When I was a child, if I was angry or frustrated or bored, I’d run out my door and directly into the forest that surrounded my home. I didn’t know why at the time, but since learning about the benefits of unstructured, outdoor play as an adult, I believe I was drawn to it because I needed nature as much as I needed air to breathe. I don’t have a forest outside my door anymore (and many reading this will not either), but thankfully, there are dozens of great books to remind us of the impact that nature can have on a child, and help draw us back to it.
by Wendy Pfeffer; illustrated by Robin Brickman (Aladdin Paperbacks 2007)
Three-dimensional paper sculpture complements lyrical text in this nonfiction picture book. Kids get a close-up look at the life cycle of a tree and learn about the interdependence of living creatures in nature.
by T.A. Barron; illustrated by Ted Lewin (Philomel 2004/Rocky Mountain Conservancy 2018)
Colorado-based author T.A. Barron tells the story of eight-year-old Harriet, who overcomes steep slopes, a blizzard, and other surprises on her ascent of Colorado’s Longs Peak. Based on the 1905 historic event of the youngest person to climb the peak, the book was recently republished by the Rocky Mountain Conservancy, a nonprofit organization that supports Rocky Mountain National Park.
by Liz Garton Scanlon; illustrated by Lee White (Schwartz and Wade Books 2018)
Praised as a great read-aloud, when a wind blows on the top of a steep hill, everything turns upside down for the man who lives there. Kate comes up with a plan to protect the man’s house and tame the wind by planting trees.
by Hannah Holt; illustrated by Yee Von Chan (Philomel 2019)
This book shows how a variety of fathers in the animal kingdom help care for their young, from the red fox dad who keeps his children safe by digging burrows, to the male seahorse who keeps his young safe inside his pouch. Written in rhyme, the book also teaches young children colors through animals living in a wide range of environments and climates.
by David Covell (Viking Books for Young
“Lush watercolors capture the joy and movement of outdoor adventures in this ode to unplugging and immersive nature play,” says Carrie Wolfson, children’s librarian at the Denver Public Library. When a girl shouts, “Hey, you! Sky’s blue,” a boy bent over his digital device runs after her, leaving his screen behind for a world full of sunshine.
by Tomson Highway; illustrated by Julie Flett
(Fifth House Publishers 2016)
Recommended by Liesel Schmidt, children’s librarian at the Denver Public Library, Dragonfly Kites tells the story of two brothers who spend a summer in the outdoors at various lakes in Manitoba. They make the acquaintance of a number of creatures and especially love dragonflies. The text is presented in both English and Cree, an aboriginal language most commonly spoken in Canada.
Librarians and books experts also recommend:
- The Magic and Mystery of Trees by Jen Green; illustrated by Claire McElfatrick
- I am a Warrior Goddess by Jennifer Adams; illustrated by Carme Lemniscates
- An ABC of Flowers by Jutta Hilpuesch
- In Blossom by Yooju Cheon
- Hope by Matthew Cordell
- The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein
- You Belong Here by M.H. Clark; illustrated by Isabelle Arsenault
- Hello, World! Ocean Life by Jill MacDonald
- Not Your Nest by Gideon Sterer; illustrated by Andrea Tsurumi
- Lawrence in the Fall by Matthew Farina; illustrated by Doug Salati
- The Home Builders by Varsha Bajaj; illus. by Simona Mulazzani
- The Wolves are Back by Jean Craighead George; illustrated by Wendell Minor
- Lizards by Nic Bishop
- Inky’s Amazing Escape by Sy Montgomery; illustrated by Amy Schimler-Safford
- In the Red Canoe by Leslie A. Davidson; illustrated by Laura Bifano
- Bringing the Outside In by Mary McKenna Siddals; ilustrated by Patrice Barton
- Stick by Irene Dickson
- Shakespeare’s Seasons by Miriam Weiner; illustrated by Shannon Witt
- What a Waste by Jess French
- The Bee Book by Charlotte Milner
- There’s a Hole in the Log at the Bottom of the Lake by Loren Long
- My Tiny Pet by Jessie Hartland
- Camp Tiger by Susan Choi; illustrated by John Rocco
- Daniel’s Good Day by Micha Archer
- Just Like My Brother by Gianna Marino
- Animalicious by Anna Dewdney and Reed Duncan; illustrated by Claudi Boldt
- The Little Green Girl by Lisa Anchin
- Don’t Let Them Disappear by Chelsea Clinton; illustrated by Gianna Marino
- Bear Came Along by Richard T. Morris; illustrated by LeUyen Pham
- The Sun Shines Everywhere by Mary Ann Hoberman; illustrated by Luciano Lozano