The best children’s books about the transformative magic of being outside in the natural world

Who am I?

I began as a picture book illustrator and gradually started writing my own stories, but I still love illustrating other people’s stories. From their manuscripts, I learn to look at the world in new and unexpected ways. As a visual artist, I learned from a young age to pay attention and really look at the world around me. When I have days full of errands and chores and forget to look and be present, the day becomes gray and boring. All of these books in words and pictures offer nature and the act of paying attention and celebrating as transformation and connection.


I wrote...

Yellow Time

By Lauren Stringer,

Book cover of Yellow Time

What is my book about?

Many years ago I stood looking out the window at the yellow leaves on the trees up and down the street. All of a sudden, a huge wind blew and the window became filled with yellow leaves that swirled and twirled everywhere. I had never seen so much yellow. It was so beautiful, I sat down and wrote a poem. Many years later, that poem turned into a story with pictures. Yellow Time is a celebration of that special day every fall when the wind suddenly blows all of the leaves off the trees at once and the world becomes a magical place filled with golden leaves and dancing children. It only comes once a year. It is a moment to celebrate and remember.

The books I picked & why

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Snow

By Uri Shulevitz,

Book cover of Snow

Why this book?

Beginning with a single flake falling from a gray sky, the magic and excitement of the first snow are captured perfectly in illustrations and words. Every child reader will join sides with the boy and dog who are certain there is more snow coming despite the declarations to the contrary from adults on the street. Even the predictions from the radio and television of “No snow,” are soon forgotten as the magical transformation of the whole gray city becomes reason for dancing and swirling and twirling through five enchanted spreads of wondrous snow. Every time I read this book, I look out my windows in autumn, wanting to be the first one to see that first snowflake.

Snow

By Uri Shulevitz,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

No one thinks one or two snowflakes will amount to anything. Not the man with the hat or the lady with the umbrella. Not even the television or the radio forecasters. But one boy and his dog have faith that the snow will amount to something spectacular, and when flakes start to swirl down on the city, they are also the only ones who know how to truly enjoy it.


The Moon Jumpers

By Janice May Udry, Maurice Sendak (illustrator),

Book cover of The Moon Jumpers

Why this book?

This picture book perfectly captures those moonlit summer nights when the damp grass cools your bare feet and shadows cast by moonlight make mysteries and monsters around every corner. Illustrated in both black and white and full-color spreads, children dreamily dance and jump for the moon, as if caught under a magic spell. And the spell is broken by the mother calling from the door: “Children, oh children… It’s time.” “But we’re not children,” the children cry, “… we’re the Moon Jumpers!” On long winter nights I open this book to bring back sweet memories of summer.

The Moon Jumpers

By Janice May Udry, Maurice Sendak (illustrator),

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Moon Jumpers as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A lyrical story of night-time, in which four small children and a black cat find themselves enchanted with the loveliness of the hot summer night and the magic of the moon. Illustrated by the author of the acclaimed picture book classic, Where the Wild Things Are


On a Magical Do-Nothing Day

By Beatrice Alemagna,

Book cover of On a Magical Do-Nothing Day

Why this book?

This story of renewal through nature begins with a mother and child going to the same cabin, in the same forest, in the same rain and the child finds entertainment in destroying aliens on a handheld game. When the mother takes the game away, the child finds it and steps outside into the rain, to play unseen. But when the game is lost in the pond, the child is whisked into experiencing the rainy woods with snails and mushroom paths, sunbeams through storm clouds, and a sudden fall that turns the world into something brand new. The illustrations in this book are full of textures and earthy colors, and dramatic points of view that will have you tumbling through moss, tasting raindrops, and transformed by the wonders of nature.

On a Magical Do-Nothing Day

By Beatrice Alemagna,

Why should I read it?

6 authors picked On a Magical Do-Nothing Day as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

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…


A Good Day

By Kevin Henkes,

Book cover of A Good Day

Why this book?

This book begins with a declaration: “It was a bad day….” and proceeds to show in pictures how bad a day it was for little yellow bird, little white dog, little red fox, and little brown squirrel. Every time I read this book, I remember that even though a day may feel like a bad day, you never know what could happen that could completely turn the day around. It is a story to remind me to go outside and stay curious.

A Good Day

By Kevin Henkes,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked A Good Day as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

What can turn a bad day into a good day? You decide.


Sidewalk Flowers

By Jonarno Lawson, Sydney Smith (illustrator),

Book cover of Sidewalk Flowers

Why this book?

This picture book with no words and minimal color follows the path of a distracted father and attentive child through a city. Every time I open this book I am reminded to keep my eyes open and pay attention; gather beauty where you find it and share it with others. The illustrator is a master of stories within stories and by the end, I promise, you will want to step outside and pick flowers, even from cracks in the sidewalk.

Sidewalk Flowers

By Jonarno Lawson, Sydney Smith (illustrator),

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Winner of the Governor General's Literary Award for Children's Illustrated Book

A New York Times Best Illustrated Children's Book of the Year

In this wordless picture book, a little girl collects wildflowers while her distracted father pays her little attention. Each flower becomes a gift, and whether the gift is noticed or ignored, both giver and recipient are transformed by their encounter.

“Written” by award-winning poet JonArno Lawson and brought to life by illustrator Sydney Smith, Sidewalk Flowers is an ode to the importance of small things, small people and small gestures.


Correlates to the Common Core State Standards in…


5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in imagination, flowers, and night?

7,000+ authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about imagination, flowers, and night.

Imagination Explore 77 books about imagination
Flowers Explore 26 books about flowers
Night Explore 12 books about night

And, 3 books we think you will enjoy!

We think you will like Frederick, The Arrival, and The Rabbit Listened if you like this list.