Wherever rivers flow, they don’t just change the landscape — they also influence culture, economy, politics, and ecology. These 10 books highlight fascinating river systems from around the world.
A River’s Gifts: The Mighty Elwha River Reborn by Patricia Newman, illustrated by Natasha Donovan
This inspiring book chronicles the story of the Elwha river. For thousands of years, it provided salmon which helped feed the bears, otters, and eagles. It also nourished the Lower Elwha Klallam Tribe, known as the Strong People located in the Pacific Northwest. But in the 1790s, all that came to a grinding halt. Strangers came to build dams, and disastrous environmental consequences ensued. The Strong People did not back down, and fought tirelessly to restore the river and their way of life. This is a must read for children to learn the value of rivers, as well as how the ecosystem is related to people, plants, and animals.
Amazon Adventure: How Tiny Fish are Saving the World’s Largest Rainforest by Sy Montgomery, photographs by Keith Ellenbogen
This incredible book follows an expedition through the waters of Brazil’s Rio Negro, a tributary of the Amazon River that boasts a thriving tropical fish industry. Local fishermen catch tiny fish, called piaba, sell them at a market in the town of Barcelos, and ship them to aquariums all over the world. The fish trade is vital not only to the local economy and culture but also to important environmental conservation efforts. With vibrant photos on every page, this book offers an up-close look at the complex relationship between people and piaba.
Ten Rivers That Shaped the World by Marilee Peters, illustrated by Kim Rosen
As the rivers of our world twist and turn, they also mold our history. Readers can take a metaphorical dive into 10 fascinating rivers that shaped our lives and learn fun facts along the way such as why people in India have gathered to bathe in the Ganges for thousands of years. The book shows readers that rivers can be extraordinarily powerful, not simply because of their fast-flowing currents, but because of their ability to make civilizations rise or crumble. Through a colorful and engaging layout, this book teaches both geography and world history.
Where is the Mississippi River? by Dina Anastasio, illustrated by Ted Hammond
Part of the popular Where Is? series, this chapter book traces the history of the Mississippi River from its formation during the Ice Age into the present day. Over time, the “mighty Mississippi” has been a home for wetland wildlife, an important route for trade and military campaigns, and an inspiration for classic literature. Engineering connections are embedded into a section about flooding disasters and various efforts to design flood-prevention structures like levees and spillways.
Pond and River (DK Eyewitness Books) by Steve Parker
This in-depth browsable book introduces freshwater plants and animals with photo illustrations and short captions. Each page spread features a different category of organisms, from midsummer plants to waterfowl to dragonflies and damselflies.
Endangered Rivers: Investigating Rivers in Crisis by Rani Iyer
Around the world, river ecosystems are threatened by pollution, climate change, overfishing, and invasive species. As a result, many river species are now endangered, and many communities face shortages of clean drinking water. This short book provides a concise introduction to the problems facing rivers as well as the policies and practices that aim to provide solutions.
Amazing Rivers: 100+ Waterways that Will Boggle your Mind by Julie Vosburgh Agnone, illustrated by Kerry Hyndman
A boiling river so hot you can cook an egg in it? A multicolored river that flows like a liquid rainbow? In this book, readers will go on an adventure as they tour the world, learning about 100 of the most extraordinary rivers. Along the way, they will learn about the incredible wildlife that rivers sustain, from brown bears catching salmon that swim upstream to anacondas large enough to eat a pig. They will also learn about the societies that rely on these rivers, as well as the environmental issues that threaten them along the way.
Going Blue: A Teen Guide to Saving Our Oceans, Lakes, Rivers & Wetlands by Cathryn Berger Kaye, M.A. and Philippe Cousteau with EarthEcho International
Written in conjunction with ocean spokesperson Philippe Cousteau, grandson of the illustrious Captain Jacques Cousteau, this call-to-action book is both interesting and commendable for its well-researched content. The book educates readers about the earth’s water crisis and gives them tangible tools and inspiration to transform their ideas into action. This includes practical suggestions they can implement today in order to benefit our planet’s water system. The content is not only theoretical but also experience based, as it shows readers of the value of community service. The book also includes many stories, interviews, and resources on the topic
My River: Cleaning up the Lahave River by Stella Bowles and Anne Laurel Carter
This engaging book tells the story of Stella Bowles, a sixth grade Nova Scotia student who became an environmental activist. She focused her science fair project on her campaign against sewage pipes draining straight into the LaHave River. She doggedly advocated for all three levels of government (municipal, provincial, and federal) to step up and do something about the issue, and after fighting for two and a half years, she succeeded in rallying supporters into funding a $15.7 million cleanup. This is an excellent book about not only environmental activism but also having the courage to stand up and speak out when you see something that isn’t right.
Great Rivers of the World by Volker Mehnert, illustrated by Martin Haake
This gorgeous atlas travels down 17 rivers in six continents, from the Rhine in Europe to the Murray in Australia. Each river is introduced with a full-page map, a short narrative, and fascinating facts about its history and ecology. With eye-popping icons of landmarks, animals, plants, and people, readers will always find more to discover and explore.
This month’s STEM Tuesday book list was prepared by:
Lydia Lukidis is the author of 50+ trade and educational books for children. Her titles include DEEP, DEEP, DOWN: The Secret Underwater Poetry of the Mariana Trench (Capstone, 2023) and THE BROKEN BEES’ NEST (Kane Press, 2019) which was nominated for a Cybils Award. A science enthusiast from a young age, she now incorporates her studies in science and her everlasting curiosity into her books. Another passion of hers is fostering a love for children’s literacy through the writing workshops she regularly offers in elementary schools across Quebec with the Culture in the Schools program. For more information, please visit www.lydialukidis.com.
Callie Dean is a researcher, writer, and musician living in Shreveport, LA. She writes stories that spark curiosity and encourage kids to explore their world. Follow her on Twitter at https://twitter.com/CallieBDean.