Are your students studying the rainforest or writing rainforest animal reports? This collection of rainforest books will be a useful guide to quickly borrow or buy the books that you need for your upper elementary classroom.
Some of these books are good for lower elementary, but most are best for grades 2nd – 5th. Many of the lists that I’ve found have board books and simple picture books that aren’t very useful for older students who need to do research. However, they still need it to be at an accessible reading level! Thankfully, there are some authors who have met the challenge. This collection of rainforest books for upper elementary will help you get started teaching your rainforest unit right away!
Learning about rainforests was one of our end-of year activities and the students had so much fun! We had rotations with groups of mixed grade levels that would go from classroom to classroom to get a lesson. Each teacher had a topic or lesson that they would teach that day and they would just teach that same lesson to each group. They were focused on hands-on learning, experiments, and writing. I always took the writing lessons and the students would write animal reports. I’ve compiled the information pages that I used into the Rainforest Animal Research Information Pages. You can read more about this bundle here and even research one animal, the Aye-Aye, with a free download here.
Now, on to the rainforest book list! These beautiful picture books are a delight. Some of them are written in a narrative style that is great for read-alouds and some are information books for research and study. Which books are your favorites for upper elementary students?
The Rainforest Book by Charlotte Milner
I like how much of this book is presented in a chart or infographic format. It gives upper elementary students a great way to practice finding facts in nonfiction text features. It would be great for researching general information about rainforest. Readers will learn about types of rainforests, where to find them, plants and animals of the rainforest, rainforest ecosystem, rivers in rainforests, importance or rainforest, and protecting rainforests.
A Boy and a Jaguar
I absolutely love this book! It should be in every classroom. This story is based on the real-life story of Alan, a boy who has a speech impediment. The only time he does not stutter is when he speaks to animals. He is saddened by the captivity of the wild animals at the zoo and vows to become a voice for animals. Later, we learn that he grew up to become a zoologist, conservationist, biologist, and CEO of a nonprofit conservation organization.
Unfolding Journeys – Amazon Adventure by Stewart Ross
Published by Lonely Planet Kids
This book features a large frieze that is revealed as you unfold the pages. It is a map that shows the Amazon river with details of the locations, landmarks, people, and animals along the way. The other side of it provides even more details. This would work great with an upper elementary classroom. You could share parts of it under the document camera so they can see the detailed information, or you could share it with a small group.
Amazon River by Sangma Francis
I’m a big fan of Flying Eye books. They have such a unique style of artwork for today with the retro yet modern style. The illustrations are a work of art. I just enjoy seeing them on my book shelf! This is a great book to add to your collection of rainforest books for your upper elementary students.
Amazon River is divided into 4 sections:
- From Source to Sea
- Wildlife of the Riverbank
- People of the Rainforest
- Life on the River
Welcome to the Green House by Jane Yolen illustrated by Laura Regan
This picture book is a poetic look at the rainforest. The rainforest is described as a big house with a canopy for a roof, thick trees for the doors, and vines framing the windows. The author uses descriptive words for the features, animals, sounds, and colors of the rainforest. This one is good for all elementary grades.
Here are a few activities that you could try with this rainforest book:
- List the animals
- Write the collective nouns for the animals
- Write a list of adjectives that you find in the book
- Writing lesson from Read-Write-Think for grades 3-5
Verdi by Janell Cannon
This classic fiction book has themes of change, uniqueness, and accepting yourself. I included this one since it features a python. It would go great with a rainforest unit.
Tropical Rainforests by Seymour Simon
Seymour Simon is known for his nonfiction books. These books are a great level for upper elementary students. The Amazon Rainforest is the main feature, but others are mentioned as well. It features vivid photographs and interesting facts. This is a nonfiction book that works great as a read-aloud.
The Leaf Detective by Heather Lang
“We are PART of our ecosystem, not outside it.”Meg Lowman
I enjoyed how this book started with Meg as a scientist in the rainforest trying to solve a problem. It describes her lifelong love for studying leaves. The next page then describes Meg in her childhood as a shy, studious girl who “wrapped herself in nature like a soft blanket.”
I really enjoy biographies and this one is perfect for adding to your rainforest studies. There are great themes of problem-solving and persistence. This book will really appeal to kids who love nature and can relate to Meg’s childhood activities. It also gives these kids an idea of a future working in biology or ecology. It even features a female scientist!
An added bonus is that this book focuses on tropical rainforests in Australia, so it is a nice addition to the Amazon rainforest books. This is a great biography picture book to add to your rainforest books for upper elementary.
Something Wonderful by Matt Ritter
This book is centered around the life cycle of a tropical fig and the creatures that call it home. This book is great for any elementary grade. The text is sparse and simple, but doesn’t seem too young.
Something Wonderful has such fascinating information that many elementary students will find new. I knew about strangler figs and how they could take over a host tree, but I had never really thought about the process of the seed falling and germinating right on the branch of another tree. It was really interesting!
This goes well with learning about life cycles, seed dispersal, pollinators, and parasitic plants. You can also look for the red-eyed tree frog on every page.
The Great Kapok Tree by Lynne Cherry
This is a classic rainforest conservation book. A young man goes to cut down a Kapok Tree and decides to take a nap underneath it to rest. Then, he is visited by the animals and a young boy who depend on the tree. At the end, he decides to not cut down the Kapok tree.
This book is suitable for any elementary grade. Here are some questions and activities that could work with upper elementary students. I like the idea of having them make a comic strip (about 4 panels) to illustrate this book. The book has a linear plot, so it would be an easy one to summarize in that way.
Nature’s Green Umbrella by Gail Gibbons – Rainforest nonfiction book
Gail Gibbons is another popular nonfiction author, because she has a great way of explaining topics. She is also the illustrator of her books! I have several of her books and this is definitely one to add to your rainforest books if you teach upper elementary.
This book would be great for a read-aloud to introduce your rainforest unit, since it explains why a rainforest is important and really gives you an overview of a rainforest.
Students will learn about the water cycle, photosynthesis, layers of the rainforest, indigenous people, and the plant and animal life that is part of this ecosystem.
One Small Square Tropical Rain Forest by Donald M. Silver
This is such a great book series! The author takes a hypothetical square foot of land in a biome and describes what you might might find it.
These books are packed full of details and they encourage students to take a close-up look (in-person or virtually) to the life within each habitat.
DK Eyewitness the Amazon – rainforest reference book for upper elementary
This is a great reference book. It is like a picture encyclopedia of many of the plants and animals within a rainforest as well as vocabulary and topics. It’s a great addition to the upper elementary classroom.
All the Way Down: Amazon Rainforest by Alex Woolf
Some of the nice features about this book are:
- the layers are shown with measurements (measurement markings are on the side of each page)
- labeled illustrations
- more information is available on the side margin
Along the Tapajos by Fernando Vilela – a rainforest fiction story
This story is about a brother and sister who live by the Tapajos River in Brazil. It is full of adventure as they rescue their pet tortoise. It gives kids a glimpse into how people live a location that may be very different from where they live. This isn’t a good book for learning about the rain forest, but rather a good window story to introduce students to people and locations beyond their own experiences.
Doyli to the Rescue by Cathleen Burnham – a true rainforest story for upper elementary students
This book starts out with a monkey almost dying and that could be distressing to some students. The focus of the book though is on rescuing these animals and how to prevent that form happening. This true story is about a girl who saves monkeys in the rainforests of Peru.
Emily: 10 Year Old Champion of Rainforest Animals in Need by Cathleen Burnham
Here’s another book by Cathleen Burnham. I love that these books feature true stories and that the children are the ages of elementary students.
Emily helps to save sloths and other rainforest animals through a youth conservation program.
This book is out-of-print, but you might be able to find it used or at the library.
No Monkeys, No Chocolate by Melissa Stewart
The first great thing about this book is students learn about how chocolate is made. We are so far removed from our food sources today that it is often a complete mystery for young kids about the plants and trees that produce certain foods or products.
This is an excellent book to teach about pollination and plant interdependence.
“Cocoa flowers can’t bloom without cocoa leaves . . . and maggots,”
Tuki and Moka: A Tale of Two Tamarins by Judy Young
This story begins with a young boy, Eduardo, and his family that lives near a rainforest in Ecuador. They travel to the rainforest to gather Brazil nuts. He likes to play with 2 tamarins there, but then they are taken by poachers. Can Eduardo save them?
This fictional story will entertain the students while teaching them about rainforest animals and the threats that they face.
The Umbrella by Jan Brett
Jan Brett books are popular with the lower grades, but they can still be enjoyed at the upper grades too!
The format of this book is the same as the Mitten or the Hat books by Jan Brett. An umbrella is left at the base of a tree and a puddle forms in it. The animals keep crawling into it until there is no more room and they spill out.
Upper elementary students will have fun taking this book apart. It’s fiction, but discuss if it could really happen. Could these animals be close to each other?
Have students compare and contrast the book with the Mitten or the Hat.
Study what really happens in a puddle in the rainforest. What creatures are found there?
You could also use this book to learn a few Spanish words!
Orangutanka: A Story in Poems by Margarita Engle
This is definitely one with illustrations and text that are geared to a younger audience, but it can be a great mentor text for upper elementary.
Tanka poems are a Japanese short poem that uses a specific syllable count for each line.
Poetry4Kids has a great explanation and a downloadable worksheet.
A is for Anaconda by Anthony D. Fredericks
I really enjoy reading alphabet books with older students. For this book, there are just a few lines for each letter but then the margins give detailed information.
There are a lot of activies that you can do with this book!
You could give each student a letter to learn more about rainforest thing that goes with that letter. Students, or small groups, could try to come up with a list of other rainforest things for each letter.
Plus, it’s great alphabetizing practice! My older students always seem to forget the alphabet!!
Adventures of Riley: Amazon River Rescue by Amanda Lumry
This book will appeal more to younger grades. It would work well for 2nd and 3rd grade.
I like these features;
- fictional story that makes you feel like you’re visiting
- real photos with illustrations on top of them
- info boxes about some of the animals and rainforest facts
- a 2 page illustration of the layers of the rainforest (turn the book sideways to view the whole illustration)
Rain Forests – A Magic Tree House Research Guide book for Upper Elementary
The Magic Tree House guides are always a big hit for middle grades. Whether you read the Magic Tree House novel (Afternoon on the Amazon) or not, there is a lot to learn form this guide. BTW, they are now called fact trackers instead of research guides.
Here are the chapters:
- What is a Rain Forest?
- Layers of a Tropical Rain Forest
- Rain Forest Plants
- Rain Forest Creatures
- People of the Rain Forest
- Gifts of the Rain Forest
- Saving the Rain Forests
Next, are a couple of books that would work great for read-aloud chapter books
Rainforest Rescue by Jan Burchett
“In the jungles of South Borneo, an orangutan has set up home on a dangerous palm oil plantation. He has been resisting all attempts to move him to the safety of the nearby reservation. When Ben and Zoe arrive to try to help, they discover that illegal logging is taking place. As they investigate, it quickly becomes clear that the orangutan isn’t the only one in grave danger.”from the publisher, Stone Arch books
Afternoon on the Amazon by Mary Pope Osborne
“Vampire bats and killer ants? That’s what Jack and Annie are about to run into when the Magic Tree House whisks them away to the Amazon River. It’s not long before they get hopelessly lost. Will they be able to find their way back to the tree house? Or are Jack and Annie stuck forever in the rain forest?“from the publisher, Random House Books for Young Readers
I hope this collection of rainforest books for upper elementary classrooms introduced you to some new titles. If you need specific information about Rainforest Animals be sure to check out my Rainforest Animal Research Information Pages. You can click here for more information or to add it to your cart.
Wishing you a day filled with happiness!
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