The stories we tell ourselves, and the next generations, are incredibly powerful, shaping the way we see and understand the world. Many of the stories our society tells children today express values and beliefs about the world that espouse and perpetuate human exceptionalism, our dominance and control over nature, nature as machine, and other outdated, unhelpful at best and dangerous at worst, beliefs about ourselves and our world. 

Our global, industrial-consumer culture desperately needs a cognitive revolution, and therefore we need stories that are relevant to the times we live in - stories that provide a deeper, richer understanding of ourselves and our relationship with the rest of our living world.  While I was adding another book to the list earlier this week, I realised it will never be complete. Therefore, I am sharing this ‘living’ curated compilation in the hope that others will find it useful in seeking out such stories to enjoy and share with young people.  

If the future and our expectations of it are, at least in part, shaped by our stories and cultural narratives about the world, now is the time to tell and share stories that ground us and reconnect us to our entanglement with the living systems that sustain us. It is my hope that the stories in this compilation help to plant the seeds that support current and future generations to navigate a dark green future.   

You will notice I have organised books by themes in an attempt to  make the list more accessible. However, these themes are somewhat arbitrary - many books cover multiple themes and many of the themes inadequately capture any given books’ depth or essence. 

I have also attempted to provide approximate age ranges for the books in this compilation. However, these are indicative only, and adults need to discern age appropriateness for themselves. 

I would love to keep this list alive, continuing to develop and refine it and make it a shared and evolving resource. As such, I intend to update it over time. If you have feedback or suggested additions to this list, I would love to hear from you - nāku te rourou, nāu te rourou, ka ora ai te iwi.

I hope you enjoy reading these books as much as my children and I have.

Earth - Nature - Spirit connection 

Hello Sacred Life - Kim Kraus (Ages 0-3)

Hello Sacred Creatures - Kim Kraus (Ages 0-3)

The Secret of Saying Thanks - Douglas Wood (Ages 3-8)

Whale Brother - Barbara Steiner (Ages 4-8)

The Earth Speaks - Steve Van Matre (Ages 6+)

The Dark Way: Stories from the Spirit World - Virginia Hamilton (Ages 8+)


Work Work Work - Daniel Quinn (Ages 3-8)

The Girl and the Wolf - Katherena Vermette (Ages 3-6)

Lost in the Barrens - Farley Mowat (Ages 7+)

Curse of the Vikings - Farley Mowat (Ages 7+)

My Side of the Mountain - Jean Craighead George (Ages 8+)

Far Side of the Mountain - Jean Craighead George (Ages 8+)

The Tracker - Tom Brown Jr. (and series) (Ages 9-10+)

The Hatchet - Gary Paulsen (10+)

Grandfather - Tom Brown Jr. (Ages 10+)

*Field Guide to Nature and Survival for Children - Tom Brown Jr. (*a guide for adults to explore/use with children)                        

Narratives about the living world, humanity and entanglement 

My Heart Soars - Chief Dan George (Ages 4 -104)

The Giving Tree -  Shel Silverstein (Ages 2-6)

The Apple Tree - John Rebholz (Ages 2-12)

The Secret of Saying Thanks - Douglas Wood (Ages 4-8)

Peace Dancer - Henry Roy Vickers & Robert Budd (Ages 4-9)

Orca Chief - Henry Roy Vickers & Robert Budd (Ages 4-9)

Raven Brings the Light - Henry Roy Vickers & Robert Budd (Ages 4-9)

Ben the Sea Lion - Henry Roy Vickers (ages 5-8)

The Apple Tree - Steven Moe (Ages 5+)

Frog Girl - Paul Owen Lewis (Ages 6+)

Storm Boy - Paul Owen Lewis (Ages 6+)

Connected Wisdom - Linda Booth Sweeney (ages 6+)

Once Upon Our Planet: Rewild bedtime with 12 stories - Vita Murrow (Ages 6-12)

Cloud Walker - Henry Roy Vickers & Robert Budd (Ages 7-10)

The Education of Little Tree - Forrest Carter (Asa Earl Carter)  (Ages 8+)

Trans-species narratives / More than human protagonists 

Aesop’s Fables (Ages 4+)

Tales from the Ocean - Chase Strathie, Erin Brown (Ages 4-8)

A Wolf Called Wander - Rosanne Parry (Ages 8+)

A Whale of the Wild - Rosanne Parry (Ages 8+)

Frightful's Mountain - Jean Craighead George (Ages 8+)

Ice Whale - Jean Craighead George (ages 8+)

Call of the Wild - Jack London (Ages 10+)

Crow and Weasel - Barry Lopez (Ages 9-12)

Earth science and deep time 

The Everything Seed: A Story of Beginnings - Carole Martignacco (Ages 4-8)

Island: A Story of the Galāpagos - Jason Chim (Ages 5+)

Life: The First Four Billion Years - Martin Jenkins (Ages 7+)

10 Billion (graphic novel) - John Michael Greer (Ages 8+)

Earth stewardship and homesteading

The Girl Who Planted Trees - Caryl Hart, Anastasia Suvorova (Ages 3-6)

Wangari’s Trees of Peace: A True Story from Africa - Jeanette Winter (Ages 4-7)

Gardening Book -  John Seymour (Ages 5-8)

To Market, To Market - NIkki McClure (Ages 5-8)

The Six Cousins - Enid Blyton (Ages 7-12)

Little House in the Big Woods - Laura Ingalls Wilder (Ages 7-12)

Community, transition culture and  post-carbon futures 

Look Where We Live! A First Book of Community Building - Scot Ritchie (Ages 3-6) 

Our Street - Beck Lowe, David Holmgren (Ages 8-14)

Ecology, the environment and  sustainability 

Ecology and the Environment: Step-by-step - Francois Michel (Ages 10-13)

Resilience and emotional literacy 

How do I Feel? A Dictionary of Emotions for Children - Rebekah Lipp, Craig Phillips (Ages 4+)

Big Emotions For Little People - Rebekah Lipp, Craig Phillips (Ages 3+)

Finding My Calm -  Rebekah Lipp, Craig Phillips (Ages 4-6)

Aroha’s Way - Rebekah Lipp, Craig Phillips (Ages 5+)

Aroha Knows - Rebekah Lipp, Craig Phillips (Ages 5+)

Let it Go - Rebekah Lipp, Craig Phillips (Ages 5+)

Julie of the Wolves - Jean Craighead George (Ages 9-10+)

Julie - Jean Craighead George (Ages 9-10+)

Julie’s Wolf Pack - Jean Craighead George (Ages 9-10+)

Island of the Blue Dolphins - Scott O'Dell (Ages 8-11)

Northwind - Gary Paulsen (Ages 10-14)

Homecoming - Cynthia Voigt (ages 12-18)

Aotearoa New Zealand ecology and history and culture 

Mihi - Gavin Bishop (Ages 2-5) 

Matariki - Gavin Bishop (Ages 2-5)

Animals of Aotearoa: Explore & discover New Zealand’s wildlife - Gillian Candler & Ned Barraud (Ages 3+)

At the beach: Explore & discover the New Zealand seashore - Gillian Candler & Ned Barraud (Ages 3+)

In the garden: Explore & discover the New Zealand backyard - Gillian Candler & Ned Barraud (Ages 3+)

Under the ocean: Explore & discover New Zealand’s sea life - Gillian Candler & Ned Barraud (Ages 3+)

In the bush: Explore & discover New Zealand’s native forests - Gillian Candler & Ned Barraud (Ages 3+) 

Up the river: Explore & discover New Zealand’s rivers, lakes and wetlands - Gillian Candler & Ned Barraud (Ages 3+)

Where is it? A wildlife hunt for Kiwi kids - Ned Barraud (Ages 3+)

New Zealand’s Backyard Beasts - Ned Barraud (Ages 3+)

All About New Zealand’s Freshwater Wildlife - Dave Gunson (Ages 4+)

From moa to dinosaurs: Explore & discover ancient New Zealand - Gillian Candler & Ned Barraud (Ages 4+)

Aotearoa - The New Zealand Story - Gavin Bishop (Ages 4+)

Wildlife of Aotearoa - Gavin Bishop (Ages 4+)

Most Andrew Crowe books… (Ages 4+)

Te Tiriti o Waitangi - The Treaty of Waitangi - Ross Calman, Mark Derby, Toby Morris (Ages 5+)

Atua - Gavin Bishop (Ages 5+)

Old Blue: The Rarest Bird in the World  - Mary Taylor (Ages 5+) 

Hinepau - Gavin Bishop (Ages 5+)

The Adventures of Tupaia - Courtney Sina Meredith and Mat Tait (Ages 6+)

Patu - Gavin Bishop (Ages 6+)

The Big Book of New Zealand Wildlife - Dave Gunson (Ages 7+)