The best picture books for your next nature escape

Why am I passionate about this?

Growing up with the four seasons in northern Wisconsin and Minnesota has influenced my writing and illustrations more than just about anything else. Pairing reading with hikes and outdoor play is something I loved in childhood, when my grandma Marvel would read picture books and take us grandkids on walks in nature to reenact them, along with recounting her own childhood stories of surviving in the north woods of Wisconsin. To this day I love to take reading along on walks, in hammocks, while canoeing, and by the campfire; to escape into story worlds while basking in the great outdoors.


I wrote...

Home in the Woods

By Eliza Wheeler,

Book cover of Home in the Woods

What is my book about?

A tar-paper shack deep in the woods doesn’t look like much of a home to six-year-old Marvel, her seven siblings, and their newly single mother, but it’s all they have. Starting over in this new place feels like a struggle at first, but each season in the woods reveals wonderous resources and marvelous delights. The family works together through hard times and discovers that good things take root when nurtured and given time to grow. This picture book pays homage to a family’s resilience as they discover the meaning of home. 

Shepherd is reader supported. When you buy books, we may earn an affiliate commission.

The books I picked & why

Book cover of On a Magical Do-Nothing Day

Eliza Wheeler Why did I love 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. 

By Beatrice Alemagna,

Why should I read it?

7 authors picked On a Magical Do-Nothing Day 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?

A compelling, magical picture book with whimsical, stunning art and heartfelt, charming text, from award-winning illustrator Beatrice Alemagna. "Hands down, Beatrice Alemagna is my favorite contemporary illustrator," said the Caldecott Honor-winning illustrator of Last Stop on Market Street, Christian Robinson. All I want to do on a rainy day like today is play my game. My mom says it's a waste of time, but without my game, nothing is fun! On the other hand, maybe I'm wrong about that...While reading On a Magical Do-Nothing Day, one gets the sense that the illustrator became lost in her drawings, and as a…


Book cover of Over and Under the Snow

Eliza Wheeler Why did I love 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. 

By Kate Messner, Christopher Silas Neal (illustrator),

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Over and Under the Snow as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Over the snow, the world is hushed and white. But under the snow lies a secret world of squirrels and snow hares, bears and bullfrogs, and many other animals making their winter home under the snow. This beloved nonfiction picture book exploring the subnivean zone reveals the tunnels and caves formed beneath the snow but over the ground, where many kinds of animals live through the winter, safe and warm, awake and busy, but hidden beneath the snow.


Book cover of When Green Becomes Tomatoes: Poems for All Seasons

Eliza Wheeler Why did I love 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.

By Julie Fogliano, Julie Morstad (illustrator),

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked When Green Becomes Tomatoes 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?

december 29
and i woke to a morning
that was quiet and white
the first snow
(just like magic) came on tip toes
overnight

Flowers blooming in sheets of snow make way for happy frogs dancing in the rain. Summer swims move over for autumn sweaters until the snow comes back again. In Julie Fogliano's skilled hand and illustrated by Julie Morstad's charming pictures, the seasons come to life in this gorgeous and comprehensive book of poetry.


Book cover of We're Going on a Bear Hunt

Eliza Wheeler Why did I love 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. 

By Michael Rosen, Helen Oxenbury (illustrator),

Why should I read it?

6 authors picked We're Going on a Bear Hunt as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 3, 4, 5, and 6.

What is this book about?

Gorgeous gift edition of the classic join in story by Michael Rosen and Helen Oxenbury. Shake up a snowstorm with this perfect gift for brave hunters and bear-lovers everywhere!

We're going on a bear hunt. We're going to catch a big one. Will you come too? For over a quarter of a century, readers have been swishy-swashying and splash-sploshing through this award-winning favourite. This new gift hardback edition includes a superb snow scene on the cover to add fun and festive flurries to your favourite family adventure story. Follow and join in the family's excitement as they wade through the…


Book cover of Owl Moon

Eliza Wheeler Why did I love 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.

By Jane Yolen,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Owl Moon as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Late one winter night a little girl and her father go owling. The trees stand still as statues and the world is silent as a dream. Whoo-whoo-whoo, the father calls to the mysterious nighttime bird.

But there is no answer.

Wordlessly the two companions walk along, for when you go owling you don't need words. You don't need anything but hope. Sometimes there isn't an owl, but sometimes there is.

Distinguished author Jane Yolen has created a gentle, poetic story that lovingly depicts the special companionship of a young child and her father as well as humankind's close relationship to…


You might also like...

Thorn City

By Pamela Statz,

Book cover of Thorn City

Pamela Statz

New book alert!

What is my book about?

Dressed to kill and ready to make rent, best friends Lisa and Jamie work as “paid to party” girls at the Rose City Ripe for Disruption gala, a gathering of Portland's elite.

Their evening is derailed when Lisa stumbles across Ellen, a ruthless politician and Lisa’s estranged mother. And to make matters worse, Lisa’s boyfriend, Patrick, crashes the party to meet his new boss, Portland's food cart drug kingpin. Lisa makes a fateful choice that traps her, Jamie, and Patrick in Ellen’s web. In this gripping thriller, Lisa must reconcile a painful past and perilous present.

Thorn City

By Pamela Statz,

What is this book about?

Suspected murder, eclectic food trucks, and artisanal cocaine: just another day in Thorn City.

It’s the night of the Rose City Ripe for Disruption gala—a gathering of Portland’s elite. Dressed to kill in sparkling minidresses, best friends Lisa and Jamie attend as “paid to party” girls. They plan an evening of fake flirtations, karaoke playlists, and of course, grazing the catering.

Past and present collide when Lisa stumbles across Ellen, a ruthless politician who also happens to be Lisa’s estranged mother. Awkward . . . When Lisa was sixteen, Ellen had her kidnapped and taken to the Lost Lake Academy—a…


5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in bears, winter, and seasons?

10,000+ authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about bears, winter, and seasons.

Bears Explore 73 books about bears
Winter Explore 23 books about winter
Seasons Explore 22 books about seasons