush. Each page contains a simple sentence stating which sheep is being shown. The refrain, “But where is the green sheep?” (repeated every few pages) helps young listeners participate in the reading, and contrasts and opposites are often used. My favorite illustration is the extreme close-up that just says, “Here is the near sheep.” BoyChild chuckled when I zoomed the book close to his face for that one!
Go Away, Big Green Monster!, by Ed Emberley (1992–toddler/preschool): Cut-out pages reveal the big green monster piece by piece, then the reader tells the big green monster to go away piece by piece. This book might be helpful for children who have a fear of monsters and who need to be empowered to get rid of their imaginary tormenters. The last lines, “And DON’T COME BACK! Until I say so,” gives children a tool to banish their fears while still inviting imaginative play (including the occasional biddable monster).
Red Green Blue: A First Book of Colors, by Alison Jay (2009–preschool/early elementary): Actually written by Libby Hamilton, this book is not your typical color concept book. On each page, a little boy (the one on the opening page who is experiencing a “dull and gray” rainy day) watches as a nursery rhyme takes place before his eyes, transitioning from one to the next as though he is moving through scenes that blend into one another. Although each page names a color (emphasized by bold, enlarged type), the illustrations do not go overboard on the color, making it more suitable to slightly older children than most concept books. The illustrations have muted tones and a crackled appearance, much like those old, painted wooden or ceramic plaques you might find in your grandma’s house. A picture appendix of all the nursery rhymes referenced can be found at the back of the book.
Green Is a Chile Pepper: A Book of Colors, by Roseanne Greenfield Thong, illustrated by John Parra (2014–preschool/early elementary): Rhyming verse uses colors and some Spanish words to showcase Hispanic American traditions. (Although the CIP data for this book says that this is about children discovering colors in their Hispanic American neighborhood, I’m not sure where in the United States there is a neighborhood that is sufficiently rural and suited to have a monkey climbing the corn stalks…) It references Christmas and Day of the Dead traditions as well as general foods and celebrations, so it might be a good book to share with children to celebrate National Hispanic Heritage Month (September 15-October 15 in 2014) or for a study of Central and South America.
The Berenstain Bears Go Green, by Jan and Mike Berenstain (2013–early elementary): Not as long as the old Berenstain Bears books (saving paper to go green, perhaps?), this title is still not lacking in the didactic tone that typifies the series. Kids like the series, though, and I doubt this book would be any different…and it might make a good, short read-aloud for Earth Day to trigger discussion about simple ways we can be better stewards of our resources. Because it’s a recent publication, the advice given is up-to-date and at least a few items will be doable for the majority of modern children.
The Green Bath, by Margaret Mahy, illustrated by Steven Kellogg (2013): Sammy’s mother tells him to stop his adventuring and get cleaned up for his grandmother’s visit, and Sammy tries to make the best of his bath in the new green tub his father just installed. He starts to sing “The Owl and the Pussycat,” and the bathtub gets up and races to the beach where Sammy and the tub have a wild adventure with mermaids, a sea serpent, and a bunch of pirates. The tub and Sammy return to the bathroom just in time for his mother and grandmother to walk on in…then Sammy and grandma set off toward the beach in the endpapers. The book is a little odd, surely, since it implies that the bathtub adventure is real and not just Sammy’s imagination, but that doesn’t spoil the fact that this is what most young kids think when they’re playing in the bath anyway!
How Martha Saved Her Parents from Green Beans, by David LaRochelle, illustrated by Mark Fearing (2013–early elementary): Martha, despite her parents’ proddings, refuses to eat the green beans she is served every Tuesday night with dinner. She knows that green beans are bad, but she only finds out how bad when a gang (crop?) of mean green beans comes to town and terrorizes everyone who has ever eaten or encouraged anyone to eat green beans. They end up kidnapping Martha’s parents, and only Martha’s brave act (eating all the beans that resist her insistence to let her parents go) saves them from a terrible fate. In the end, green beans are never served at their house again…but the salad is starting to look suspicious, too. I don’t know if this book will work more as an encouragement to resistant veggie eaters (would BoyChild eat green beans if he imagined that he was saving Mommy and Daddy by doing so?) or if it would make them more likely to declare a vegetable “bad,” but it’s a pretty hilarious book and probably worth trying on those stubborn vegetable haters!
One Green Apple, by Eve Bunting, illustrated by Ted Lewin (2006–early elementary): A little girl, Farah, who is a recent immigrant to (what I assume to be) the United States goes on a field trip with her brand new class to an apple orchard. She feels different and isolated by her dupatta (a head scarf) and inability to speak or understand English, but one classmate, Anna, tries to introduce herself and include her even though others are mean because, as Farah’s father says, their “home country and [their] new one have had difficulties.” Farah selects her allotted apple from a small, separate tree, away from her classmates, and it is the only green one that gets added to the cider press. Farah hesitates at first to help operate the press, but Anna and a boy make room for her, so she steps in. She even thinks she can taste her unique apple in the cider when they taste it. On the hayrack ride back, another child introduces himself, but when he belches, Farah notes that the laughter sounds the same as in her home country, and as she thinks about how it is only the language that sounds different and she will be able to learn that, she thinks, “I will blend with the others the way my apple blended with the cider.” Inspired by her understanding that she will learn to fit in but with her own personal flavor, she tries her first “outside-myself” word and speaks “app-ell” aloud, causing Anna to applaud her effort. The watercolor illustrations are beautiful, almost photorealistic, but the real reason I like this book is that I can see my GirlChild being the Anna in it, and I am proud of her and what she can do for lonely people around her!
Ruth and the Green Book, by Calvin Alexander Ramsey, illustrations by Floyd Cooper (2010–elementary): This book is historical fiction set in the early 1950s and tells the story of an African American family driving south from Chicago to visit family in Alabama and the unexpected difficulties they face as they try to do simple things like get gas, use a restroom, stop to eat, or get a room at a hotel. It is told from the point-of-view of the young daughter who is put in charge of using the Green Book to find the things that her family needs along the way. The titular book–The Negro Motorist Green Book–was a book published from 1936 to 1964 that gave African Americans traveling through the United States (and eventually Bermuda, Mexico, and Canada) lists of places necessary to travelers that would accept their business. See a need, fill a need. The last page of the book gives a brief history of the book and tells that the last edition was published in 1964–the same year that the president signed the Civil Rights Bill into law, making the book obsolete. This would be a great read-aloud during a study of the Civil Rights Movement because of its true but gentle treatment of a very serious subject.
Nature’s Green Umbrella: Tropical Rain Forests, by Gail Gibbons (1994–elementary): This nonfiction book features a large amount of information in a relatively unintimidating format. A large, labeled illustration on each spread introduces vocabulary and wildlife names. Illustrated maps and diagrams help explain concepts discussed in the text, a few sentences or somewhat brief paragraphs on each page. At the end of the book, different kinds of rain forests are defined and shown on a map if possible.
Do you have a favorite green book? Share it with us in the comments!