by Jennifer Fontaine – Children are the future stewards of the earth. Starting in childhood, it’s important that they learn to appreciate and take care of nature, so why not nurture that with vibrant and informative nature books?
This list of children’s books gently discusses critical subjects like what we can do to help preserve our natural resources, how to investigate and explore the inner-workings of ecosystems, and nature books inspire curiosity to delve deeper into topics like conservation, while underscoring lessons of love, compassion, and inclusion.
These children’s books are some of our most favorite nature books for kids, carefully curated by our editorial team to inspire your child’s inner naturalist. It also serves as a catalyst for finding purpose and passion in exploring and connecting to nature. Happy Reading!
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by Sara O’Leary
32 pages. Ages 3-7
Sadie is a little girl with a big imagination. She has been a girl who lived under the sea and a boy raised by wolves. She has had adventures in wonderland and visited the world of fairytales. She whispers to the dresses in her closet and talks to birds in the treetops. She has wings that take her anywhere she wants to go, but that always bring her home again. She likes to make things — boats out of boxes and castles out of cushions. But more than anything Sadie likes stories, because you can make them from nothing at all. For Sadie, the world is so full of wonderful possibilities … This is Sadie, and this is her story.
by Akiko Miyakoshi
32 pages. Ages 3-7
When a young girl named Kikko realizes her father has forgotten the pie he was supposed to bring to Grandma’s house, she offers to try and catch him as he makes his way through the woods. She hurriedly follows her father’s footprints in the snow and happens upon a large house she has never seen before. Curious, Kikko peers through the window, when she is startled by a small lamb wearing a coat and carrying a purse. Even more surprising, the lamb speaks, asking her in a kind voice, “Are you here for the tea party”? Suddenly, Kikko realizes her trip through the woods has turned into something magical.
Award-winning author and illustrator Akiko Miyakoshi has beautifully crafted an original fairy tale picture book that will delight and enchant. The unique visual presentation features mostly black-and-white art with the occasional use of red or yellow to help guide readers through the pages. Kikko’s blend of courage and reticence along with her inquisitive nature makes her a character children will relate to, and the many unexpected twists and turns of her adventure keep the intrigue growing.
The ambiguous ending — in which it is not clear whether Kikko imagined the tea party or if the animals simply disappeared back into the woods — provides a terrific opportunity for children to weigh in on what they think happened. This book also could launch classroom conversations about children’s own experiences of being trusted with big responsibilities.
by Maria Dek
48 pages. Ages 3-6
A Walk in the Forest is a stunning invitation to discover the woods as a place for both imaginative play and contemplation: collect pinecones, feathers, or stones; follow the tracks of a deer; or listen to the chirping of birds and the whisper of trees. Build a shelter and play hide-and-seek. Pretend the woods are a jungle, or shout out loud to stir up the birds! The forest comes alive in all its mysterious glory in Maria Dek’s charming watercolor images and poetic text.
by Lola M. Schaefer
36 pages. Ages 5-6
Because of an acorn, a tree grows, a bird nests, a seed becomes a flower. Enchanting die-cuts illustrate the vital connections between the layers of an ecosystem in this magical book. Wander down the forest path to learn how every tree, flower, plant, and animal connect to one another in spiraling circles of life. An acorn is just the beginning.
5. Rain School
by James Rumford
32 pages. Ages 4-7
James Rumford, who lived in Chad as a Peace Corps volunteer, fills these pages with vibrant ink-and-pastel colors of Africa and the spare words of a poet to show how important learning is in a country where only a few children are able to go to school.
by Rita Gray
32 pages. Ages 4-7
Flowers are calling to all the animals of the forest, “Drink me!”—but it’s the pollinators who feast on their nectar. In rhyming poetic form and with luminous artwork, this book shows us the marvel of natural cooperation between plants, animals, and insects as they each play their part in the forest’s cycle of life.
by Rita Gray
32 pages. Ages 4-7
Woodpecker calls from a tree, “cuk-cuk-cuk.” Starling sings, “whistle-ee-wee.” But have you heard the nesting bird? In this book, we hear all the different bird calls in counterpoint to the pervasive quiet of a mama bird waiting for her eggs to hatch.
Fun and informative back matter takes the shape of an interview so that readers learn more right from the bird’s bill.
Ken Pak’s lively illustrations, paired with Rita Gray’s words, render a visual and sonorous picture book to be enjoyed by young naturalists. Now in paperback.
by Katie Cotton
32 pages. Ages 5-7
Fierce and tender, this beautifully illustrated picture book depicts the journeys of woodland animals as they seek the safety of home in a wild, unpredictable world. Birds risk the elements to fly south for the winter. Rabbits flee wolves to find warm, safe havens in the burrows. Wolves race the threat of hunger before seeking their dens.
All are parents teaching their young the ways of survival in a dangerous world. In the end, each pair of animals finds the comfort of home in each other, reinforcing the depth of the bond between parent and child. With soft and stunning art, this book is a giftable meditation on the fierce beauty of life and the love we find as we seek the way home.
by Jean E. Pendziwol
32 pages. Ages 4-7
In this exquisite lullaby, the beauty and wonder of a northern winter night unfold, with images of a soft snowfall, the wild animals that appear in the garden, the twinkling stars, the gentle rhythm of the northern lights and the etchings of frost on the window pane.
As the young child sleeps, wrapped in a downy blanket, a snowflake falls, and then another and another. The poem describes the forest of snow-covered pines, where a deer and fawn nibble a frozen apple, and a great gray owl swoops down with its feathers trailing through the snow. Two snowshoe hares scamper and play under the watchful eyes of a little fox, and a tiny mouse scurries in search of a midnight feast. When the snow clouds disappear, stars light up the sky, followed by the mystical shimmering of northern lights – all framed by the frost on the window.
Jean E. Pendziwol’s lyrical poem reflects a deep appreciation of the magic of a northern winter night where, even as a child slumbers, the world outside does not rest but continues its own natural rhythms.
Isabelle Arsenault’s spare, beautifully rendered illustrations, with their subtle but striking use of color, make us feel that we too are experiencing the enchantment of that northern night. They simultaneously evoke winter’s nighttime life and the cozy warmth and security of a beloved child’s sleep.
10. You Belong Here
by M.H. Clark
32 pages. Ages 5-6
The stars belong in the deep night sky, and the moon belongs there too, and the winds belong in each place they blow by, and I belong here with you. So begins this classic bedtime book, richly illustrated by award-winning artist Isabelle Arsenault.
The pages journey around the world, observing plants and animals, everywhere, and reminding children that they are right where they belong. A beautiful title for new babies, adoptive families, and children of all ages.
by Emily Hughes
40 pages. Ages 3-7
Celebrate the tender story The Little Gardener with a beautiful new cover in the updated 2018 edition!
There was once a little gardener and his garden meant everything to him. He worked hard, very hard, but he was just too little (or at least he felt he was).
In this gentle, beautiful tale, Emily Hughes, the celebrated author of Wild, departs from the larger than life Wild-girl of her debut to pursue a littler than life Gardener, in a story that teaches us just how important it is to persist and try, no matter what the odds.
With delicately woven tapestries of illustrated magic, Hughes once again transports us to a world not unlike our own, while still brimming with fantasy and wonder.
12. Beyond the Pond
by Joseph Kuefler
40 pages. Ages 4-8
A stunning picture book about the power of imagination, perfect for fans of Extra Yarn and Journey, from debut author-illustrator Joseph Kuefler.
Just behind an ordinary house filled with too little fun, Ernest D. decides that today will be the day he explores the depths of his pond.
Beyond the pond, he discovers a not-so-ordinary world that will change him forever.
13. A River
by Marc Martin
44 pages. Ages 5-8
There’s a river outside my window. Where will it take me? So begins the imaginary journey of a child inspired by the view outside her bedroom window: a vast river winding through a towering city. A small boat with a single white sail floats down the river and takes her from factories to farmlands, freeways to forests, out to the stormy and teeming depths of the ocean, and finally back to the comforts—and inspirations—of home.
This lush, immersive book by award-winning picture book creator Marc Martin will delight readers of all ages by taking them on a transcendent and aspirational journey through an imaginative landscape.
by M.H. Clark
32 pages. Ages 4-8
The man made of stars is hard at work every night, bringing more and more light to the world, bit by bit. But what is his secret, and where does he go every evening when he walks out past town with his lantern twinkling?
This is the story of one curious child who, determined to come up with an answer to this mystery, discovers something incredible about himself. It is a reminder that small acts have great consequences, and that there is always room for more light in the world.
15. Dream Animals
by Emily Winfield Martin
34 pages. Ages Preschool and up
Ideal for bedtime reading, this board book will be a hit with sleepy tots! Emily Winfield Martin convinces little ones to close their eyes and discover what their dream animal might be—a fox? a bear? a narwhal?—and what dream it might take them to.
With perfect nighttime rhymes and gorgeous illustrations, this book is irresistible.
by Maurice Sendak
48 pages. Ages 4-8
Where the Wild Things Are is fifty years old! Maurice Sendak’s Caldecott Medal-winning picture book has become one of the most highly acclaimed and best-loved children’s books of all time. A must for every child’s bookshelf.
Introduce a new generation to Max’s imaginative journey with this special anniversary edition. Let the wild rumpus continue as this classic comes to life like never before with new reproductions of Maurice Sendak’s artwork.
Astonishing state-of-the-art technology faithfully captures the color and detail of the original illustrations. Sendak himself enthusiastically endorsed this impressive new interpretation of his art before his death in 2012. This iconic story has inspired a movie, an opera, and the imagination of generations.
17. The Circus Ship
by Chris Van Dusen
40 pages. Ages 4-8
When a circus ship runs aground off the coast of Maine, the poor animals are left on their own to swim the chilly waters. Staggering onto a nearby island, they soon win over the wary townspeople with their kind, courageous ways. So well do the critters blend in that when the greedy circus owner returns to claim them, villagers of all species conspire to outsmart the bloated blowhard.
With buoyant rhymes and brilliantly caricatured illustrations evoking the early nineteenth century, Chris Van Dusen presents a hugely entertaining tale about the bonds of community — and a rare hidden-pictures spread for eagle-eyed readers of all ages.
by Robert McCloskey
64 pages. Ages 3-7
Kuplink, kuplank, kuplunk! Sal and her mother a picking blueberries to can for the winter. But when Sal wanders to the other side of Blueberry Hill, she discovers a mama bear preparing for her own long winter. Meanwhile Sal’s mother is being followed by a small bear with a big appetite for berries! Will each mother go home with the right little one?
With its expressive line drawings and charming story, Blueberries for Sal has won readers’ hearts since its first publication in 1948.
“The adventures of a little girl and a baby bear while hunting for blueberries with their mothers one bright summer day. All the color and flavor of the sea and pine-covered Maine countryside.”—School Library Journal, starred review.
by Mac Barnett
40 pages. Ages 4-8
Sam and Dave are on a mission. A mission to find something spectacular. So they dig a hole. And they keep digging. And they find . . . nothing. Yet the day turns out to be pretty spectacular after all.
Attentive readers will be rewarded with a rare treasure in this witty story of looking for the extraordinary — and finding it in a manner you’d never expect.
20. Finding Wild
by Megan Wagner Lloyd
32 pages. Ages 3-7
A lovely, lyrical picture book with gorgeous illustrations that explores the ways the wild makes itself known to us and how much closer it is than we think. There are so many places that wild can exist, if only you know where to look! Can you find it?
Two kids set off on an adventure away from their urban home and discover all the beauty of the natural world. From the bark on the trees to the sudden storm that moves across the sky to fire and flowers, and snowflakes and fresh fruit. As the children make their way through the woods and back to the paved and noisy streets, they discover that wild exists not just off in some distant place, but right in their own backyard.
by Jenny Broom
48 pages. Ages 7-10
Open the gates of the Wonder Garden to explore five of Earth’s most extraordinary habitats, each filled with incredible creatures and epic scenery. Trek through the Amazon Rainforest, travel to the Chihuahuan Desert, dive in the Great Barrier Reef, delve deep into the Black Forest and stand on the roof of the world – the Himalayan Mountains – to see nature at its wildest.
Breathtaking, engraved illustrations bring to life Earth’s spectacular Wonder Garden.
by Lee Welles
336 pages. Ages 9-12
Elizabeth Angier was happy to be at the end of the school year. She thought her summer on the family farm would be full of work and play with her best friend, Rachel, and her other best friend, her dog, Maizey. However, Elizabeth didn’t anticipate the Harmony Farms Corporation moving to her town.
Her world starts to crumble as her best friend moves away and her parents whisper of farmers selling their land and the effects this factory farm operation could have on them. When she thinks things can’t get much worse, she meets the most unusual creature, Gaia, the living entity of the Earth.
Strange things begin to happen to her, around her, and through her! Elizabeth discovers that with these new powers comes responsibility. A dire mistake makes Elizabeth wonder if meeting Gaia has been a blessing or a curse. Will Elizabeth have the strength to fight a large corporation? Or will her upstate New York home be spoiled by profit driven pork production that fouls the air, land, and water?
23. The Moon Book
by Gail Gibbons
32 pages. Ages 4-8
Shining light on all kinds of fascinating facts about our moon, this simple, introductory book includes information on how the moon affects the oceans’ tides, why the same side of the moon always faces earth, why we have eclipses, and more.
Using her signature combination of colorful, clear illustrations and accessible text, Gail Gibbons reinforces important vocabulary with simple explanations, perfect for budding astronomers. Legends about the moon, trivia, and facts about the moon landing are also included.
24. The Lorax
by Dr. Seuss
72 pages. Ages 6-9
“Unless someone like you…cares a whole awful lot…nothing is going to get better…It’s not.”
Long before saving the earth became a global concern, Dr. Seuss, speaking through his character the Lorax, warned against mindless progress and the danger it posed to the earth’s natural beauty.
“The big, colorful pictures and the fun images, word plays and rhymes make this an amusing exposition of the ecology crisis.”—School Library Journal.
25. The Tiny Seed
by Eric Carle
36 pages. Ages 3 and up
Eric Carle’s classic story of the life cycle of a flower is told through the adventures of a tiny seed.
This mini nature book includes a piece of detachable seed-embedded paper housed on the inside front cover.
Readers can plant the entire piece of paper and watch as their very own tiny seeds grow into beautiful wildflowers.
26. Fun With Nature
by Mel Boring
288 pages. Ages 7-10
Fun with Nature helps kids discover the incredible world in their backyards. It is a compilation of seven bestselling titles: Caterpillars, Bugs and Butterflies; Frogs, Toads and Turtles; Snakes, Salamanders and Lizards; Rabbits, Squirrels and Chipmunks; Tracks, Scats and Signs; and Trees, Leaves and Bark.
This entertaining nature book is filled with fascinating facts and awesome activities.
by Susan Verde
40 pages. Ages 5-8
Inspired by the childhood of African–born model Georgie Badiel, acclaimed author Susan Verde and award-winning author/illustrator Peter H. Reynolds have come together to tell this moving story.
As a child in Burkina Faso, Georgie and the other girls in her village had to walk for miles each day to collect water.
This vibrant, engaging kid’s nature book sheds light on this struggle that continues all over the world today, instilling hope for a future when all children will have access to clean drinking water.
by Haily Meyers
22 pages. Ages 5-6
This new board book series written by the husband and wife team of Haily and Kevin Meyers and illustrated by Haily, celebrates the unique qualities of each city while employing a fun primer element to tell the story.
This kid’s nature book will have you and baby seeing the world by train and will turn story time into a globetrotting event. Perfect as a souvenir or as part of a geography collection for brilliant babies, the All Aboard! series will be pulling into your station next!
29. The Hugging Tree
by Jill Neimark
32 pages. Ages 5-8
A little tree ends up on a cliff and must grow there. She finds comfort in the sea and the moon, support from loons, and connection and warmth from the people sitting in her shade.
The Hugging Tree is a poetic and peaceful story that aims to teach children about hope and resilience.
Rather than a lonely tree on a lonely cliff, the tree represents community and a place to get in touch with inner hopes and dreams. Includes a “Note to Parents” by Elizabeth McCallum, PhD.
by Adam Gamble
26 pages. Ages 2-3
Good Night Mountains features waterfalls, glaciers, alpine lakes, the Rocky Mountains, the Blue Ridge Mountains, the Ozark Mountains, the Sierra Nevadas, the Appalachian Mountains, volcanic Mount Saint Helen, skiing, hiking, camping, fishing, and rock climbing.
This mountainous board nature book allows young children to explore all beauty and fun activities associated with mountain life. Little ones will gain new appreciation for mother nature in all her glory.
by Jennifer Thermes
48 pages. Ages 5-7
Emma Gatewood’s life was far from easy. In rural Ohio, she managed a household of 11 kids alongside a less-than-supportive husband. One day, at age 67, she decided to go for a nice long walk . . . and ended up completing the Appalachian Trail. With just the clothes on her back and a pair of thin canvas sneakers on her feet, Grandma Gatewood hiked up ridges and down ravines.
She braved angry storms and witnessed breathtaking sunrises. When things got particularly tough, she relied on the kindness of strangers or sheer luck to get her through the night. When the newspapers got wind of her amazing adventure, the whole country cheered her on to the end of her trek, which came just a few months after she set out.
A story of true grit and girl power at any age, Grandma Gatewood proves that no peak is insurmountable.
by Patricia J. Wynne
48 pages. Ages 8-11
Millions of creatures live in the backyard: beetles and bugs; butterflies and birds; turtles and toads; ants, earthworms, and tiny animals hidden in the grass or deep in the soil. These creatures lead busy lives, climbing trees, crawling over rocks, searching for food, and building nests.
With this book’s 46 pages of illustrations — each accompanied by fact-filled captions — kids can combine the fun of coloring with the fascination of discovering how all kinds of living creatures are linked together. Realistic pictures to color depict the backyard through all four seasons and during the day and night.
The captions identify different types of trees, flowers, and bushes; butterflies, moths, and birds; reptiles and amphibians; and many other plants and animals. Suitable for ages 8-11, this informative nature coloring book recaptures the excitement of the natural world that’s right outside the back door.
by Marianne Berkes
32 pages. Ages 5-6
The great rivers of North America are teeming with life and on the pages of Over in a River—from blue herons in the Hudson to salmon in the Columbia, and from dragonflies in the Rio Grande to mallards in the St. Lawrence.
Children will slither like water snakes and slide like otters while singing to the tune of “Over in a Meadow.” And they’ll count baby animals in watersheds all over North America!
This kid’s nature book is a delightful way to learn about riparian habitats and geography at the same time!
by Julia Donaldson
32 pages. Ages 3-7
When a tiny snail meets a humpback whale, the two travel together to far-off lands. It’s a dream come true for the snail, who has never left home before.
But when the whale swims too close to shore, will the snail be able to save her new friend?
READ NEXT: 11 More Nature Books for Kids
Jennifer Fontaine is the founder of Outdoor Families Magazine, publisher of MommyHiker.com, a blog to encourage outdoor activities with children, and an activist filmmaker inspiring dynamic change in the world. She lives in Southern California with her family.