Book pairing is not just a Common Core tool for teachers; it’s a way to stimulate reading in all readers.  There are many types of pairings – fiction and nonfiction, historical fiction and nonfiction, YA lit and classics, and even YA titles with TV shows. As a writer and an environmental educator, I’m pairing nonfiction books with titles that can be termed eco-fiction.

Eco-fiction titles involve environmental themes and issues within a fictionalized story. There are so many wonderful eco-fiction titles appearing on the shelves these days that pair well with books that provide readers with more information on the world around them.



The Race To Save the Lord God Bird by Phillip Hoose tells the dramatic story of the real life attempts to save the Ivory-billed woodpecker from extinction.  Although this is geared to readers ages 12-18 it pairs beautifully with middle grade title The True Blue Scouts of Sugarman Swamp by Kathi Appelt which tells the tale of two raccoon brothers, a 12-year-old boy, and an endangered swamp that might still be the home of the famed woodpecker.


Mission Sea Turtle Rescue by Karen Romano Young and Mission Polar Bear Rescue by Nancy Castaldo and Karen DeSeve are two of the latest titles in the National Geographic Kids Mission series. They both introduce readers to amazing true adventure stories with animals that are at risk. Readers learn about the challenges these creatures face and the scientists helping them.


Mission Sea Turtle Rescue pairs well with The View from Saturday by E. L. Konigsburg that has a wonderful section about a girl involved with sea turtle beach monitoring.


Mission Polar Bear Rescue pairs with Waiting for Unicorns by Beth Hautala about a girl who moves to Churchill, Manitoba with her researcher father.  Another terrific pair is the soon-to-be-released The Arctic Code by Matthew Kirby. Kirby tells the dystopian story of a world encased in ice and the young daughter of a climatologist.


When the Wolves Returned: Restoring Nature’s Balance in Yellowstone by Dorothy Patent tells the story of the extermination and return of the gray wolves to Yellowstone National Park.

The book pairs well with Julie of the Wolves and The Wolves are Back, both by Jean Craighead George.

Another great nonfiction book that focuses on wolves and can be paired with George’s titles is Once a Wolf: How Wildlife Biologists Fought to Bring Back the Gray Wolf by Stephen R. Swinburne.



Fire Birds – Valuing Natural Wildfires and Burned Forests by Sneed Collard pairs well with his YA novel Flash Point and Gary Schmidt’s Okay for Now. Sneed’s Flash Point delves into the difficulties of balancing competing environmental and economic interests.


Gorilla Doctors: Saving Endangered Great Apes by Pamela Turner introduces readers to mountain gorillas and the threats they face. Eliot Schrefer has written two adventure novels that focus on great apes – Endangered and Threatened. Both are perfect examples of eco-fiction and are excellent additions to middle school classroom libraries.


For younger readers interested in great apes check out these. Ivan: The Remarkable True Story of the Shopping Mall Gorilla by Katherine Applegate paired with her award-winning novel, The One and Only Ivan. Both books tell the story of a western lowland gorilla named Ivan who spent the first 27 years of his life in a shopping center enclosure before he was moved to the Atlanta Zoo.


Kids love reading about sharks. Neighborhood Sharks: Hunting with the Great Whites of California’s Farallon Islands, written and illustrated by Katherine Roy introduces young readers to the sharks living right off California’s coast.  Informative and beautifully illustrated, it is perfectly paired with the silly Shark Vs. Train by Chris Barton or Dolphins at Daybreak: #9 in the Magic Tree House series by Mary Pope Osborne.


Readers can take flight with this pairing that focuses on birds. Feathers: Not Just for Flying by Melissa Stewart is a fun pair with Kate Samworth’s satirical, Aviary Wonders Inc. Spring Catalog and Instruction Manual. Both will inspire discussions of adaptation and extinction.


For young readers, Wild About Bears, a beautifully illustrated picture book by Jeannie Brett is the perfect nonfiction book to pair with Brown Bear, Brown Bear What Do You See by Bill Martin, The Little Mouse, The Red Ripe Strawberry and the Big Hungry Bear by Don Wood, or Blueberries for Sal by Robert McCloskey.


SNIFFER DOGSNancy Castaldo is an author, a Regional Advisor for the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrator, and an environmental educator. Her recent title, SNIFFER DOGS: HOW DOGS (AND THEIR NOSES) SAVE THE WORLD, was named an Outstanding Trade Book by the NSTA, and received a Kirkus star. She has written many books for children and strives to empower kids with her stories of people making a difference throughout the world. You can find her online at www.nancycastaldo.com and on Twitter as @NCastaldoAuthor