Tag Archives: social movements

Perfect Pairing Celebrates Earth Day

As we celebrate Earth Day this week, I’m sharing two thought-provoking picture books that help us consider our roles in this world.

Carl and the Meaning of Life

Author & Illustrator: Deborah Freedman

Publisher/Date: Viking, an imprint of Penguin Young Readers/2019

Ages: 3 & up

Themes: earthworms; curiosity; environmentalism

Short Synopsis (from Goodreads):

Carl is an earthworm. He spends his days happily tunneling in the soil until a field mouse asks him a simple question that stops him short: “Why?” Carl’s quest takes him on an adventure to meet all the animals of the forest, each of whom seems to know exactly what they were put on this earth to do, unlike the curious Carl. But it’s not until the world around him has changed that Carl begins to realize everyone, no matter how small, makes a big difference just by being themselves.

Read a review in The Horn Book.

I Am Henry Finch

Author: Alexis Deacon

Illustrator: Viviane Schwartz

Publisher/Date: Candlewick Press/2016 (originally published in the UK by Walker Books)

Ages: 5-8

Themes: Finches, thinking for yourself, individuality, greatness, social movements, philosophy

Short Synopsis (from Goodreads):

This is a book about Henry Finch who strives for greatness, gets it all a bit wrong, then makes it right again in a very surprising way – truly becoming great. Henry Finch is a total inspiration. This is an inspirational book. It is also very funny. I Am Henry Finch is a book for everyone – from the very young to the very old. It is for dreamers, philosophers, artists, the foolish and the enlightened. And anyone with a big bright idea. Vegetarians will love it too.

Read my review.

I paired these books because both feature small creatures that we often may not think much about, and both include subtle environmental themes. With childlike simplicity, Carl questions the other animals to find out why he burrows through the earth, “turning hard dirt into fluffy soil”. Only when the soil becomes hard as rock does he understand that his actions are essential to the ecosystem. Thinking great thoughts and seeking “greatness”, Henry attacks a large beast that threatens his species. He convinces it to be aware of its actions on the other birds and animals and to change its behavior. With their philosophical questions and reasoning, I think both picture books will spur lively discussion about our roles on this earth and our duty to it.

Looking for similar reads?

See a recent list of children’s books for Earth Day at Pragmatic Mom.


As lilacs replace daffodils and tulips, and as bare tree branches don vivid cloaks of green, the birds flock to our feeder and serenade us from the evergreens near the bedroom window. imageOne cheeky fellow even tap-tap-taps on our window and adorns a balcony railing. With these scenes in mind, I couldn’t resist today’s perfect picture book:


9780763678128_p0_v1_s192x300Title: I AM HENRY FINCH

Written By: Alexis Deacon

Illustrated By: Viviane Schwarz

Publisher/date: Candlewick Press, 2015 (British edition: Walker Books)

Suitable for Ages: 5-8

Themes/Topics: Finches, thinking for yourself, individuality, greatness, social movements

Opening: “The finches lived in a great flock. They made such a racket all day long, they really could not hear themselves think.”

Brief Synopsis: Henry Finch awakens in the silence of the night, has a thought that he can be great, and, despite a major setback, transforms his thoughts into action.

Links to Resources:

Why I Like this Book:

This perfect picture book resonates on so many levels: it’s the story of an introverted entrepreneur who breaks out of the sameness of the flock and starts a social movement.

Henry thinks his first thought only during the stillness of the night, when he is free of the cacophony of the flock. Like a true introvert, he needs silence to hear his own inner voice. He then brings this thought into action – an action that he hopes will bring greatness, but that in reality does so much more: it solves a problem and causes others to change.

As change occurs (I won’t spoil it and say what or how), I can’t help but paraphrase a popular song of my youth, if one person does something out of the ordinary, he’s sick; by three, it’s an organization; by fifty, it’s a movement.

The simplicity of the adorable thumbprint red finches and the startling white on black “interior” spreads as Henry contemplates the circle of life, add so much to this picture book and provide a vivid lesson on the necessity of pictures to help tell a story.

It’s no wonder that I AM HENRY FINCH has garnered so many awards: a starred Kirkus review; USBBY/CBC Outstanding International Book; and most recently, the Little Rebels’ Children’s Book Award 2016, run by the Alliance of Radical Booksellers in Britain. I heartily recommend what some reviewers have dubbed a “philosophical” picture book to readers and listeners of any age.

This Perfect Picture Book entry is being added to Susanna Hill’s Perfect Picture Books list. Check out the other great picture books featured there!