The best children’s picture books about wildlife

Marta Magellan Author Of Python Catchers: Saving the Everglades
By Marta Magellan

Who am I?

My love for wildlife has produced several award-winning nonfiction books about animals for children (bats, lizards, dragonflies, hummingbirds, and more). To observe wildlife, I travel often to wild areas, such as the Amazon, Galapagos Island, the Pantanal. A former full professor at Miami Dade College, I taught Creative Writing, English Composition, and Survey of Children’s Literature and was an adviser to the college’s award-winning literary magazine. My children’s nonfiction picture books about wild animals have won several awards: Silver Eureka for nonfiction, Silver Nautilus, two Bronze Florida Book Awards, and a Purple Dragonfly honor. Born in Brazil, I have lived in Miami for most of my life.

I wrote...

Python Catchers: Saving the Everglades

By Marta Magellan, Mauro Magellan (illustrator),

Book cover of Python Catchers: Saving the Everglades

What is my book about?

Burmese Pythons, escaped or released when they became too big for their owners, are taking over the Everglades. They’ve already eaten most of the small mammals in Everglades National Park.

An easy-to-read, colorful, and entertaining natural history, Python Catchers is told through the eyes of a clever wood stork and curious marsh rabbit. The plight of native species and their habitats comes alive for younger readers in this illustrated volume for children 4-9 years old. It offers detailed information on the damage the pythons are causing, the risks they pose to other animals, and a lively story to inspire young conservationists. Information on what readers can do to prevent the introduction of invasive species, the laws about exotic pets, a comprehensive glossary, and a list of resources are also included.

The Books I Picked & Why

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Shark Lady

By Jess Keating, Marta Álvarez Miguéns (illustrator),

Book cover of Shark Lady: The True Story of How Eugenie Clark Became the Ocean's Most Fearless Scientist

Why this book?

For those who love the ocean as much as I do, Shark Lady is a lovely read-aloud for the little ones with the same fascination for the ocean and its most feared member: the shark. The bold illustrations with plenty of ocean scenes makes it one of my favorites but the story of a young woman who was fearless enough to swim with the sharks and make new discoveries about them is also full of information for the adults doing the reading.


By Silvia Lopez, Guido Daniele (illustrator),

Book cover of Handimals: Animals in Art and Nature

Why this book?

I love this book. I visited Zoo Miami when the author and Italian illustrator launched their beautiful collection. I don’t get tired of leafing through the pages and gazing at Daniele Guido’s art. He uses human hands as his canvas, turning them into wild and wonderful animals. The author, Silvia Lopez, brings insightful facts to raise awareness and awe for Earth’s precious wildlife. Sure to be appreciated by both animal lovers and artists, this inspiring collection showcases sixteen amazing animals, such as pythons, Komodo dragons, and polar bears incredibly lifelike on the hands. Silvia Lopez provides insightful facts about each and has received a BookList starred review and a few other awards for it. 

Giant Squid

By Candace Fleming, Eric Rohmann (illustrator),

Book cover of Giant Squid

Why this book?

My love for the ocean and its creature make this one of my favorite picture books about wildlife for the younger set. The author’s lyrical, almost poetic description of the mysterious giant squid, living in the dark depths of the ocean is a joy to read, and the dark-ocean illustrations give the book an eerie feel not seen in most sea-inspired books. It received a Robert E. Sibert Honor award.

No Monkeys, No Chocolate

By Melissa Stewart, Allen Young, Nicole Wong (illustrator)

Book cover of No Monkeys, No Chocolate

Why this book?

Who doesn’t like chocolate? No Monkeys, No Chocolates explains to the reader how we lucky humans ended up with what has to be one of the most popular treats in the world. Although the author writes about the entire process, starting with cocoa beans and ending with trees, wildlife plays an important part in our final chocolate treats, hence, the title. Midges, anoles, maggots, lizards, and of course, monkeys all play a part in getting the cocoa beans to grow, pollinate, and become new trees. One part of the book is straight nonfiction with serious explanations about the process, but illustrations of bookworms on the bent corner of the book give it that bit of metafiction to delight the younger readers who may not want to sit through every word.

Butterflies Belong Here

By Deborah Hopkinson, Meilo So (illustrator),

Book cover of Butterflies Belong Here: A Story of One Idea, Thirty Kids, and a World of Butterflies

Why this book?

This past year, I have been fascinated by butterflies, and especially the monarchs and their utterly magnificent flights of migration. But there are other books about monarch butterflies, so why this one? It is a story, fictitious admittedly, about how a group of children with passion and love for nature and butterflies face a growing problem using grassroots activism. It is based on what children and communities are doing to help butterflies all over the country and on the real issue of the decline of the monarch butterfly. It is sure to inspire the budding environmental activist.

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