Treasure: Earth Mother

I’ve discovered I like sharing our delicious children’s books, so here is another one I treasure.

Earth Mother by Ellen Jackson

Earth Mother by Ellen Jackson is the gentle story of the goddess going through her daily routine of tending to the earth and the earth’s creatures.

"She fanned sacred smoke in each of the four directions."

With dignity and great reverence, she nurtures even those things that seem insignificant, giving the beetles shiny jackets and sharpening the thorn bushes. She brings the rain and cradles the otter in a tangle of seaweed, rocking him on the waves.

"Bending low, she placed a piece of summer in a flower's seed."

“Bending low, she placed a piece of summer in a flower’s seed.”

"She spangled a tree with fireflies."

“She spangled a tree with fireflies. She spread spiderweb lace on the grass.”

I love the illustrations by Leo and Diane Dillon, award-winning (Hugo Award and Caldecott Medal among others) illustrators who have been married for five decades and collaborating and making art together all that time. In this story, Earth Mother is radiant on every page; the patterns in her clothing change with every scene, sometimes they are geometric, other times feature frogs or mosquitoes or men. Flowers break out of the square frames on every page. But the real test of any picture-book illustration is whether it supports the author’s story and theme. The Dillons accomplish this brilliantly, in my opinion.

Along her way, Earth Mother meets a man, a frog, and a mosquito. Each of them complains bitterly about one of the other two, and gives thanks for the abundance of the third. Each would like her to rebalance their proportions.

“Thank you, Earth Mother,” said Frog. “Mosquito and her sisters fill my belly and give me life. But why have you sent Man to catch and eat me? Man is bad, bad, bad. Sweet, delicious Mosquito, on the other hand, makes me happy. If there were more mosquitoes and no men, this world would be perfect.”

The interconnectedness and interdependence of the three creatures is beautifully explored. All the while, Earth Mother maintains her calm serenity, simply sighing because they do not see how perfect the earth already is.

Earth Day Books for Young Children

It’s so easy to fall in love with nature in the springtime. I do every year. I know not everybody is into Earth Day and I know that the problems that face us as caretakers of this planet are vast—sometimes too grim to contemplate. We all make choices every day and I know I do not always make the best ones. And yet I think the first step to solving some of these massive issues is to instill in our children a love of this amazing world we live in, to cultivate a sense of reverence for the nature that is all around us.

Teaching children to appreciate nature is really not necessary; they already love it, wonder at it, learn from it. Children love animals, rocks, sticks, butterflies, flowers. Children need to splash in puddles, dig in the earth, and run their hands across the bark of a tree. They do this without our prompting, as long as we allow them to, discovering all along, unearthing small mysteries and miracles every day.

There is a wealth of children’s books about the earth. More are being published every day and your local bookstore or online retailer is sure to have a display or special on such books in honor of Earth Day. Some have a clear, scientific slant and some have a cute, cuddly animal slant. Honestly, there are so many that no single family could possibly explore them all!

What is a trifle harder to find are books with a reverent stance, that are poetic or provide a global ecological stance without being ALARMING. Here are a few we enjoy:


Frank Ash’s The Earth and I — A simple, rainbow-hued story of a boy who loves the earth and cares for her; perfect for preschoolers.

Graeme Base’s Uno’s Garden — A story of people moving into an unspoiled Eden and ruining it, and then the gradual return of the marvelous creatures and plants that lived there. Eventually they achieve balance with nature. It is also a mathematics story. Asher loves the creatures and the challenge of finding the Snortlepig. Lucas likes the pictures and the math.

Nancy Luenn’s Mother Earth — A beautiful and poetic personifcation of the earth, with a message that we should enjoy all that the earth has to offer and give back to her, too. I found this at the library and then scoured the Internet to find a copy for our home. I think it may be out of print, but you can still find copies.

Linda Glaser’s Our Big Home: An Earth Poem — Illustrated by one of my favorite illustrators, Elisa Kleven, this book is intricate and stunning: “We all live here. People, ants, elephants, trees, lizards, lichen, turtles, bees. We all share the same big home.”

Tony Johnston’s The Whole Green World — Also illustrated by Kleven. A girl counts her many blessings: shoes, a dog, a stick, a sack of seeds, a watering can, the sun, birds, ladybugs and ants, breezes, cake, a book, the moon, flowers and trees.

From Mother Earth.

From Our Big Home: An Earth Poem.

Shari Halpern’s My River — A used bookstore find published by Scholastic. Perfect for little ones. It shows how the river belongs to all creatures equally.

Earthways: Simple Environmental Activities for Young Children — This book is a good investment and one I’m sure we’ll keep for many years.

Joseph Bruchac’s Between Earth & Sky: Legends of Native American Sacred Places — For slightly older kids, this book tells of earth legends from various native peoples. The oil painting illustrations are lovely.

Nature Crafts for Kids — This is where I first saw the Easter eggs with the negative prints of leaves and flowers. Make a barometer, a birdbath, pressed flowers, candied violets, a sundial, baskets, evergreen garlands, and much more. Another keeper.

If you like what you see here and choose to purchase one of these books for your family, click the links here—my family will be supported just a tad by your purchase.

What’s in your Earth Day book basket?

  • About Sara

    Thanks for visiting! I’m Sara, editor and writer, wife to Ian, and mother of two precious boys. I am living each day to the fullest and with as much grace, creativity, and patience as I can muster. This is where I write about living, loving, and engaging fully in family life and the world around me. I let my hair down here. I learn new skills here. I strive to be a better human being here. And I tell the truth.

    Our children attend Waldorf school and we are enriching our home and family life with plenty of Waldorf-inspired festivals, crafts, and stories.

    © 2003–2018 Please do not use my photographs or text without my permission.

    “Love doesn’t just sit there like a stone; it has to be made, like bread, remade all the time, made new.” —Ursula K. LeGuinn

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