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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1. This Is Sadie
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.
2. The Tea Party in the Woods
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.
3. A Walk in the Forest
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.
4. Because of an Acorn
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.
6. Flowers Are Calling
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.
7. Have You Heard the Nesting Bird?
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.
8. The Road Home
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.
9. Once Upon a Northern Night
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.
11. The Bug Club
by Elise Gravel
56 pages. Ages 6 and up
In The Bug Club, Elise Gravel shares all of her favorite and most interesting facts about these marvelous creatures, some of which are so unique and strange, you could almost imagine them living in outer space!
Most people know that spiders have eight eyes, but what about the caterpillar? These little critters have them beat with a whopping twelve! Did you know mosquitoes are attracted to smelly feet? That the honey bee has hair on her eyeballs? That butterfly feet double as noses? And grasshoppers have ears on their bellies? These are just some of the many things about bugs that make them endlessly enchanting. Elise’s inquisitiveness and charm pop off the page as she takes us on a walk through her mind?and the awe-inspiring natural wonders that exist right outside our doorsteps.
12. The Little Gardener
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.
13. 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.
14. 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.
15. The Man Made of Stars
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.
16. 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.
17. Where the Wild Things Are
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.