Some topics that may not come up when you’re asking a kid “What do you want to read about next?” In our house, “nature” would never be one of the answers. However, the following children’s books about nature and the natural world have been hugely popular here, for kiddo and grownups alike. Hope you enjoy them as much as we did!
Comets, Stars, the Moon, and Mars: Space Poems and Paintings by Douglas Florian. Sly humor, puns, and other plays on words combined with the planets, and gorgeous artwork. Even if the young reader in your world isn’t an astronomy fanatic, this is a fun book.
How to Dig a Hole to the Other Side of the World by Faith McNulty, illustrated by Marc Simont. This is, hands down, the best storytelling book about nature that I have ever read. I would have kept reading it even if there wasn’t a child next to me. McNulty blends fact and fancy effortlessly, drawing the reader into a child’s adventurous voyage through the Earth itself. I lost track of how many times I was asked to “read it again” when my son was in preschool and early elementary.
Rocks in His Head by Carol Otis Hurst, with art by James Stevenson. I can’t say enough good things about this book, based on Hurst’s father’s life during the Depression. Her father had a lifelong passion for rocks, which eventually landed him a job in a science museum. This is such a quiet, affirming story for anyone who’s ever felt a little different from those around them.
Are You An Ant? by Judy Allen and Tudor Humphries. Entomology with a whimsical touch. Allen talks directly to the reader in a very engaging way. Boy Detective was completely drawn in. Whenever I’d read the first line “Are you an ant?” he would yell “No!” Are You a Butterfly? and Are You a Ladybug? are also good.
The Pattaconk Brook by James Stevenson. A frog and a snail meet, observe their world, and take a journey together. It’s about natural habitats, and friendship, paying attention, journaling, and finding your destiny. The ending is both happy and sad, and might generate some good discussion.
The Ink Garden of Brother Theophane by C.M. Millen, with illustrations by Andrea Wisnewski. Brother Theophane just doesn’t quite fit in! All the other monks are perfectly content to do things the same way they’ve always been done. But when Theophane looks out the monastery window, he sees glorious nature! It’s a little distracting from his copying work. When he’s reassigned to make the brown ink all the monks use, though, he finds his true calling in the woods and is able to share his unique gift with the others. Gorgeous, gorgeous illustrations in this book about the Irish monks who kept much of Europe’s knowledge preserved during the Dark Ages.
The Boy Who Drew Birds: A Story of John James Audubon by Jacqueline Davis, illustrated by Melissa Sweet. It’s tough to write an engaging biography in children’s picture book form. Davis nails it, and Sweet’s gorgeous drawings, paintings, and collages are a treat. They succeed by limiting the book to a particular part of Audubon’s life, and using details of his upbringing and his personality to make him come alive. Great book about observation and learning, the natural world, and a pleasure to read.
Gravity by Jason Chin. This book is just gorgeous! I was blown away by the art in this simple, clear children’s picture book about the basics of gravity. I was also quite happy to find a science picture book where the main character is a child of color. We don’t see that often enough! Older kids won’t learn much that’s new about gravity, though it’s always good to review the basics in case of a physics emergency. But the beauty, the art, and the humorous journey presented as the narrator explains gravity will delight kids and grownups. (Unless they’re grumpy grownups who don’t like neat stuff.)
And that’s the list!