On February 14, 1990, NASA’s Voyager 1 spacecraft took an iconic photo of Earth. It was speeding out of the Solar System, beyond Neptune and about 6 billion kilometers from the Sun, when it turned back to look at and click a photo of its home for a final time. This photo would come to be known as the Pale Blue Dot, and astronomer Carl Sagan would go on to famously write:

“The Earth is the only world known so far to harbour life. There is nowhere else, at least in the near future, to which our species could migrate. Visit, yes. Settle, not yet. Like it or not, for the moment the Earth is where we make our stand…To me, it underscores our responsibility to deal more kindly with one another, and to preserve and cherish the pale blue dot, the only home we’ve ever known.”

For this Earth Day, here are some heartwarming and eye-opening stories of the lives that make our home what it is.

Lady Tarzan: Jamuna Takes a Stand, Lavanya Karthik, illustrated by Rajiv Eipe

Jamuna grows up thinking of trees as family, as her brothers and sisters. So what does a good sister do when the lives of her siblings are in danger? Become Lady Tarzan, of course! This is the story of Padma Shree Jamuna Tudu aka Lady Tarzan, and her fearless fight to protect the forests of Muturkham in Jharkhand.

Welcome to the Forest, Bhavana Menon, illustrated by Kavita Singh Kale

A forest walk is the most wondrous experience for every child, and that is how Tulsa and her friends feel when they are invited for a special walk with caring forest socials to steer them around. They touch, feel, smell, listen to, and get to know so many creatures. The illustrations are rich and resplendent with colour. At the end you hear this is a true story and you feel enriched by this experience too.

This is Where We Live, Manjari Chakravarti

Here is a story of a day that starts sunny, turns stormy and rainy, and all this through compelling and bold sketches. The narrative has the ability to connect with the reader’s world, their days of sun, storm and rain, and who knows, it may even encourage them to pick up a pencil and start sketching!

Critters Around Our Homes, Sanjay Sondhi, illustrated by Sushma Durve

Spectacular illustrations add to the charm of this simple book about the creepy-crawlies that surround us in our urban homes. Through a very personalised account, the writer gives us just enough information to keep us engaged and curious.

The Grass Seeker, Uddalak Gupta, photographs by Ruhani Kaur

This is the story of Earth, then and now. The book presents the relationship between beast, land, and humans. It flags the global warming and climate crises as a result of human greed, leading to a fissure in the ecological chain. It reiterates how natural resources have been misused and may nudge the reader to wonder who the real beast is. The book is very timely and a must read for all.

Po Tricks His Foe, Sharmila Deo, illustrated by Niloufer Wadia

Can you imagine an animal with a tongue almost as long as its body? Why would it need such a long one? The Tongue is just one of several unusual things about the creature called a pangolin. This is a story about Po, a little Pangolin, who sets out late one evening to look for food, only to run into some trouble. What tricks can a pangolin play to get out of trouble? read on and find out!

Saahi’s Quest, M Yuvan, illustrated by Anusha Menon

Saahi is a Wandering Glider dragonfly. As soon as she grows wings, she takes off on a quest – to look for more Wandering Gliders. Along the way, she meets many tiny creatures and learns about how they live. But will she find more dragonflies like herself?

A New Home for Ajiri, Sandeep Virmani, illustrated by Niloufer Wadia

Ajiri, a chinkara fawn, gets separated from her mother and is raised by Shivam, the young son of a naturalist and Mitti, a pastoralist girl in the Banni grasslands of Kachchh. Ajiri learns to trust humans as she develops an unusual friendship with Shivam. Will she be reunited with her mother? How does she react when she meets a poacher? Does she survive the encounter?

The Miracle on Sunderbaag Street, Nandita Da Cunha, illustrated by Priya Kuriyan

This is a lovely, layered story of children’s connections with their lived environment. The story portrays the relationship between a child and an adult in a gentle manner, conveying warmth without becoming syrupy-sweet. The illustrations are evocative with each character being unique in its detail, and the garden stunningly coming alive through the pages.

Saving the Dalai Lama’s Cranes, Neeraj Vogholkar, illustrated by Niloufer Wadia

This is a feel-good book but fortunately does not hit you on the head with a do-good message. A simple story, told from the perspective of Tenzin, a young monk, it has a good mix of adventure, encounters with the powers-that-be and beautiful descriptions of nature and animal life in Arunachal Pradesh. The illustrations are tasteful and add to the ambience of the place.

Eeeeks! I Saw a Cockroach, Arthy Muthanna and Mamta Nainy, illustrated by Charulata Mukherjee

Children have always been fascinated by creepy-crawlies, and the common cockroach is a familiar one for most children. This book gives an entertaining insight into its private life, its unique anatomy, its habits and habitats, strange facts like how long a cockroach can hold its breath and its amazing hardiness that has helped it to survive nearly unchanged for millions of years before humans appeared on Earth.

Tiger of the River, Adrian Pinder, illustrated by Maya Ramaswamy

A fantastically written book about the mahseer fish in the Kaveri river. The writing is dramatic and emotional and the illustrations draw you into the world of Matisha: a gorgeous, golden mahseer. The collision of the natural world with the apathy of the humans is well presented. The ending is like a salute to the majestic tiger on land and the tiger in the river.

Shorewalk, Yuvan Aves, photographs by the author

A little girl, Kadalamma, learns of the secrets of the sea as she takes a shorewalk with her fisherman grandfather, Palayam. This book is illustrated with photographs of life and living on the seashore and has an insider’s view of the deep relationship that communities share with the sea and all the life in it. The sensitivity and voice of the narrative, the depth of content and excellent images make the book a wonderful example of narrative nonfiction.

Grandfather’s Tiger Tales, Anjana Basu, illustrated by Aaryama Somayaji

Using the familiar trope of a grandfather who loves to talk of the past, three stories centred around the tiger are narrated to the child, who is both the grandson and the reader. Two of the stories have a germ of historical fact, around which a tale is built. The third one is the old tiger myth of the Sunderbans retold. The royal, dignified, lone tiger, awe-inspiring, terrifying as well as fascinating, shines through all three stories.

Tipu, Sultan of the Siwaliks, Amritharaj Christy Williams

This research memoir attempts to capture the many facets of elephant lives in the wild. The writer gets to know elephants as individuals, and grows close to them, particularly to Tipu, the largest of them in Rajaji National Park, the area of his study. Written in a vivid, lively style, and illustrated with photographs, his book captures changes in physical and socio-cultural landscape and the escalating conflicts with humans, giving a fascinating insight into a complex co-existence of forests, animals and humans in today’s world.

Walking is a Way of Knowing, Madhuri Ramesh and Manish Chandi, illustrated by Matthew Frame

A gentle, evocative book about the wonders that hide in the forest and the wise people who live there, this is a book for all ages – a lilting read-aloud for small children, and a fascinating and wondrous experience for older readers. The book invites readers to look at the world with an open mind and an equally open heart.

People and Wildlife, illustrated by Nayantara Surendranath

These are true stories of forest life and nature. The writers are all nature lovers who have worked in conservation but none of them have an activist tone to them! The stories are gentle, the characters thoughtful and the situations are genuine. Every reader, young and old will respond to these stories in the same spirit.

A Week Along the Ganga, Bharati Jagannathan, illustrated by Bharati Jagannathan, Harish Dhawan and Medha Grover

A motley group of travelers, family and friends, sets out for a week’s trek along the Ganga river. As the journey progresses, many truths are revealed in a gentle but firm manner. These two strands – the enduring yet fragile aspect of both nature and of human relationship are handled sensitively by the author. It is an affectionate and realistic picture of life as many of us know it. Watch out for the ending!

Pedru and the Big Boom, Nandita Da Cunha, illustrated by Niharika Shenoy

Big environmental issues like mining are not easy to make interesting for children. This book manages to do just that, because the reader identifies with the young protagonist who is not initially very aware or interested in such things, but when he is confronted with stark reality he actually gets involved in a scheme for deflecting the impending environmental crisis in his home village and surroundings.