Books + Nature + Children = Wondrous


Today I want to write about some select nature-themed children’s picture books that I have added to the home library over the years. I treasure these books because they celebrate, in their unique voices, the communion of a child with nature. They remind us ever so gently of our coexistence with other living beings around us. They coax us to be aware of and feel a oneness with the natural world. I appreciate being made mindful, through these books, of the permanence of change in life.

Here are a few gems from some masterful authors and illustrators:

Owl Moon‘ by Jane Yolen, illustrated by John Schoenherr

Tells the story of a winter night owling excursion undertaken by a young girl and her father. The search entails the need for quiet anticipation and little conversation, thus the book speaks in the internal voice of the little girl. The lyrical verses describing the sounds in nature, the building excitement, the omnipresent uncertainty of spotting the owl, the quiet solitude of the woods and the beauty of the snow in a moonlit night are simply magical. The text is nicely complemented by pictures in gentle watercolors creating the perfect backdrop of a night out in the woods. The book deservedly won the Caldecott Medal in 1988.
I love this book for its stillness and quietude and the little girl’s understanding of the need to play by nature’s rules.

Time of Wonder‘ by Robert McCloskey

This is a truly wondrous description of a family’s summer days on a Maine island: bright sunshine, fog-filled and rainy days, the humdrum of coastal life, the tide coming in and going out, sea creatures and child explorers, the busy preparations to ride out a hurricane, the destruction in its aftermath, and finally the inevitable end to a glorious summer. The illustrations in watercolor have an old world charm and evoke memories of the fun-filled and carefree days of childhood. This book won Robert McCloskey his second Caldecott medal in 1958, the first being for ‘Make Way for Ducklings’ which is another one of my all-time favorite children’s books.

Blueberries for Sal‘ by Robert McCloskey

“….kuplink, kuplank, kuplunk!”
Yet another treasure by this beloved author, it is a charming story about picking blueberries at a hillside on a summer day in Maine. On one side of the hill are little Sal and her mother and on the other side are a little bear and his mama; how the pairs get mixed up and what ensues next is endearing. The line drawings are done in a deep dark blue color, aptly reminiscent of blueberries and feature detailed sketches of the humans and bears. The scene in the kitchen is a masterful etching of blissful domesticity. ‘Blueberries for Sal’ got the Caldecott Honor in 1949.

Red Sings from Treetops: a year in colors‘ by Joyce Sidman, illustrated by Pamela Zagarenski

A stately young person and their lovable little dog talk about colors in the changing seasons. I love the captivating details in the illustrations- the little hats, the recurring wheels, the floating windows, and musical notes, the lush vivid colors, the patterns on the clothes, the notations; I find something new and delightful each time I go through this book! Each verse of poetry is quirkily illustrated- this book is a delightfully whimsical union of text and pictures. ‘Red Sings from Treetops’ got the Caldecott Honor in 2010.

A Child’s Calendar‘ -Poems by John Updike and illustrations by Trina Schart Hyman

A poetic and picturesque calendar detailing each month of a year in the life of a young family. The aspect of this book that I love the most is how the little kid in the family notices everything about life in the changing seasons around him- you see him peering in through the windows of his house, looking up at bare trees, observing bees buzzing over flowers, watching birds gathering around the hanging feeders and so much more. The poems and the wonderful illustrations paint an idyllic portrait of the everyday life around us. ‘A Child’s Calendar’ got the Caldecott Honor in the year 2000.

The Snowy Day‘ by Ezra Jack Keats

Narrates a day in the life of a little boy who wakes up one winter morning to find a snow-covered landscape outside his bedroom window. The innocence and charm of the story are reflected in little details like a darling orange-red snowsuit, wispy snowflakes, and a snowball tucked into a pocket for safekeeping. The author has used varied illustration techniques such as collages, stamps, inking with a toothbrush and the final effect is quite striking.
Peter, the central character, is featured in six other books by the author- a pioneer in celebrating diversity in children’s books. ‘The Snowy Day’ won the Caldecott Medal in 1963 and is a beloved classic today.

These are just a select few of the books that have enthralled my family over the years. What are some of the books that you and your family love? Please share.

*Image courtesy of  Florin Gorgan  CC BY-SA 2.0


    1. I like ‘The Giving Tree’ too. It is a sad but true statement on our relationship with nature, the end is especially heartbreaking…My kids liked listening to its audiobook during car rides.
      Thanks for your input, Meredith!


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