Top Ten Picture Books That Encourage Us To Get Outside And Explore by Wendy BooydeGraaff
Reading seems like an indoor thing, or maybe an outdoor activity if there’s a hammock or a nice chaise lounge nearby. These picture books, though, encourage a whole lot more than that. They inspire kids and adults to get outside and interact with nature, the weather, the wide, wide world, no matter what season or time of day.
Goodbye Summer, Hello Autumn by Kenard Pak
Here the chatty narrator says hello to everything she meets on her walk: trees, wind, beavers, chill in the air. This book is all about noticing the world, its beauty and its changes, especially as nature moves from summer to autumn. Try going outside after reading this book and not saying hello to the first tree you see.
Snow by Uri Shulevitz
In this classic picture book, a gray city turns white with snow and everyone (including the dog and the goose, Mother Goose and Humpty Dumpty) comes out to play, highlighting the magical quality of snow. Snow is always an invitation to dance outside and after every reading of this book, I’m itching for that first snowfall.
And Then It’s Spring by Julie Fogliano, illustrated by Erin Stead
Spring is the season I’m most eager for and this picture book captures that intense longing for green and newness. There’s a great spread where a child is ear down to the ground, listening for seeds that grow. It begs us to go outside and explore, and yes, listen to the earth.
Worm Weather by Jean Taft, illustrated by Mark Hunt
The fun language splashes into our imaginations. After reading this, kids will cheer for the next rainy day so they can stomp in puddles and run from thunder. Yes, it’s one of the few picture books where kids are outside in a thunderstorm.
Sail Away poems by Langston Hughes, illustrated by Ashley Bryan
One way of enjoying the great outdoors is via boat. Sail the nighttime waters or nap on the beach beside the calm. Visit rivers, bridges, mermaids alongside the seaworthy poems and illustrations collected in this book.
Mae and the Moon by Jami Gigot
Not many books encourage kids to go out at night; Mae’s friendship with the moon makes the nighttime warm and inviting, full of things to watch and find. Moonlight is surprisingly un-dark, and letting kids in on the beauty of the night brings life-long pleasure.
Flashlight by Lizi Boyd
Walking around the dark forest, a boy’s flashlight beams colour onto the black and white illustrations. Skunks, field mice and an owl are all illuminated, until bump, the boy falls and the flashlight shines on him, giving the woodland creatures a chance to spy on him.
Firefly July: A Year of Very Short Poems selected by Paul B. Janeczko, illustrated by Melissa Sweet
True to the title, these very short poems take us through each season, reveling in mud, noticing the wind, understanding the magic of mist and fog. The poems included are by well-known poets, such as William Carlos Williams, Richard Wright and Emily Dickinson, and are accessible to child-readers, perhaps because they all focus on the outdoors.
Finding Wild by Megan Wagner Lloyd, illustrated by Abigail Halpin
Discovering the many varieties of wild out there makes nature a mysterious entity that seems vast. Even in the city, which seems “clean and paved, ordered and tidy,” you can look and look and eventually you’ll find wild again. Which leads to…
Sidewalk Flowers by Jon Arno Lawson, illustrated by Sydney Smith
Wild flowers are all over the city’s cracks and a child collects and redistributes them while on a walk with her father. I love the dual story here: the child is all about noticing and interacting with the environment, while the adult is all about talking on the phone and getting to the destination quickly. They are outside together, even though their purposes for being there couldn’t be more different.
I’m sure you have many favourites that you’d love to tell me about in the comments. Please do—I’d love to make a huge list of them on Pinterest. But if you’ll excuse me, there’s something about writing this post that makes me want to run outside first.
Wendy BooydeGraaff is the author of the picture book SALAD PIE (Ripple Grove Press 2016) which has inspired several children to go outside, pick up shiny gum wrappers at the park and add them to a pretend pie. You can find out more at her website, and you can read about many other picture book authors and illustrators at On the Scene in 2016, a picture book debut blog. Connect and share your favourite outdoorsy books @BooyTweets, on Pinterest or Goodreads.