Childhood is a good time for learning how to adapt to nature, and there is some wonderful new nonfiction to support this task. Personally, I come from a long line of indoor people, and it is hard to really get into outdoors life when you are already stuck in your ways. Bugs? Horrifying. Camping? Cold. Hikes? Fine, but like so is television?
Don’t get me wrong, I like nature. Truly, I want the nature-y parts of the world to continue to thrive and be happy. I just want that while I look upon the view from inside, where I am safe, clean, and warm. Please understand that I don’t wish the natural world ill, I’m just not particularly comfortable when I am in it. Sitting on a patio for a drink is nice, but then wasps come buzzing around and I can’t think of anything else, so I’ll end up wiggling around, pretending to sensibly adjust my clothes but actually dodging insects. In a truly baffling state of affairs, I moved to a city where people love the outdoors.
So all of that to say, save your tiny humans from a lifetime of sitting alone while their friends go skiing, or whatever outside activities people do. It’s too late for me, but not for them — embrace these kids’ books about the outdoors. My theory is that if you start them young with books, it’ll be easier to get them to have fun in the actual outside world.
Invented by Animals by Christiane Dorion and Gosia Herba
In this informative book, animals and bugs are split into sections by colour and/or texture. Not only are the illustrations adorable and vivid, but each blurb points to the ways that the creature is helpful, unique, and inspiring. If you read my above ramblings then you know I am freaked out by wasps, for instance. Well, here there is a whole page spread devoted to how paper wasps inspired a man named Cai Lun to turn chopped trees into pulp for paper, thereby gifting us books. Will I still do a jumpy dance away from them? Yes. But it’ll give me a distracting thought next time I see one, anyway.
What Is a River? by Monika Vaicenavičienė
Using a conversational structure, this takes the form of a gentle discussion between a grandmother and granddaughter. It is a delightful format to learn from, and will give adults warm-fuzzies as much as kids. The art is beautiful and muted, giving off a sense of calm that encourages thoughtful engagement in the text as keen readers learn about rivers through facts and stories.
The Snail and The Right Heart: A True Story by Maria Popova and Ping Zhu
When I lived in London, there were a lot of snails. I even found myself quite fond of them, attempting to dodge them on the sidewalk during the rain. This lovely true story tells the story of Lefty, a slug with a shell that spiraled the opposite way than the usual. The book has beautiful art, descriptive storytelling, well-explained science, and a heartwarming message about being unique.
The Story of Climate Change by Catherine Barr, Steve Williams, Amy Husband, and Mike Love
Written by scientists Barr and Williams, the book gives the origin story of climate change in a way that kids will find interesting and easy to understand. Also, the art is bright and eye-catching, using collage-style illustrations in detailed tableaus. While reading about climate change isn’t the happiest topic, hope comes in the form of suggested ways to help fight back (such as eating less meat, using bikes to get around, and being less wasteful overall).
Fatima’s Great Outdoors by Ambreen Tariq and Stevie Lewis
Camping is not a thing I enjoy. However, I really think books like this could have changed it all around when I was young and impressionable. Fatima and her family go camping at a local state park in the midwest. It isn’t easy, but the various complications (a spider! a weak campfire!) bring the family closer together and reminds them of experiences they shared back in India.
Wonder Walkers by Micha Archer
Two children go for a nature walk, exploring the territory around them while imagining incredible adventures together. The ink-and-collage illustrations are gorgeous and likely to inspire readers to wonder while doing their own walks. This is a very joyous addition to any collection.
There it is, six new kids’ books about the outdoors that I am confident will get your young readers on the path to appreciating the outside world.