The best books for exploring nature at night with kids

Anita Sanchez Author Of Wait Till It Gets Dark: A Kid's Guide to Exploring the Night
By Anita Sanchez

Who am I?

As a writer, I’m especially fascinated by plants and animals that no one loves. My books are intended to get kids excited about science and help them appreciate the wonders of the natural world. Many years of fieldwork, leading children on nature walks, have given me firsthand experience in introducing students to the terrors and joys of nature. I especially enjoy the beauties of the night, from fireflies to coyote howls to star-gazing!

I wrote...

Wait Till It Gets Dark: A Kid's Guide to Exploring the Night

By Anita Sanchez, John Himmelman (illustrator),

Book cover of Wait Till It Gets Dark: A Kid's Guide to Exploring the Night

What is my book about?

It’s night. It’s dark. It’s time to go indoors—or is it? The outdoors at night can be a scary place, but this book will help young readers investigate the mysterious nature of night.

To explore the night, it would be great to have eyes like an owl, the sensitive nose of a deer, and feet that can move as silently as a fox. Humans aren’t quite as good as nocturnal animals at navigating the darkness, but we can come surprisingly close. Our senses are much sharper than we realize, if we learn how to use them. Some scientists are even researching the sensory abilities of human hair! Each chapter of the book spotlights a different nocturnal creature. And while learning about animals’ adaptations for navigating the world of night, young readers discover their own surprising abilities.

The books I picked & why

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Once in a Full Moon

By Carol Goodman, Mariia Luzina (illustrator),

Book cover of Once in a Full Moon

Why this book?

I love to get kids excited about the night time and all the adventures that can be had when exploring the outdoors at night. Watching the moon is something kids can do even in a city filled with bright lights. This book focuses on the moon as the seasons go by, with the unique names for each full moon—Strawberry Moon, Cold Moon, Harvest Moon. Moon-gazing is the first step in getting kids to feel comfortable outdoors after the sun goes down.

The Night Flower: The Blooming of the Saguaro Cactus

By Lara Hawthorne,

Book cover of The Night Flower: The Blooming of the Saguaro Cactus

Why this book?

I once was lucky enough to spend a night camping in the desert under a saguaro cactus. These big, human-looking cacti are magnificent, and this book really captures how important they are to the desert and all the animals that live there. Beautiful illustrations really make me remember that night under the stars and how impressive the giant saguaros are. I’ve learned that when kids feel a sense of awe toward nature, that’s the first step in becoming an environmentalist.

Animals at Night: A Glow-In-The-Dark Book

By Anne Jankéliowitch, Delphine Chedru (illustrator), Eve Bodeux (translator)

Book cover of Animals at Night: A Glow-In-The-Dark Book

Why this book?

I admit it, I’m a sucker for glow-in-the-dark books. I still have the glow-in-the-dark stars on the bedroom ceiling from when my own kids were small. This book has gorgeous glow-in-the-dark illustrations (it works best if you happen to have a blacklight bulb) but also has a lot of great information, facts, and thought-provoking questions about the lifestyles of nocturnal wildlife of all shapes and sizes. A fun reading experience for parents as well as kids!

In the Dark: The Science of What Happens at Night

By Lisa Deresti Betik, Josh Holinaty (illustrator),

Book cover of In the Dark: The Science of What Happens at Night

Why this book?

This book is for slightly older kids who want to delve deeper into the mysteries of the night. I like this book because it includes plants in the survey of what’s going on at night. Plants often get overlooked, but they’re just as active at night as they are during the day—they don’t move around or make noise, but there’s a lot going on inside those quiet leaves. This book also covers humans, how our brain works, why it needs sleep, and does a good job of explaining the complex topic of biological rhythms.

Find the Constellations

By H.A. Rey,

Book cover of Find the Constellations

Why this book?

This book really changed my life—it opened up the night skies and taught me the constellations in a simple kid-friendly way. Lots of fun cartoons make star-gazing surprisingly possible. Once I learned how to identify a few constellations, the night became a much friendlier palace, and instead of being scared of the dark, I began to realize the incredible beauty of the night. H. A. Rey really communicates his passion for star-gazing and makes you want to go out and night and explore the skies. And if the author’s name sounds familiar to you, it’s because he’s the creator of Curious George!

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