The “great” outdoors used to be a term that was lost on me. Kids change you. I now schedule our weeks with intentional outdoor time– whether exploring new hiking trails, seeking out nature classes, or just leaving margin in our days for time lingering out of doors. We adore dining al fresco, but even better is reading al fresco. We’ve enjoyed the books below that encourage a love of the natural world (we’ve read most of these on a picnic blanket in the shade). I’m certain this post is part one of many more. Happy trails!
Pond and The Raft by Jim LaMarche. (older preschool-mid elementary) These longer picture books are absolutely beautiful, and their stories are so warm, they create the most cohesive reading experience. Even my 2yo Toddler Bookworm sat through the entirety of these text heavy books. Each story celebrates a connection with nature and exploring the ecosystem outside your door.
Up in the Garden and Down In The Dirt, Over and Under the Pond, and Over and Under the Snow by Kate Messner. (older preschool-elementary) These books opened my eyes, as an adult reader, to the complexity of life both around us and under our feet. My bookworms were similarly fascinated. We’ve found the entire “trilogy” to be both informative and beautiful!
Finding Wild by Megan Wagner Lloyd (preschool-early elementary) For urbanites and those of us not used to keeping an eye out for nature, look for this book and it just might inspire you to find a little bit of “wild.”
Blue on Blue by Dianne White (preschool-early elementary) It’s hard to decide which we love more– the poetic text or the beautiful artwork. The story focuses on a small seaside farm as a storm moves through one afternoon. The effects on the animal and human inhabitants are detailed, describing the way the colors shift throughout the storm’s progression. There are so many details in each illustration that go beyond the text, adding lots of conversation.
Song of the Water Boatman and Other Pond Poems by Joyce Sidman. (older preschool-elementary) We have become big fans of Joyce Sidman (hence 20% of this post containing her books.) The publisher’s description says this offering is ” a unique blend of whimsy, science, poetry, and hand-colored woodcuts.” Bingo. And a Caldecott Honor, too. This one is on my upcoming poetry post.
Butterfly Eyes and Other Secrets of the Meadow by Joyce Sidman. (early-mid elementary) Although my preschool aged Bookworms enjoyed the artwork (we LOVE Beth Krommes see Blue on Blue above), the text was too advanced for them. We will definitely revisit this in years to come, as it is wonderful! Each double page spread presents two riddle/poems (“Who Am I?”) and the following spread presents the answer along with a smattering of facts related. Each pair is connected in some way, or illustrates a contrast in behavior. Includes dew/grasshoppers, rabbit/fox, spittlebug/xylem & phloem, milkweed/butterflies, snake/toad, goldfinch/hawk, and deer/trees.
Round by Joyce Sidman. (preschool-early elementary) A younger offering by Sidman, Round explores in simple text and bright illustrations the many round things you’ll find in nature– seeds, eggs, sunflowers, rocks. But far from a listing of round items, Sidman uses very sensory rich language and brings a depth to the topic, while inspiring wonder: “I love how water can be round, gathered in beads of silver… or falling in wet splats, leaving circles of ripples behind” and [speaking of bubbles and stars] “I love when round things pop up quickly… and last only a moment. Or spin together slowly… and last billions of years.” Look for Swirl by Swirl : Spirals in Nature and Winter Bees and Other Poems of the Cold as well.
Tidy by Emily Gravett. (preschool) I’ll admit I related to this cleaning obsessed badger more than I’d like! Badger works hard keeping his forest home clean– grooming the fox, bathing the birds, polishing the rocks, picking up stray sticks. (My bookworms love the illustration of Badger vacuuming the forest floor!) When he takes his tidying too far, turning the forest into a concrete jungle, he learns to appreciate the wildness of the natural world and the diversity of life therein.
Under Ground by Denise Fleming (toddler, preschool). Very light on text (two words per page), this presents a snapshot of the activity under our feet. An appendix, called Creature Identification, gives names and brief facts about each creature’s underground interactions (squirrels, robins, rabbit, mole, shrews, cicada nymph, yellow jacket, trapdoor spider, garter snake, salamander, earthworms, and more. 21 in all.)
Because of an Acorn by Lola M. and Adam Schaefer. (toddler, preschool, early elem) Sparse text and uncluttered illustrations make this suitable for toddlers, but its message will be better grasped by older readers: life is interconnected at every level of the ecosystem. The mother-son writing team has created a text that flows effortlessly, teaching the food chain and connections found in a forest.
How Things Work in the Yard by Lisa Campbell Ernst. (toddler, preschool) You won’t find in-depth engineering principles here, but my bookworms really loved poring over the illustrations of various things you’d find in a typical yard, naming them and talking about their experiences with each. A nice springboard book! (We love Lisa Campbell Ernst! Read more of our favorites in my Picture Book Tour: E post.)
What are your favorite nature books? I’d love to add more to our TBR list! Connect with me in the comments below or on the Facebook page.
Books mentioned in this post should be available at your local library, or at the affiliate links provided. Thanks for supporting Librarian in the House if you choose to purchase!