I am looking for recommendations of books for older kids (say aged 9 to 12) that encourage respect for and love of nature. Ideally involving kids in that same age range as main characters. The books that I have found so far have been incredibly disappointing.
Two examples of popular books that I consider to be really BAD examples:
"Rascal" by Sterling North, and "Owls in the Family" by Farley Mowat. Both of these books are semi-auto-biographical accounts of each author's animal collection from when they were boys, back when it was considered "acceptable" to steal baby animals from their nests and dens (and families!), then take them home as "pets". The settings in 1910's and 1930's rural America where kids would play and climb trees and swim in creeks and learn about the plants and animals around them would seem to be ideal--except for that horribly persistent underlying cultural attitude in these books that nature is simply there for us to exploit.
Fortunately, I screened these two books before I read them with my son. But I think that if he had read the part in "Rascal" where the main character (the author as a child) and his dog first dig out a raccoon burrow, chase the mother raccoon into a tree, then climb up the tree to saw off the branch she is cowering on to send her crashing to the ground, then finally grabbing and stealing one of her tiny raccoon kits to take home and attempt to domesticate--I really do think it would have brought my son to tears--it certainly did so for me.