This weekend was my nephew, Archer's, second birthday (is he not the cutest thing you've ever seen?). This is the age that Ellison really started to get into her books and had a group of favorites that she asked me to read on repeat, so I knew that I wanted to get Archer books for his birthday. I was on the hunt for story books about nature for young children- the 5 and under crowd. And not just stories with silly, cartoonish characters (not that those aren't wonderful, too); but ones with a truly interesting and informative message accompanied by pictures or illustrations that can really captivate a young child. Books specifically about understanding the natural world. I was so excited to find a number of really great new titles and came away wanting to spend a ton of money and buy books for the whole world's children (and their parents).
While we only ended up getting the first three on this list, Ellison and I loved so many of them that we decided to share them here (at Ellison's suggestion - she got really into picking out gifts for Archer). Hopefully these will serve as inspiration if you're in the market for a special book for the young readers in your life ... or if you're like me and just want them for yourself.
More - I.C. Springman, Illustrated by Brian Lies
'Less is more' is the moral of this story about a magpie and it's quest to gain more and more 'stuff' for its nest. The overall message resonates on every page, despite (or maybe because of) the author's use of such few words. Ellison and I loved the facial expressions on the magpie and the mice and I think the illustrations do the story such justice. It is a timeless message of appreciation, gratitude and contentment.
Step Gently Out - Helen Frost, Photographs by Rick Lieder
The photography in Step Gently Out is what makes this book so great for kids. The images are amazing and I just want to keep looking at it over and over because the macro shots of insects are so cool. The writing is average, but Ellison and I have to be honest and say we picked this one for Archer because of the pictures.
Outside Your Window - Nicola Davis, Illustrated by Mark Hearld
Poetry for young children is fantastic for so many reasons and this book of poems about the outside world makes the top of my list for young toddlers. Not all of the poems rhyme and I'm sure when read aloud the cadence feels a little off, but the book makes up for it with such delightful illustrations that it hardly matters.
The Night Gardener - Terry Fan, Eric Fan
The Night Gardener is just so, so good. It was recently released this past month and I absolutely loved it and so did Ellison. It starts with a tree that has been turned into a topiary owl and then, as more topiary trees appear, William tries to figure out who is doing this night gardening. The story and its illustrations are magical in the best way possible. It captures the wonder of childhood and the lasting joy created by sharing our special gifts and talents with others.
The Night Sky - Michael Driscoll, Illustrated by Meredith Hamilton
This book is for older readers than Archer, but it is the perfect way to familiarize kids with basic astronomical concepts. I imagine reading this with your kids and then going on a backyard camp out (even if it's just for a few hours) and trying to spot constellations on a clear night. Maybe some s'mores, sleeping bags and everyone just laying in the grass looking up at the stars. If nothing else, it's quality family time.
Nature's Day - Kay Maguire, Illustrated by Danielle Kroll
Nature's Day takes children to a variety of different natural locations (farm, town, pond) and through each of the four seasons. It offers facts about the natural world in a way that will definitely inspire even the youngest child to want to get outside. The illustrations are beautiful and the book is so nicely bound that it is one you'll want to keep for generations.
Outside - Maria Ana Piexe Dias, Ines Teixeira do Rosario, Bernardo P. Carvalho
So this one is brand new (so much so that it says it comes out on March 3 on Amazon), but it was already available in my local bookstore. The best part about this book is the fact that it not only gives insight into the basic happenings of the natural world, but also gives tips on how families can get outside and start exploring the nature around them. It's part reference, part activity and overall an interesting book for all ages.
Nature Anatomy - Julia Rothman
This one is a little more specific than the others and is marketed for the older child who can read (maybe 3rd-5th grade), but that shouldn't stop you from introducing your child to the concepts in this beautiful book at an earlier age. The presentation is so lovely and it offered just enough information.
The author, Julia Rothman, has also written 'Farm Anatomy' in a similiar style. It wasn't available in my bookstore so I can't attest to whether it's as great as 'Nature Anatomy', but I think it's probably safe to say that it is. I think I am going to have to order both for myself. Seriously though. I loved them that much.