Beat boredom with these engaging titles that suggest amazing ways to engage with and have fun in the natural world.
1) Plant an avocado tree!
Sprout, Seed, Sprout!, by Annika Dunklee, illustrated by Carey Sookocheff
About the book: One day, when a boy sees his dad cut an avocado in half, he decides to plant the fruit’s seed and grow it into…an avocado tree! One glass of water, two careful hands, and three pointy toothpicks later, it’s time to wait…and wait…and wait…for it to grow.
At long last, the boy and his faithful pet cat see one root, two roots, three roots emerge! Three scoops of soil, three sprinkles of water, and a lot more waiting…lead to one sturdy stem, two clapping hands, and three grateful cheers. The avocado tree starts to appear! One, two, and three years later, the tree grows taller still.
This charming story is told with lots of rhythm and repetition, paired with playful illustrations full of funny details about the trials of coaxing a seed into a plant. Readers will come away with a sense that the struggle to be patient and stick it out can be worthwhile, even when a result seems impossible.
2) Go hunting for sea glass/beach glass treasures!
Seaside Treasures: A Guidebook for Little Beachcombers, by Sarah Grindler
About the book: An essential sea glass–hunting handbook for kids. With helpful advice, like "make sure no one's home!" before taking a snail shell, and fascinating facts, like how sea glass is formed and where glass fishing floats come from, the gentle and flowing text invites young readers to explore and wonder about everything that washes up on the sand.
Author and illustrator Sarah Grindler's images are vivid and realistic, showing readers what to look for by the ocean—from purple sea urchin shells (that otters love to much on) to mussel shells, sand dollars, and every colour of sea glass—and encouraging all of us to imagine where those treasures may have come from. A beautiful keepsake as well as a practical guidebook for the young beachcomber.
3) Hug a tree!
Nature All Around: Trees, by Pamela Hickman, illustrated by Carolyn Gavin
About the book: This comprehensive and beautifully illustrated introduction to trees and the important role they play is part of the essential Nature All Around series. The book first explores the parts of trees, their life cycles, the difference between deciduous and evergreen trees, leaf types and the processes of photosynthesis and respiration. Then it takes readers through a year in the life cycle of trees, describing what happens during each of the four seasons. Readers will discover the many ways trees are vital to the environment and how various animals can share one tree as a home.
A two-page spread contains a map of forest regions across the United States and Canada. And there's even a section for “budding” tree-watchers, with fun questions to help identify trees in their neighborhoods.
Combine bestselling author Pamela Hickman's child-friendly, informative text with Carolyn Gavin's whimsical, painterly illustrations and you get both a complete reference tool and a book that children will be drawn to for its enticing visual appeal. This book has strong curriculum applications in grades two through five, when children are learning about the characteristics of living things. It works specifically for life science lessons on the growth and changes in plants, and on the interdependence of living things. End matter includes information about endangered trees and how readers can help, as well as an activity, glossary, and index.
4) Go camping!
The Not-So Great Outdoors, by Madeline Kloepper
About the book: A reluctant camper discovers that the (not-so) great outdoors can be just as exciting as screens and skyscrapers in this playful picture book celebration of the pleasures of unplugging and embracing nature.
What's so great about the "great outdoors"? A grumpy urban kid begrudgingly accompanies her family on a summer camping trip, missing all the sublime sights right under her nose as she longs for the lights and stimulation of the city. But as she explores forests, lakes and mountains, and encounters bears, beavers and caribou, she slowly comes to realize that the simpler things are just as sparkly, that the sky is its own majestic light show, and the symphony is all around. The Not-So Great Outdoors is a humorous and richly imagined reminder of the beauty and magic that can be found away from the city and our screens.
5) Throw some seed bombs!
Me, Toma and the Concrete Garden, by Andrew Larsen, illustrated by Anne Villeneuve
About the book: Vincent is staying with his aunt Mimi for the summer while his mom recuperates from surgery. Mimi's drab city neighborhood, complete with an empty dirt lot across the street, doesn't seem too promising. But then Vincent meets Toma, a boy who lives nearby, and things start looking up. Mimi has a mysterious box of “dirt balls” in her apartment. When she asks Vincent to get rid of them, the fun Vincent and Toma have throwing them into the lot becomes the start of a budding friendship. Then one day, they notice new shoots sprouting all over the lot. Maybe those balls weren't just made of dirt after all!
Bestselling author Andrew Larsen brings a light touch and gentle humor to this picture book story about several kinds of growth—of the boys and their friendship, the flowers in the newly thriving lot, and the community that comes together around it. Award-winning artist Anne Villeneuve's illustrations add a visual layer to the storytelling as they show the transformation from mostly gray to vibrant color, both literally, in the blossoming garden, and figuratively, in the now engaged neighborhood. This book highlights the value of connecting to nature, even in urban areas, and the sense of community that comes from civic engagement. It's an excellent choice for character education lessons on kindness, generosity and citizenship.
6) Make some forest art!
My Forest Is Green, by Darren Lebeuf, illustrated by Ashley Barron
About the book: With art supplies in tow, a young boy explores the urban forest near his home, then interprets what he sees with his art. The boy is a keen observer who uses poetic, rhythmic language to describe the diversity he finds through all four seasons. His forest is both “fluffy” and “prickly,” “dense” and “sparse,” “crispy” and “soft.” It's also “scattered and soggy, and spotted and foggy.” His forest is made up of many colors—but he decides that “mostly it's green.” Each aspect of the forest inspires the boy to create a different kind of art: charcoal rubbing, rock art, photography, sponge painting, snow sculpture, cut-paper collage. To this artist, there's always something new to discover, and to capture!
In this delightful picture book, Darren Lebeuf, an award-winning photographer, encourages small children to look closer at and appreciate the nature that surrounds them. And by providing such a broad range of ideas for artistic expression, it's sure to awaken the nature artist in every child. Bright, deeply textured illustrations by Ashley Barron bring the forest and the boy's artworks to vivid life. This story provides an excellent depiction of nature-based education in an outdoor classroom. The specificity of the concrete and abstract adjectives used in the text works as a perfect complement to primary science lessons on investigating, comparing and identifying the physical characteristics of plants and animals. This book also makes for an enjoyable, lyrical read-aloud.
7) Draw a puddle map!
The Biggest Puddle in the World, by Mark Lee, illustrated by Nathalie Dion
About the book: When Sarah and her younger brother Charlie go to stay with their grandparents, it rains for days. At first, they have fun exploring inside the big, old house, but eventually they want to explore outside, too. “Where does the rain come from?” Sarah asks her grandfather, Big T. He promises to show her once it stops raining.
When the storm passes, Sarah, Big T., Charlie and Keeper the dog go exploring. They jump in puddles, draw a puddle map and finally find the biggest puddle in the world!
Mark Lee’s lively story is an introduction to the water cycle for young readers. Nathalie Dion’s soft illustrations show the fun, loving relationship between Big T., Sarah and Charlie.
8) Spend a day at the beach!
My Mommy, My Mama, My Brother, and Me: These Are the Things We Found By the Sea, by Natalie Meisner, illustrated by Mathilde Cinq-Mars
About the book: And these are the things we find by the sea
My mommy, my mama, my brother, and me.
With this gentle refrain, the debut picture book from celebrated author and playwright Natalie Meisner (Double Pregnant) reflects on her own two-mom, two-son family's early days growing up in Lockeport, Nova Scotia.
Living by the sea offers myriad charms for the two young brothers in this poetic ode to beachcombing. When the fog disappears, the path to the beach beckons, with all the treasures it leaves behind: lobster traps, buoys, fused glass, urchins, a note in a bottle. But best of all is all the neighbours they meet along the way. An unforgettable instant classic for families of all shapes and sizes. Featuring glorious watercolours by Mathilde Cinq-Mars, which capture the warmth and magic of time spent with family by the sea.
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