Lauren is an elementary school librarian who writes at Happily Ever Elephants. She is an expert in picking meaningful books for children and today she shares her list top list of picture books about nature. Welcome Lauren!
There’s magic outside.
From flowers blooming to rivers rushing to fireflies sparking in the onyx sky, everywhere you look there is awe inspiring wonder. It is so easy to forget about this though.
These days, technology competes with the outdoors for our youngsters’ attention. Children would rather be playing on their gadgets than shuffling their toes in the warm grass, rather be leveling up on a cool video game than creating their own games in the forest with nothing but their imagination and a few downed sticks.
Yet being outside helps our kids grow and thrive. Outdoor play increases self confidence and attention spans, and even helps children develop valuable social skills. So what to do if its too cold or too hot too rainy go run around in the great outdoors?
Short of spending time in the great outdoors, one of the ways I gently remind my kids of the magic that can be found in nature is by reading them amazing stories.
Whether nurturing gardens, taking care of the earth, making treehouses, or learning about the beautiful flora and fauna that grows outside, picture books bring the outdoors in.
There is no better time to read about the great outdoors then while our kids are nestled in their beds and cozy under their sheets with nothing else competing for their attention.
So what are you waiting for?
Share the natural wonders of our magical world with your little ones by reading some of these amazing books, both fiction and nonfiction. Your kids will be outside, digging their fingers in soil and eager to plant some new seeds faster than you can say “the end.”
Picture Books about Nature
This is a quietly beautiful story about a boy in a dreary town who discovers a straggling garden while out on a walk one day. He decides to care for it, nurturing the garden with love, patience and perseverance, even after it is harmed by the elements. Once he nurtures the garden, it grows and grows, bringing life to the city and blue to the skies.
This book is stunning both in story and illustration, with themes of determination, environmental activism, and community improvement.
by Liz Garton Scanlon and illustrated by Lee White
I absolutely adore this brand new book, which is a fantastic earth day read-aloud! When a wild wind blows on the tippy-top of a steep hill, everything goes wild for the man who lives there. Kate takes it upon herself to help him tame the wind – with trees, no less.
With themes of both friendship and the importance of trees in our world, this is a total winner.
by Hiawyn Oram and illustrated by Brigitta Sif
Snowboy is busy playing games when Greenbackboy approaches him to play a new, even better one: all they have to do is cut down all the trees and catch all the fish and they can trade these riches in for the real stuff… gold. But we all know that greed can be destructive.
This is a fabulous book conveying the importance of conserving natural resources, a perfect conversation starter to get kids thinking about how they, too, can save the earth.
by Lynne Cherry
One day in the Amazon, a man tires quickly after trying unsuccessfully to chop down a giant Kapok tree. He lays down to nap, and as he sleeps, all of the forest’s animals – and even a young boy from the Yanomamo tribe – whisper to him about the importance of the trees to their own survival, the impact they have on the natural world, and how all living things depend on one another.
This is a beauty, both in terms of illustration and text.
by Carter Higgins and illustrated by Emily Hughes
In this achingly beautiful and wondrous story, readers are given “instructions” on what they need to build a treehouse, beginning with time, a look up, and a hefty imagination.
The book breathes life into each and every requirement for the house. Together, the story and illustrations spark magic and awe, and your kids won’t be satisfied until they build a treehouse of their own!
by Beatrice Alemanga
Remember the days when we didn’t have to worry about screens cracking or batteries dying, and the only volume anyone was concerned about was whether kids were properly using their inside voices?
If you think your children are getting too much screen time, hide the phones, take away the iPads, snuggle up on the couch, and read this book. And then go outside, play hide and seek, and enjoy nature together. Sometimes we all need a reminder to unplug and look up — and this book will help you do just that.
by Denise Fleming
Robin needs help building his nest! With a little help from his friends, this sweet story shows how we can accomplish so much when we work together to achieve a common goal.
The squirrel helps trim the twigs to anchor the robin’s nest. The dog brings the string to wrap around the twigs that anchor the robin’s nest. The horse shares straw, the pig mixes mud, the mouse gathers weeds and the rabbit picks the grass to anchor the robin’s nest. And on and on, until the nest is built and the young fledglings that hatch within are ready to fly.
by Loren Long
A young tree clings tightly to his leaves, too scared to shed them and transition into the new season. It doesn’t matter that all the trees around him are happy to change with each passing season. But one fateful day, Little Tree realizes he has been left behind by all the trees who have grown up around him, and he knows a critical decision is on the horizon.
This is a masterpiece – a perfect tale to help children recognize that fear of change is natural and daunting, but the reward is ultimately in the journey that helps us find our way.
by Julie Fogliano and illustrated by Erin Stead
Winter has ended, and a young boy decides it is time to brighten up the world outside. He and his dog thus work hard to cultivate a garden. They dig and plant and water, and then they wait and wait. And then, at last, after much patience, perseverance and dedication, the garden slowly… slowly … starts to bloom.
by Britta Teckentrup
This stunning picture book celebrates a single tree as it journeys though the seasons. Vibrant and buzzing with animal life in the spring and summer, quiet and lonely in the winter, children will learn first hand about the seasons, a tree’s life cycle, and so many of the animals that make their homes between leafy branches.
by Kate Messner and illustrated by Christopher Silas Neal
Over the snow, the world is white and quiet. But under the snow is a world of magic, with a multitude of animals staying hidden from harm and making homes for the winter.
In this beautiful work of nonfiction, children will learn about the subnivean zone — the area between the snowpack and the ground — and the way animals adapt during the harshest of winter days.
by Lola M. Schaefer and Adam Schaefer and illustrated by Frann Preston-Gannon
I love the way this book so beautifully illustrates the circle of life! Because of an acorn, a tree will grow, a bird makes a nest, and a seed will become a flower.
This book is a wonderful tool to highlight how the ecosystem is symbiotic, with all parts connected and working together. The die cut pages and very simple text make this a fabulous book for your youngest readers!
by Helen Ahpornsiri
This is honestly one of the most exquisite picture books I’ve ever seen. I can’t stop reading it and studying the gorgeous pictures! This is a fabulous text to teach your kids and students about the natural world, and it captures the wonder of each unique season.
Even cooler? All of the artwork is made entirely from pressed plants. This is a stunning nonfiction picture book that you and the little ones in your life will love!
by Julie Fogliano and illustrated by Julie Morstad
I absolutely adore this team, and this book of poetry simply sings. Beautiful poems spotlighting random days throughout the year convey the beauty of each season.
Both starting and ending on March 20th, this is a perfect read to celebrate the wonder of each new season – and to help kids learn the seasons’ unique characteristics, too.
by Kathy Willis and Katie Scott
Welcome to the Museum is a beautiful, informative series, and this installment features a stunning guide to plant life for kids (and adults!) to learn about, from perennials and bulbs to tropical flora and fauna.
Your children will be mesmerized, and you’ll be so taken by its beauty, it may wind up displayed on your coffee table! Make sure to check out the other books in this awesome series, Dinosaurium and Animalium.
by Kate Messner
A fabulous companion to Over and Under the Snow, this fabulous book shows what happens above and below the soil. Above the soil, the gardens are abuzz with green leaves, fragrant flowers and ripe colorful fruit. But below the soil, there are worms burrowing, snakes slithering and other animals making their homes in the garden. Love!
by Dianna Hutts Aston and illustrated by Sylvia Long
This is another beauty, one that intrigues young kids who have obsessions with seeds!
Whether your children love collecting them, planting them, or imagining what may sprout from them, this book answers so many of the big questions kids have about seeds. A perfect introductory read. Gorgeous illustrations combine with fascinating facts, making this one a total gem!
by Katy Flint and illustrated by Alice Pattullo
You guys! This book is a total stunner. For those of you that love butterflies – or teach about them in your classrooms or homeschools – you will fall in love with this book that gives a peek into 100 different butterfly and moth species.
From monarchs to green swallowtails, this gorgeous book, complete with tons of facts and exquisite illustrations, is a winner all around.
selected by Fiona Waters and illustrated by Frann Preston-Gannon
If you are both a poetry lover and a nature lover, you will simply delight at this exquisite collection of nature poems, one to read every day of the year.
This collection includes familiar favorites as well as discoveries by modern poets, featuring the stunning words of William Shakespeare, Langston Hughes, Emily Dickinson, Okamoto Kanoko, and so many more. Children and adults alike will marvel at this beautiful keepsake of a book.
by Martin Jenkins and illustrated by Hannah Tolson
If you have a budding environmentalist or scientist in your home, she will love this first science storybook that gives a lovely introductory view of the interaction between plants and insects.
From caterpillars to plants, the two grow side by side and together throughout the year, until they come full circle.
Lauren Bercuson, a former attorney and current elementary school librarian, turned her passion for children’s literature into Happily Ever Elephants, a blog that uses kids books to help parents raise great kids. By selecting stories that are both magical and meaningful, Lauren’s thoughtful book reviews help guide parents and children through important life lessons.
If you have a toddler who loves board books, a kindergartner just beginning to read, a second grader who loves chapter books, or a tween who loves finding the next great novel, Happily Ever Elephants is your go-to spot for amazing recommendations! You can follow Happily Ever Elephants on Instagram or Facebook.