Fret not! Outdoor Families Magazine has done the work for you, creating a fun guide of nature books for both kids and adults. From nature-themed adventures and family gardening, to eco-action graphic novels and inspiring stories, this list is sure to engage every family member in the wild, wonderful world of our great outdoors.
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- Sense of Wonder. Rachel Carson. Harper. Motivating adults since first published as a magazine article in the 1950s to let the kids stay up and look at the moon, and go outside to get wet and dirty, this is the quintessential book to connecting children with nature’s wonders.
- The Nature Principal. Richard Louv. Algonquin Press. A follow up to his groundbreaking ‘Last Child in the Woods,’ this nature book examines humanity of all ages and identifies how we need our doses of ‘Vitamin N’ to be happy and healthy, and ensure a green future for generations to come. This book is rich with research on the importance of the human-nature connection that’s presented in an accessible way to encourage the reader just to get outside!
- Wilderness, A journal of quiet adventure in Alaska. Rockwell Kent. Wesleyan Publishing. Artist and writer Rockwell Kent brought his nine-year-old son to Seward, Alaska, for a winter of remote homesteading on Fox Island. Kent’s perspectives on life, love, and the woods are beautiful read.
- A Walk in the Woods, Rediscovering America on the Appalachian Trail. Bill Bryson. Anchor Publishing. An entertaining and informative look at hiking the Appalachian Trail spanning the subjects of history, ecology and culture through storytelling along the trail from Georgia to Maine.
FICTION AND NON-FICTION FOR CHILDREN
- I Wonder. Annaka Harris. Ages 4-12. A beautiful nature book using a dialogue between mother and daughter encourages children to inquire about their natural world, and reflect upon the wonders and mysteries of life around them. An inspiring and introspective story based in science, its lessons promote developing a sense of connection with the universe.
- Sow and Grow: A Gardening Book for Children. Tina Davis. Ages 5-10. A vintage-inspired, illustrated workbook that includes month-by-month creative indoor and outdoor gardening activities, games and puzzles to get children interested in gardening. Its goal is to get kids growing their own flowers and vegetables in an old-fashioned way but with a modern, artistic twist.
- Bo at Ballard Creek. Kirkpatrick Hill. Square Fish Publishing. Ages 8-12. When an infant is abandoned by her mother during the Gold Rush far, far to the north in Yukon Territory, two people step in to raise her, with surprisingly positive results. A delightful story that kids will enjoy reading.
- Larry Gets Lost Under the Sea. Erid Ode and John Skewes. Little Bigfoot Publishing. Ages 4-9. Poor Larry the dog stumbles upon yet another mishap leading to amazing adventures. Part of the popular “Larry Gets Lost” series.
- My Wilderness, an Alaskan Adventure. Claudia McGehee (companion book to ‘Wilderness,’ by Rockwell Kent, above). Little Bigfoot Publishing. Ages 5+. Rockwell Kent’s son, Rocky, accompanies his father on the adventure of a lifetime, moving to a remote Alaska cabin to spend a winter. Rocky discovers more about his love for the wilderness during this long, cold winter, and author Claudia McGehee does a masterful job of putting a young boy’s feelings into words.
- A World Without Fish. Mark Kurlansky. Workman. Ages 12 to adult. A graphic novel exploring the science behind potential effects of the oceans becoming imbalanced from overfishing and climate change. Part science and comic book, its message entertains while also explaining the importance of the oceans’ health for human health, as well as what adolescents can do to keep the oceans thriving.
- Wings, Worms, and Wonder: A Guide for Creatively Integrating Gardening and Outdoor Learning Into Children’s Lives. Kelly Johnson. Wings, Worms, and Wonder. Families with children 6-12. An illustrated how-to book for anyone wanting to grow a garden or improve an existing one. Chock full of tips, tricks, information and ideas to encourage children’s gardening at home, school, or in the community – regardless of how green your thumb. Includes 40 hands-on activities ranging from veggie-growing experiments and butterfly gardening, to nature journaling and the culinary arts, as well as an extensive resource section.
- Alaska on the Go: Exploring the 49th State with Children. Erin Kirkland. University of Alaska Press. The only Alaska family travel guide written by a resident, author Erin Kirkland provides a comprehensive, witty guide to the best in kid-friendly adventures. From packing lists to far-flung adventures, Kirkland tells all, from soggy Southeast Alaska to the far north of Nome.
- The Nature Connection: An Outdoor Workbook for Kids, Families, Classrooms. Claire Walker Leslie. Storey Publishing. Families with children 6-12. A fun, hands-on nature workbook that gets children (and their adults) digging, poking, observing and documenting all types of nature – big and small, near or far. If you have more than one child in the 6-12 age range, consider a copy for each so they can fill in the book’s activity pages.
- Babes in the Woods, Hiking, camping, boating with babies and young children. Jennifer Aist. Mountaineers Books. With 20+ years of parenting four children, and nearly as many as an educator, Jennifer Aist’s book has become a bible for any new mom or dad wanting to explore the outdoors with babies and toddlers. Covering issues like diapering, sleeping, eating, and motivation, Aist is a pro at practical, no-nonsense advice to ease the minds of parents everywhere.
- The Kids’ Nature Book, 365 Indoor/Outdoor Activities and Experiences. Susan Milord. Williamson Publishing. An activity every day is a great way to encourage bonding time with nature. Some activities can be done indoors on rotten-weather days, but most are applicable to the great outdoors, any time. An excellent nature book for elementary-age kids wanting independent experiences with friends.
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Kelly Johnson is an artist, author, and publisher of Wings, Worms, and Wonder, a website centering on nature, art, and green thumbs. She lives and works in Florida.