Check out the 25 best rainforest books for kids with both fiction and nonfiction / informational texts to engage your elementary students!
Looking for some great rainforest books for your study of the Amazon? Perhaps you’re studying biomes of the world or environmental activism or even the animals of the rainforest. Whatever it is that you want to focus on, this list of rainforest books for kids will have something to engage your elementary students.
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Zonia’s Rain Forest by Juana Martínez-Neal
This is the newest book on the list, and it immediately went straight to the top! The author Juana Martinez-Neal’s pedigree speaks for itself: Caldecott Honor, Pura Belpre Medal, Sibert Medal. With this book, though, she could finally claim the Caldecott Medal. Just looking at the cover you can see her unique style, but also note the handmade paper used to create the illustrations was with banana bark pulp.
Zonia is an Asháninka girl who lives with her family in the rainforest of Peru. Each morning, the forest calls her and teaches her. She greets each animal family she meets and takes the time to learn from them. This book reminds me of the books Encounter by Jane Yolen and We Are Water Protectors by Carole Lindstrom in that it focuses on Indigenous people and how the outside world affects them. So often, rainforest books focus on the impact of humans on wildlife and vegetation but forget about the native people who have lived in the rainforest for generations. This book is not sad, though. It’s bright and upbeat, inspiring children to stand up for their communities.
Astounding Details and Easter Eggs
What I love about Martinez-Neal is how intentional she is with almost every detail in her story. As mentioned previously, the illustrations were done on paper handmade from materials from the rainforest. The name of the protagonist Zonia is also a nod to the Spanish name for the Amazon rainforest “AmaZONIA.” A detail that many non-bilingual folks may not notice. The back material explains that Zonia was part of the Asháninka people of Peru and provides information about them as well as a translation of the book into the Asháninka language. It also explains the name of each animal Zonia encountered during her day in the rainforest.
This is a must-have book to add to any elementary school library and certainly for every primary grade classroom library. Whether you study the rainforest or are looking for a book to study for Earth Day, this book is a must-read. Even more so because this book is also available in Spanish titled La selva de Zonia.
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The Great Kapok Tree by Lynne Cherry
A modern fable with an urgent message for young environmentalists.
Lynne Cherry journeyed deep into the rain forests of Brazil to write and illustrate this gorgeous picture book about a man who exhausts himself trying to chop down a giant kapok tree. While he sleeps, the forest’s residents, including a child from the Yanomamo tribe, whisper in his ear about the importance of trees and how “all living things depend on one another” . . . and it works. Cherry’s lovingly rendered colored pencil and watercolor drawings of all the “wondrous and rare animals” evoke the lush rain forests. Features stunning world maps bordered by detailed illustrations of fascinating rainforest creatures. One of the classic rainforest books for kids.
The Leaf Detective: How Margaret Lowman Uncovered Secrets in the Rainforest by Heather Lang
Meg Lowman was always fascinated by the natural world above her head — the colors, the branches, and, most of all, the leaves and mysterious organisms living there. Meg set out to climb up and investigate the rain forest tree canopies — and to be the first scientist to do so. But she encountered challenge after challenge. Male teachers would not let her into their classrooms, the high canopy was difficult to get to, and worst of all, people were logging and clearing the forests. Meg never gave up or gave in. She studied, invented, and persevered, not only creating a future for herself as a scientist, but making sure that the rainforests had a future as well. Working closely with Meg Lowman, author Heather Lang and artist Jana Christy beautifully capture Meg’s world in the treetops.
Scholastic Discover More: Rainforest by Penelope Arlon
A comprehensive modern reference book all about rainforests for confident readers.
This book is far more than a collection of bugs and butterflies. It explores rainforests by continent, so the young reader gains first hand experience of the contrasts between the flora and fauna of South America, Africa, and India. Children are introduced to the indigenous people who reveal age-old secrets of survival in the forest. It explores how rainforests are exploited for every day products in everyones’ homes. The latest research reveals newly discovered creatures unique to this book, and the current threat level to our planet as we continue to destroy Earth’s most diverse habitat. Fantastic photos, structured layouts, and age-appropriate vocabulary entice newly confident readers into the world of information books. Data boxes, maps, and stats encourage related numeracy and science skills. Vetted by literacy experts.
Slowly Slowly Said the Sloth by Eric Carle
Slowly, slowly, slowly . . . that’s the way the sloth moves. Slowly, it eats and then, slowly, it falls asleep. “What strange kind of creature is this?” the other animals wonder. Why doesn’t it run or fly or play or hunt like the rest of us? “Why are you so slow?” the howler monkey inquires. But the sloth doesn’t answer any questions until the jaguar asks, “Why are you so lazy?”
Anyone who has ever felt too busy will appreciate the sloth’s peaceful lifestyle and realize that it’s okay to take time to enjoy life. Eric Carle’ s dazzling collage illustrations introduce readers to the exotic beauty of the Amazon rain forest and the many unusual animals living there. One of my favorite fiction rainforest books, especially if you read the sloth parts SLOWLY.
Life in the Rainforests by Lucy Baker
Describes the importance of rain forests, types of plant and animal life that live there, and how rain forests are threatened by deforestation
Tuki and Moka by Judy Young
Eduardo and his family live in a small town in Ecuador, not far from the Amazon rainforest. The rainforest is an important part of their lives. Each month Eduardo and his father travel by river from their town to the rainforest. There, using just a basket and a machete, they gather Brazil nuts. They are castañeros and this is how they earn their living.
But the rainforest is not only important to the castañeros; it is home to many exotic species of plants, birds, and mammals, including two playful tamarins that Eduardo has named Tuki and Moka. So although it is difficult work being a castañero, Eduardo looks forward to his visits to the rainforest so he can play with his two friends. But one night, the peace of the forest is threatened by poachers, animal traffickers who illegally capture and then try to sell some of the birds and animals. Can Eduardo save his friends?
Over in the Jungle by Marianne Berkes
Learning becomes fun with this book about the ecosystem and animals of the jungle! In Over in the Jungle: A Rainforest Rhyme, amazing artwork will inspire children in classrooms and at home to appreciate ecology, environment, and world around us!
The perfect jungle animal book, Over in the Jungle: A Rainforest Rhyme introduces habitats for kids, and doubles as a fun, interactive, counting book for kids.
Amazon Rainforest (Time for Kids) by William Rice
There is so much to explore in the Amazon! Readers are taken on an adventure through the Amazon rainforest to learn about the lush plants and beautiful animals, deforestation, and rainforest conservation in this fascinating nonfiction reader that features striking photographs and riveting facts.
Tree of Wonder by Kate Messner
From two Great Green Macaws to 1,024 Leaf-cutter Ants, readers will delight in counting each animal that makes a home in the heart of the rainforest, where life multiplies again and again in the shade of just one almendro tree. An eye-opening way of visualizing numbers with forest-themed word problems and a fascinating story
Pongo by Jesse Hudson
Pongo is a masterful debut by talented illustrator and author Jesse Hodgson. Pongo traces his way from the rainforest floor to the treetops on his search for the bright orange sun. On the journey up the canopy he encounters different jungle creatures, all diverting his attention from the real thing—a curled up orange snake, an orange honey-soaked bee hive, even a baboon’s bottom!—each distraction a fun surprise for any young reader. Hodgson’s beautiful illustrations are reminiscent of Henri Rousseau’s paintings, drawing you into the depths of an enchanting, limitless jungle that will capture every child’s imagination.
A is For Anaconda by Anthony Fredericks
At one time rainforests covered about 14% of the earth’s surface; now they’re reduced to just 6%. As home to some of the most diverse plant and animal species ever known, this decline has grave implications for both man and animal kingdoms. Exotic inhabitants including the basilisk lizard and kinkajou are highlighted, along with explanations of forest structure such as understory and canopy. In A is for Anaconda young readers will meet the many endangered plant and animal species, understand the progression of a food web, and appreciate why the rainforest has been called the “world’s medicine chest.”
Sparky! by Jenny Offill
Sparky stars a pet who has more to offer than meets the eye. When our narrator orders a sloth through the mail, the creature that arrives isn’t good at tricks, hide-and-seek or much of anything. Still, there’s something about Sparky that is irresistible.
We’re Roaming in the Rainforest by Laurie Krebs
Three children embark on a day-long trek through the rainforest, discovering all sorts of exotic creatures in their natural habitats. The charming, rhyming text highlights an adjective for each creature. The story is complemented by educational endnotes about the creatures in the story, and the peoples of the rainforest.
Tropical Rain Forest by Donald Silver
Bats and big cats. Armies of ants. Squawking parrots. Strangling figs. From the ground up to the tree tops, the tropical rainforest teems with life. Stunning drawings, step-by-step experiments, fun-to-do activities, and fascinating facts abound in this magical exploration of an ecosystem in danger of disappearing forever. Tropical Rain Forest is a new edition to the One Samll Square Series not previously published in hardcover.
Real-Life Monsters: Creatures of the Rainforest by Matthew Rake
Track down the ten most awe-inspiring animals in the rain forests of the world. Step away from those jaws, claws, and muscles, because here you’ll find: the largest snake in the world, blood-sucking vampires, and an eel that kills its prey with electric shocks
Come face to face with these extreme animals and learn their secrets!
21 Strange Animals That Live in the Rainforest by Serena Dale
Discover Some of the Strangest Animals that Live in the Rainforest. Ever wondered if there are any weird looking bugs other than those you see at home? Are there lizards that can walk on water? And can animals create their own decoys?
The world is filled with glorious, beautiful and sometimes weird creatures. More often than not, these creatures are found in the planet’s various rainforests. Aside from being filled with plants of all shapes and sizes, rainforests are also a hotbed of animals, some of which are the strangest and most curious animals you’ll ever see.
A Rainforest Habitat by Molly Aloian
Nature’s Green Umbrella by Gail Gibbons
In a tropical rain forest, as much as 240 inches of rain may fall in a single year. Beneath the treetop canopy, the rain forest bursts with plant and animal life. But only if we know how important rain forests are to the whole world will we truly understand the need to protect them.
The Shaman’s Apprentice by Lynne Cherry
For thousands of years, in the jungles of the Amazon, shamans have passed their wisdom of the medicinal values of rainforest plants from one generation to the next. The Shaman’s Apprentice tells the story of a Tirio boy who dreams of one day being the tribal shaman. It then shows how he and his people learn the importance of their own knowledge about the healing properties of the rain forest.
Who Am I? Rainforest Animals by Read With You Center for Language Research and Development
Which rainforest animal is a frog that uses its eyes to help it swallow its food? Which rainforest animal is a bird with a big, colorful bill? Let’s learn more about rainforest animals such as sloths, poison dart frogs, toucans, and more!
The Amazon by DK Eyewitness Books
Discover all there is to know about life in, on, and around the world-famous Amazon River. Learn about the river’s geography, its source, the countries through which it flows, and the stunning and diverse ecosystems it has helped create.
Explore the diverse flora and fauna hosted by the river. Take flight with the colorful exotic birds, leap around with the New World monkeys, take a stroll with the forest floor dwellers, and meet the ferocious predators that live in and around this massive river.
Read all about the ancient civilizations that used to inhabit the area, the myths and legends they created, and the indigenous peoples who call the forest their home today. You will also find out how the modern-day industry is affecting the Amazon and what is being done to conserve this amazing ecosystem.
The Best Rainforest Books For Kids
What are some of your favorite rainforest books? Are there any must read children’s rainforest books that I left out? Let me know in the comments, and I’ll add it!
Remember: You can get a sample of the Zonia’s Rain Forest lesson plan and activities FREE by signing up here: