21 Picture Books About Nature That Are More Important Than Ever

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Children's book characters have always been a natural fit in the wild world (think: The Adventures of Winnie the Pooh, The Secret Garden, Where the Wild Things Are), but 2020 has brought with it a storm of gentle, thoughtful, sharp, and fantastical picture books that focus on nature.

The year came into being in the midst of bushfires, drought, flooding, and days in New York City where people found themselves walking around in tank tops despite it being January. For the many parents who experience climate angst, or climate grief, books are a useful tool for teaching their kids about the importance of nature — those who want to preserve "untrammeled" wilderness know the paradox that people have to visit wilderness to connect with and appreciate it. And a piece of artwork — a picture book, say — is a nice analog for the natural splendor we can't always experience firsthand. No wonder kids love them.

Whether you're a hiker, gardener, bird-noticer, or resolute car-camper, these books offer a gorgeous way for young readers to connect with the world they live in. Some are upcoming titles to add to your buy list, and some are already quietly awaiting you on the shelves at your local bookstore. Open each one, and you'll recall John Muir's observation that "going out, I found, was really going in."

UPCOMING RELEASES

'The Keeper Of Wild Words' by Brooke Smith, Illustrated by Madeline Kloepper

Chronicle

The Keeper of Wild Words by Brooke Smith and illustrated by Madeline Kloepper ($18.99, Amazon)

When Brooke visits her grandmother's house "at the end of a long cinder lane, surrounded by meadows and pine trees and sky," her grandmother asks her to take on a very important job: She is to remember the wild words that are disappearing from our language. So they tour the outside world, searching for words ("dandelion" is "fairy dust sitting on a stem"). The words become something Brooke can carry with her after she leaves her grandmother's house, and forever after that.

Forthcoming, March 10, 2020

'The Camping Trip' by Jennifer K. Mann

Candlewick

The Camping Trip by Jennifer K. Mann ($17.99, Amazon)

Ride along on a girl's first camping trip. From excitement while packing to fear when sleeping in a tent, and back to the wonder of being immersed in in nature, this book shows the joy of being outdoors.

Forthcoming, May 5, 2020

'Hike' by Pete Oswald

Candlewick

Hike by Pete Oswald ($17.99, Amazon)

A father and child head out early one morning on a big adventure that is wordless and expansive. There are hard climbs to beautiful vistas, tiny details to notice along the way, pit stops to enjoy some trail mix, and the suggestion that this single-day hike is part of a much bigger journey. More than just enjoy nature, the pair do their little part to protect it.

Forthcoming, March 17, 2020

'Goodnight, Veggies' by Diana Murray and Zachariah OHora

HMH

Goodnight, Veggies by Diana Murray and Zachariah OHora ($17.99, Amazon)

Take a worm's-eye view of a vegetable garden. Families who don't have a garden of their own can learn all about where their favorite veggies come from.

Forthcoming, March 10, 2020

'The Hike' by Alison Farrell

Chronicle Books

The Hike by Alison Farrell ($17.99, Amazon)

Three intrepid girls go on a grand adventure. Readers get to spot wildlife along with them. This ones good for lovers of nonfiction as well, because it's full of terms and wildlife identification.

'Outside In' by Deborah Underwood, Illustrated by Cindy Derby

HMH

Outside In by Deborah Underwood and illustrated by Cindy Derby ($17.99, Amazon)

Even when we live most of our days indoors, we are still forever connected to nature. This book is lyrical and lush and invites us to look at all the ways we are still connected to nature.

Forthcoming, April 14, 2020

'A Last Goodbye' by Elin Kelsey, Illustrated by Soyeon Kim

OwlKids

A Last Goodbye by Elin Kelsey and illustrated by Soyeon Kim ($18.95, Amazon)

Death is a hard subject to broach, but it's reassuring that animals have their own ways to mourn. This is a poetic look at our interconnectedness with animals and our planet.

Forthcoming, April 15, 2020

'If You Take Away The Otter' by Susannah Buhrman-Deever, Illustrated by Matthew Trueman

Courtesy of Candlewick

If You Take Away The Otter by Susannah Buhrman-Deever and illustrated by Matthew Trueman ($16.99, Amazon)

Explore the food chain and all the dynamics between plants and animals and their ecosystems. Readers can see how taking away one species can have a big impact on the surrounding world.

Forthcoming, May 26, 2020

'We Are Water Protectors' by Carole Lindstrom, Illustrated by Michaela Goade

Courtesy of Macmillan

We Are Water Protectors by Carole Lindstrom and illustrated by Michaela Goade ($17.99, Amazon)

This book celebrates indigenous-led movements to protect our planet's water. With gorgeous illustrations, it gives readers a sense of our connectivity.

Forthcoming, March 17, 2020

'My Friend Earth' by Patricia MacLachlan, Illustrated by Francesca Sanna

Chronicle Books

My Friend Earth by Patricia MacLachlan and illustrated by Francesca Sanna ($17.99, Amazon)

Celebrate all the things Earth does for us inhabitants and take a look at how we can take care of Earth in return. This book has cut-outs that create a sense of wonder about the world your reader is entering.

Forthcoming, Feb. 25, 2020

'In The Garden' by Emma Giuliani

Princeton Architectural Press

In the Garden by Emma Giuliani ($27.95 from Amazon)

This large-format book about a sister and brother, Plum and Robin, exploring their garden, opens up page after page of wonders for young readers peeking underneath the flaps and taking in the paper flowers Giuliani, a graphic designer, has built into the book.

Peek inside the garden shed to see tools hanging up, watch bulbs sprouting into bloom, and open up a flower to see the stamen, pistil, and ovule inside.

Forthcoming, April 7, 2020

'Oliver The Curious Owl' by Chad Otis

Little, Brown Books For Young Readers

Oliver the Curious Owl by Chad Otis ($17.99, Amazon)

Everyone in Oliver's family always asks "Who?" but Oliver wants to know more about the world around him. There are so many questions to ask!

Forthcoming, Aug. 11, 2020

NEW RELEASES

'In A Jar' by Deborah Marcero

G. Putnam's Sons Books For Young Readers

In a Jar by Deborah Marcero ($17.99 from Amazon)

Not strictly a book about nature, this is a story about two little friends who manage to bottle the beautiful days they spend outside watching the stars, or a meadow in bloom, or fall leaves, prolonging the magic. When Evelyn moves away, Llewellyn is lonely until he tries to send his friend a jar of the sky, proving the two are part of the same thing.

A sweet story about loss and friendship, In a Jar also rich with a sense of how nature connects us over great distances.

'On Wings Of Words: The Extraordinary Life Of Emily Dickinson' by Jennifer Berne, Illustrated by Becca Stadtlander

Chronicle Books

On Wings of Words: The Extraordinary Life of Emily Dickinson by Jennifer Berne and illustrated by Becca Stadtlander ($18.99 from Amazon)

This look at the life of poet Emily Dickinson goes inside her imagination, and is full of the flowers and bugs and scenes that inspired her poetry. With Dickinson's poetry throughout, this is a gentle look at our place on Earth as stewards and witnesses to beauty.

'A Stone Sat Still' by Brendan Wenzel

Courtesy of Chronicle

A Stone Sat Still by Brendan Wenzel ($17.99, Amazon)

Kids can marvel at the world through the experience of a stone. Sure the stone doesn't move, but all around, the world comes alive. The illustrations are gorgeous and will invite kids to take a new view of nature.

7. 'Some Snow Is...' by Ellen Yeomans, Illustrated by Andrea Offermann

Courtesy of Penguin Random House

Some Snow Is... by Ellen Yeomans and illustrated by Andrea Offermann ($16.99, Amazon)

Neighbors come together to marvel at the first few flakes of a snowfall and soon have adventures in the deepening snow. This book explores all the different kinds of snow and winter weather, and finds the good in it all.

11. 'Earth Hour: A Lights-Out Event For Our Planet' by Nanette Heffernan, Illustrated by Bao Luu

Courtesy of Charlesbridge

Earth Hour by Nanette Heffernan and illustrated by Bao Luu ($16.99, Amazon)

Explore how people around the world use energy, and join in a global effort to observe Earth Hour, turning off nonessential electric lights and working together to have a big impact!

'The Hideout' by Susannah Mattiangeli, Illustrated by Felicita Sala

Courtesy of Abrams

The Hideout by Susanna Mattiangeli and illustrated by Felicita Sala ($16.99, Amazon)

Kids love forts, and this book has the ultimate nature hideout. There are no limits on what you can play and how you can imagine your life outdoors.

'You Are Home: An Ode To The National Parks' by Evan Turk

Courtesy of Simon and Schuster

You Are Home by Evan Turk ($18.99, Amazon)

An illustrated ode to the United States' great national parks. Filled with breathtaking sights, the animals and landscapes that capture each park will create a sense of how important it is to preserve these places.

'Can You Hear The Trees Talking? Discovering The Hidden Life Of The Forest' by Peter Wohlleben

Courtesy of Greystone

Can You Hear the Trees Talking? by Peter Wohlleben ($13.99, Amazon)

Look at trees from a new perspective. They are a lot more like us than we might realize. Curious kids will eat this one up, because it's full of facts!

'The Light In The Lake' by Sarah R. Baughman

Courtesy of Little, Brown

The Light in the Lake by Sarah R. Baughman ($12.87, Amazon)

This book for middle-grade readers is about a girl who is drawn to a lake, despite the fact that her twin brother drowned in it. She spends the summer studying the lake and man's environmental impact on it.