Celebrate Conservation Week with some great books and resources

This year's Conservation Week (15–23 September) is a chance for all of us to get involved in taking an active role to nurture and care for Aotearoa's flora and fauna. Here are some gorgeous books (and free, online resources) to inspire and promote kaitiakitanga and the conservation of your piece of Aotearoa.

Kea. New Zealand Alpine Parrot. (Nestor notabilis) by Bernard Spragg. CC0 1.0

I have always been a passionate nature geek

I have rescued wēta, grown carnivorous plants, fed my local birds and butterflies, and I love reading books with beautiful illustrations and words about all sorts of creatures. I even have a cat, which gets attacked by the local tūī! (Disclaimer: he was a rescue and has never caught a bird in his life.)

I've learnt a lot about conservation and the environment by reading. I'm one of those people who annoy my workmates by asking things like: 'Why do keas have orange underwings?' Or 'wow — look at this book with adorable bats in swaddling cloths!'

Books about conservation and the environment

Here are a few 'hand-picked' books in our Services to Schools lending collection that will take you on amazing journeys through Aotearoa and the world. Hopefully, they will also encourage you to go on your own special path to learn and inspire our young people to look at the world around us, make a difference, and keep going 'wow'!

Bat Hospital by Clare Hibbert, 2015
So, I’m sure you were wondering with baited (bat) breath about the aforementioned bats in swaddling cloths. Wonder no more, this unbearably cute book tells the story of the Tolga Bat Hospital in Australia which takes in sick, injured, or orphaned flying foxes, the largest bats in the world. These bats are threatened by habitat destruction, being caught in nets and power lines, and also by nasty parasites. This would be a great book to get your ‘awwww’ on and would be great for would-be vets and animal lovers in general. The book includes veterinary medicine, conservation, bat snacks, rewilding, habitat information and could also start discussions of how we as humans impact creatures and, of course, how we are helping them!

I actually have the cover of this book photocopied and stuck to my desk — that’s how cute it is!

Summer Days: Stories and Poems Celebrating the Kiwi Summer, 2017.
Love! This compilation title is fairly self-explanatory and I love it as it includes Melanie Drewery’s Dad’s Takeaways, a great story to read to children about where our kai moana comes from and its sustainability. It also includes Sandra Morris’ Pōhutukawa which is a great feature of our local ecosystem and is something kids will recognise and relate to. This collection could start many discussions about Aotearoa's introduced and native species. It is also just a feel-good reminder of how lucky we are to be here in summer! I can’t wait!

Up the River: Explore & Discover New Zealand's Rivers, Lakes & Wetlands by Gillian Candler and illustrated by Ned Barraud, 2017.
New Zealand non-fiction content. Yay! This is one in a series of 5 and they are all beautiful, engaging and full of things you may have never known about our rivers, beaches, bush, oceans, and backyards. This particular title is a great starter book to look at the water cycle, pollution, plants, and animals. It has beautiful illustrations and facts as well as suggestions of what you can do to take care of your local freshwater. It's so nice to learn about things you can see every day.

Let’s go Eels by Robin Kermode, 2016.
'Ko au te awa. Ko te awa ko au: I am the river and the river is me.'
This little picture book begins with these words and continues with the writing in te reo Māori and English. Readers can easily visualise the long journey of the longfin eels (tuna). This could lead to looking at local waterways and any local history of eels as once, they lived in every New Zealand river but recently, have been declining. However, by telling their story to new generations, we have a chance to make decisions that can turn the tide. This story includes facts about the tuna, wetlands, problems, and what we need to be aware of.

One Plastic Bag: Isatou Ceesay and the Recycling Women of the Gambia by Miranda Paul, 2015.
Have a load of plastic bags cluttering up any drawers? This picture book is simply written but awe-inspiring. We learn about the Gambia’s Isatou Ceesay and how she managed to turn discarded plastic bags into recycled purses. This also helped in cleaning up her town, saving livestock from plastic poisoning, and earning money for her community. A beautiful book to teach children that one person can make a difference!

DK: The Bee Book by Charlotte Milner, 2016.
Bees. What is a bee? Do bees actually have knees? Why do we need bees? What can I do to help? I love this non-fiction book for years 1–4 and up. Not only is it gorgeously illustrated, but it has brilliant, accurate information. One in 3 mouthfuls of the food you eat has been made thanks to pollinators such as bees. Food for thought! What a great way to open a discussion about planting a bee and butterfly garden in your school, home, or community, or to even leave that weedy patch alone! I like the way that this will make children realise that every creature is precious and everything interconnects.

Make the Earth your Companion by J.Patrick Lewis, illustrated by Anna & Elena Balbuso, 2017.
When I saw this picture book, it made me so happy — it's stunning and the first page reads: 'Make the earth your companion, walk lightly on it as other creatures do'. I can't think of a more appropriate sentiment for conservation week! The illustrations combined with simple but effective sentences are incredible and could provide discussion starters for animals, worldwide habitats, conservation, and communities. Or you could just 'ooo' and 'aaaah' over it like I did.

The Night Gardener by The Fan Brothers, 2014.
This picture book is slightly surreal and appeals to my sense of magic in the everyday. A little town is transformed by topiary sculptures that have been shaped during the night. A great one to just read together and talk about how the townspeople come to appreciate their everyday environment and how we can also enjoy the beauty of nature.

The Beast of Cretacea by Todd Strasser, 2015.
In a sentence — a YA retelling of Moby Dick in space! It's more of a sci-fi adventure with themes of environmentalism prevalent. Earth is crippled by environmental collapse, and Ishmael and the rest of the protagonists have to travel off-world to make money. They marvel at the clean water and healthy animals on other planets. But the mad captain Ahab is obsessed with hunting a particular beast to take back to the dying earth and, well, you'll have to read the rest ... One to give to your older readers who enjoy dystopian fiction.

Using books about conservation and the environment

I could go on forever, but I hope that you pick up a few books, explore, and get excited about what you can do for Conservation Week. Here is a brief list of things that any one of the books above can be used to enhance or discuss:

  • habitats
  • native flora and fauna
  • recycling
  • myths and legends around the wildlife of Aotearoa
  • our place in the environment
  • planting trees/native plants/ butterfly/bug and gecko friendly gardens.

You can also order books from the schools' lending collections to teach conservation/kaitiakitanga all year long. Visit our schools lending service section on our website to find out what books are available or learn more about our lending service. Some awesome person like me will select them for your purposes!

Topic Explorer and Many Answers

And don't forget to explore our online resources designed to connect learners with Aotearoa's environmental and conservation practices and issues.

New Zealand flora and fauna (Topic Explorer)

Environmental issues (Topic Explorer)

Conservation — New Zealand (Many Answers)

More ideas

And we'd love any recommendations, which you can add as comments.

By Mini Prasad

Mini is a Librarian in the Reading Services for Schools team.

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