Greener pages inspire greener pastures. These nature books will make you want to head outdoors, whether you’re looking for a new project to take on or just for a little motivation to make nature time part of your everyday routine.
THE STICK BOOK: LOADS OF THINGS YOU CAN MAKE OR DO WITH A STICK by Fiona Danks and Jo Schofield:: Who knew a stick had so much potential? This book makes it clear why the humble stick was inducted into the National Toy Hall of Fame and gives kids lots of ideas for creative outdoor play.
THE KIDS’ OUTDOOR ADVENTURE BOOK by Stacy Tornio and Ken Keffer:: There are 448 ideas for playing outside in all seasons in this handy tome — that’s more than one idea for every day of the year. Kids will enjoy this book, but it’s also a good pick for parents who aren’t sure how to help their children ease into free play.
OWL MOON by Jane Yolen :: Your kids will want to take a nighttime owl walk after reading this po- etic story about a child’s owling adventure with her father.
AN EGG IS QUIET by Dianna Hutts Aston:: An egg may not have a voice, but it’s still pretty interesting — a fact that this gorgeously illustrated picture book makes clear as it introduces readers to more than 60 different eggs, from fossilized dinosaur eggs to tubular dogfish eggs to giant ostrich eggs.
THE NATURE CONNECTION: AN OUTDOOR WORKBOOK FOR KIDS, FAMILIES AND CLASSROOM by Clare Walker Leslie:: Clare Walker Leslie’s book about nature journaling changed the way I look at the natural world forever, and her follow-up guide, full of activities and ideas for experiencing and exploring nature with your family, is a must-have.
SWIRL BY SWIRL: SPIRALS IN NATURE by Joyce Sidman:: A Newberry Honor poet and Caldecott medalist illustrator team up for this beautiful book about spirals in nature. This is a great book to inspire kids to look for shapes and patterns in the natural world.
AMONG THE FOREST PEOPLE by Clara Dillingham Pierson:: The (sometimes thinly veiled) moral lessons aren’t for everyone, but don’t let them steer you away from this charming nature book, which introduces kids to key forest inhabitants through stories.
DIARY OF A CITIZEN SCIENTIST: CHASING TIGER BEETLES AND OTHER NEW WAYS OF ENGAGING THE WORLD by Sharman Apt Russell:: Citizen science has big appeal for kids who want to be a part of something bigger, and this book, from a non- professional science fan who stalks tiger beetles, catalogs galaxies, and participates in other citizen science projects, makes an engaging read for older kids.
THE SENSE OF WONDER by Rachel Carson:: Carson’s book, published in 1956, is hauntingly prescient, reflecting the importance of nature through a series of everyday outdoor experiences with her nephew along the Maine coast.
ALL THE WILD WONDERS: POEMS OF OUR EARTH edited by Wendy Cooling:: Delicate watercolor paintings accompany nature poems by Christina Rossetti, Ogden Nash, John Agard, Thomas Hardy, and more.
WALDEN by Henry David Thoreau:: “I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived.” Thoreau’s classic work about the importance of living a life connected to the natural world still resonates today.
AMY’S LIGHT by Robert Nutt:: In this sweet, rhyming picture book, fireflies help a little girl get over her fear of the dark. (There’s a great science section in the end, with information about firefly biology and citizen science opportunities to check out.)
THE CLOUDSPOTTER’S GUIDE: THE SCIENCE, HISTORY, AND CULTURE OF CLOUDS by Gavin Pretor-Pinney:: Learn more about morning glory, cumulus, nimbostratus, and all those other clouds in this odd but awesome little book about the science, history, art, and pop culture significance of clouds.
THE KID’S BOOK OF WEATHER FORECASTING: BUILD A WEATHER STATION, ‘READ THE SKY,’ AND MAKE PREDICTIONS! by Mark Breen and Kathleen Friestad:: Who needs a weather unit study when you can build your own weather machine in the backyard?
FAIRY HOUSES by Tracy Kane:: Kristin builds a backyard fairy house in this whimsical picture books — and the ideas and inspiration here will give kids the push they need to create their own fairy houses.
ROOTS, SHOOTS, BUCKETS & BOOTS: GARDENING TOGETHER WITH CHILDREN by Shannon Lovejoy :: Lovejoy’s mix of practical information (you can start a garden with your kids using the information in this book) and inspiration (including a moon garden of night-blooming flowers) makes this an ideal volume for would-be gardeners.
CANOE DAYS by Gary Paulsen:: Take a trip down the river, watching for ducks, fish, butterflies, and other wildlife along the way in this slow-paced picture book.
TAKE A BACKYARD BIRD WALK by Jane Kirkland:: Part of the Take a Walk series, this practical and engaging book helps kids develop the skills they need to notice and identify birds in their own neighborhoods.
I LOVE DIRT!: 52 ACTIVITIES TO HELP YOU AND YOUR KIDS DISCOVER THE WONDERS OF NATURE by Jennifer Ward:: Think of it as a beginner’s guide to nature exploration with your kids. If you know your family should be experiencing nature, but you find yourself on a nature center trail with no idea what you should actually be doing, this book will be your best friend.
A SEED IS SLEEPY by Dianna Hutts Aston:: Sylvia Long’s accurate, detailed illustrations are a big part of what makes this book such a great addition to your nature library. Kids will learn about all kinds of seeds, from the ones light enough to float on the breeze to ones that can weigh up to 60 pounds.
PAGOO by Holling Clancy Holling:: The world of a tide pool comes to life through the eyes of a young hermit crab in this lavishly illustrated picture book.
WESLANDIA by Paul Fleischman:: I adore this quirky little tale about a boy who decides to sow a garden to start his own civilization over the summer holidays, with surprising results..
THE CURIOUS GARDEN by Peter Brown:: A little boy named Liam decides to care for a struggling garden, and the whole city benefits in this vibrant picture book that manages to be envi- ronmentally minded without getting heavy-handed.
AND THEN IT’S SPRING by Julie Fogliano:: Waiting and watching for signs of spring can sometimes feel like an endless process, a fact that Fogliano beautifully captures in this simple story.
WHAT THE ROBIN KNOWS: HOW BIRDS REVEAL THE SECRETS OF THE NATURAL WORLD by Jon Young:: A naturalist explores the language of birdsong in this book that manages to be both thoughtful and practical advice for birders.
SPRING: AN ANTHOLOGY FOR THE CHANGING SEASONS edited by Melissa Harrison:: This tribute to British springtime includes spring-themed writings by Chaucer, Orwell, Hopkins, Larkin, and more.
This list is excerpted from a feature in the spring 2015 issue of HSL.