The best children’s picture books about wildlife

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.

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The books I picked & why

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

Marta Magellan Why did I love 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 Jess Keating, Marta Álvarez Miguéns (illustrator),

Why should I read it?

9 authors picked Shark Lady as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 9, 10, 11, and 12.

What is this book about?

One of New York Times' Twelve Books for Feminist Boys and Girls!
This is the story of a woman who dared to dive, defy, discover, and inspire. This is the story of Shark Lady. One of the best science picture books for children, Shark Lady is a must for both teachers and parents alike!
An Amazon Best Book of the Month
Named a Best Children's Book of 2017 by Parents magazine
Eugenie Clark fell in love with sharks from the first moment she saw them at the aquarium. She couldn't imagine anything more exciting than studying these graceful creatures. But…

Book cover of Handimals: Animals in Art and Nature

Marta Magellan Why did I love 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. 

By Silvia Lopez, Guido Daniele (illustrator),

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Handimals as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 4, 5, 6, and 7.

What is this book about?

Discover the beauty of Handimals: hands modeled and painted into animals paired with facts and photos of the corresponding animals in nature.

With a gift for fine art and a lifelong love of nature, Guido paints magnificent animal subjects on an unconventional canvas―human hands. This awe–inspiring collection showcases sixteen creatures ranging from polar bears to alpacas to Komodo dragons and provides factual information about the various species.

Silvia Lopez brings her sharp eye to these important animals with insightful facts to raise awareness and appreciation for Earth’s precious wildlife. A perfect choice for artists and environmentalists of all ages.


Book cover of Giant Squid

Marta Magellan Why did I love 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.

By Candace Fleming, Eric Rohmann (illustrator),

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked Giant Squid as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 6, 7, 8, and 9.

What is this book about?

The giant squid is one of the most elusive creatures in the world. As large as whales, they hide beyond reach deep within the sea, forcing scientists to piece together their story from those clues they leave behind.

An injured whale's ring-shaped scars indicate an encounter with a giant squid. A piece of beak broken off in the whale's belly; a flash of ink dispersed as a blinding defense to allow the squid to escape-- these fragments of proof were all we had . . . until a giant squid was finally filmed in its natural habitat only two years…

Book cover of No Monkeys, No Chocolate

Marta Magellan Why did I love 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.

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

Why should I read it?

1 author picked No Monkeys, No Chocolate as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Everyone loves chocolate, right? But how many people actually know where chocolate comes from? How it’s made? Or that monkeys do their part to help this delicious sweet exist?

This delectable dessert comes from cocoa beans, which grow on cocoa trees in tropical rain forests. But those trees couldn’t survive without the help of a menagerie of rain forest critters: a pollen-sucking midge, an aphid-munching anole lizard, brain-eating coffin fly maggots—they all pitch in to help the cocoa tree survive. A secondary layer of text delves deeper into statements such as "Cocoa flowers can’t bloom without cocoa leaves . .…

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

Marta Magellan Why did I love 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.

By Deborah Hopkinson, Meilo So (illustrator),

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Butterflies Belong Here as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 5, 6, 7, and 8.

What is this book about?

Butterflies Belong Here is a powerful story of everyday activism and hope.

In this moving story of community conservation, a girl finds a home in a new place and a way to help other small travelers.

This book is about the real change children can make in conservation and advocacy-in this case, focusing on beautiful monarch butterflies.

* From Deborah Hopkinson and Meilo So, the acclaimed team behind Follow the Moon Home
* An empowering, classroom-ready read
* The protagonist is a girl whose family has recently immigrated to the United States.

I know what to look for: large black-and-orange…

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Radio Free Olympia

By Jeffrey Dunn,

Book cover of Radio Free Olympia

Jeffrey Dunn Author Of Radio Free Olympia

New book alert!

Who am I?

I’ve always been a child of the woods. I preferred to leave my home and wade a creek or explore a hillside. Nothing compared to the sight of a black snake or the feel of a mud puppy. School was a torture until an English teacher introduced me to Richard Brautigan and then read my first serious story to the class. Since then, this dyslexic nature lover has become a dream fisher and history miner with a Ph.D. in English Literature and Cultural Studies. Retired from forty-one years of teaching, I now write and publish cultural fiction.

Jeffrey's book list on where imagination and nature run free

What is my book about?

Embark on a riveting journey into Washington State’s untamed Olympic Peninsula, where the threads of folklore legends and historical icons are woven into a complex ecological tapestry.

Follow the enigmatic Petr as he fearlessly employs his pirate radio transmitter to broadcast the forgotten and untamed voices that echo through the wilderness. Venture deeper and encounter Baie, the founder of Wildsisters, a cranberry-infused roadhouse that offers solace to lost and wayward women. When a newborn is kidnapped, Baie and her community must unite to recover what has been stolen. Yet, their quest for justice extends beyond the realm of human characters—it must also be served for the fragile flora, the diverse fauna, and the very essence of the natural world.

Radio Free Olympia

By Jeffrey Dunn,

What is this book about?

Unleash the Power of the Wilderness in Radio Free Olympia

Discover the captivating allure of Washington's untamed Olympic Peninsula in Radio Free Olympia, an extraordinary literary masterpiece that immerses readers in a mesmerizing realm of visionaries, folklore legends, and historical icons. With an enchanting blend of magical realism and cultural fiction, the brilliant wordsmith Jeffrey Dunn artfully intertwines multiple narratives, crafting an intricate ecological tapestry that resonates deeply within the soul.

Embark on a riveting journey alongside the enigmatic Petr, a foundling whose path leads him deep into the heart of the majestic mountain rainforest. Armed with nothing but a…

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