The best picture books for your next nature escape

The Books I Picked & Why

On a Magical Do-Nothing Day

By Beatrice Alemagna

On a Magical Do-Nothing Day

Why this book?

Where to begin with this book? French artist and writer Beatrice Alemagna captures the experience of that childhood boredom that a rainy day can bring, but takes us out into the dreary outdoors to discover all the squishy, rocky, slippy surprises that both internal and external dreariness can bring. The art is painfully wonderful—as dark as it is shining, sophisticated as it is childlike—as if the paintbrushes have been dipped in some mixture of muted melancholy and neon joy. If that isn’t enough, the magical do-nothing day ends on that note of restful satisfaction that only a do-nothing day adventure could bring. 


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Over and Under the Snow

By Kate Messner, Christopher Silas Neal

Over and Under the Snow

Why this book?

From my first glide into the “frosted fresh and white” woods of this book, I fell in love with Kate Messner’s expertly crafted, sensory text that reveals the “secret kingdom” hidden under the snow—the subnivean zone, where animals and critters of all kind scuttle and nest. Neal’s spacious woodcut-like illustrations capture the experience wonderfully but don’t crowd the story out with unnecessary detail—a quality I especially admire as an illustrator. This book is one I return to again and again to experience the real-world beauty and wonder of nature. 


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When Green Becomes Tomatoes: Poems for All Seasons

By Julie Fogliano, Julie Morstad

When Green Becomes Tomatoes: Poems for All Seasons

Why this book?

Fogliano’s charming poems move us through the course of a year and explore all the seasonal delights we love to be reminded of and are paired with Julie Morstad’s delicate, adorable hand-painted illustrations. This slightly longer picture book could be picked up and started on any page, split up into several readings, or given to the child to immerse themselves into on their own. There’s no wrong way to love this book.


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We're Going on a Bear Hunt

By Michael Rosen, Helen Oxenbury

We're Going on a Bear Hunt

Why this book?

We’re Going on a Bear Hunt is a rhyming picture book adventure (based on the song) beloved by teachers and children for its energetic romp over, under, around, and through woods and fields in search of a bear. Helen Oxenbury’s illustrations elevate the text to a whole other level, creating a reading experience that is as activity-based as it gets. Any child growing up without this book experience will miss out on the discovery of how fun and engaging a book can feel. 


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Owl Moon

By Jane Yolen

Owl Moon

Why this book?

As loud and boisterous as Bear Hunt is, Owl Moon is quiet and hushed—so quiet that you can hear the wind on the frozen tree branches and feel the chill of the night air while reading this book. Jane Yolen’s poetic text and John Schoenherr’s rich art takes us into the moonlit night on an “Owling” trek with Pa, on a search for this ghost bird of winter, and leaves you breathless by the end.


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