On the occasion of August 12 being International Youth Day, we recommend some books that acknowledge the impact that youth service, activism, and initiative can have on the world.

This is the Boat that Ben Built by Jen Lynn Bailey, illustrated by Maggie Zeng

Jenn Lynn Bailey’s heartwarming picture book introduces us to intrepid little adventurer, Ben. Ben has built a boat and named it Explorer. Equipped with some sample-collection gear and his scientific curiosity, Ben sets out to explore the river while his mom and their dog sit nearby and watch him. While exploring the river, Ben meets a black bear, a moose, a goose, a loon, a beaver, and, of course, lots of local fish. Ben loves to watch the antics of these creatures and spend a beautiful day observing the goings-on in the natural world. This is the Boat that Ben Built is a gentle picture book full of gorgeous, aquamarine illustrations by Maggie Zeng that celebrates the inquisitive spirit of its little hero and his humorous exploration of a northern river ecosystem. The book makes for a good introduction for conversations about ecology, food webs, species diversity, and the interconnectedness of all the creatures – including humans – that share the Earth. Bailey’s author note at the back of the book spotlights facts about every animal Ben has met and invites readers to think like an ecologist about the ways in which they are all connected. Grades Preschool-2         

When My Dad Went to the Jungle by Gusti, illustrated by Anne Decis

The Amazon is the world’s largest tropical rainforest, famous for its biodiversity and rich wildlife. But this forest is fast shrinking due to agriculture and deforestation. Spanish author Gusti (Gustavo Rosemffet) has worked in the Amazon and volunteered to assist the native Sápara peoples in protecting an endangered bird. When My Dad Went to the Jungle is inspired by his time in the Amazon and portrays a young boy who shares exciting facts and stories about the peoples, plants, and animals who inhabit the Amazon rainforest. The boy has heard a lot about the forest from his dad and he compares what life is like over there with his life in the city. If he were to go to the Amazon, the little one reckons, he would ask the Sápara peoples for permission to explore their land and be respectful to the jungle’s inhabitants. But one thing he knows he’d surely do, which is, of course, invite the spirits for donuts and hot cocoa! When My Dad Went to the Jungle portrays a young boy exploring big ideas about the natural world and the importance of always respecting the lands we walk, gather, and play on. Grades Preschool-2   

Not So Small by Pat Zietlow Miller, illustrated by Paola Escobar

Pat Zietlow Miller is the New York Times bestselling author of Be Kind. In that book, a little girl makes the choice to be kind to her classmate, instead of being hurtful like the rest of the kids. Her kindness turns the day around for the girl who’s being bullied and demonstrates how an act of kindness can go a long way. Not So Small shares a similar message that all of us can make a difference. This is an uplifting picture book that wants to instil in young readers that no matter their size, they can do big things. Written in lyrical text, Zietlow Miller celebrates the optimism and fighting spirit of youth and how they can make a difference if they come together to form an unstoppable force. Vibrant illustrations by Paola Escobar are the perfect accompaniment to the text that shows how each and every one of us can use our voices to make a difference. Grades Preschool-2