The best books to ignite your children’s love of nature

Who am I?

When I was on holiday in Borneo with my daughter, we met an inspirational conservationist who was basically single-handedly saving sun bears from extinction. I asked what I could do to help. “Do what you do best,” he said. Those five powerful words shaped my last decade, most recently prompting the growing series of Wildlife Wong nonfiction children’s books based on his true adventures with rainforest creatures. I feel strongly about the importance of connecting kids to nature. Not only is it good for their physical and mental health, but my generation hasn’t done a particularly good job of environmental stewardship, and we need all the help we can get. 


I wrote...

Wildlife Wong and the Bearded Pig

By Sarah R. Pye,

Book cover of Wildlife Wong and the Bearded Pig

What is my book about?

When he was a boy, Malaysian ecologist Wildlife Wong dreamed of working with animals, and eventually his dream came true. In this exciting story, Wildlife Wong spends three years living in the middle of the jungle trying to trap bearded pigs. Along the way, he meets some crazy characters like Michael, his mate Mary, and their three piglets Pork, Chop, and Bacon!

This unusual book for kids aged 8-12 includes an engaging nonfiction story about a real-life scientist, cool animal facts, and experiments that encourage your youngsters to connect with the world around them.

The books I picked & why

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Fourteen Wolves: A Rewilding Story

By Catherine Barr, Jenni Desmond (illustrator),

Book cover of Fourteen Wolves: A Rewilding Story

Why this book?

Narratives are such a powerful tool when it comes to connecting kids to nature and, let’s face it, that connection has been lost with increased reliance on technology. My doctorate focused on how nonfiction narratives can engage non-scientists in conservation. Two things I learnt were that we won’t save something unless we love it, and hopeful stories have more power than disasters. You will fall in love with the expansive, wild landscape of Yellowstone Park with the beautifully crafted descriptions in Fourteen Wolves. The important underlying story of regeneration also instills hope that we can make a difference, combating inertia. In my opinion, this beautifully illustrated nature biography is destined to become a classic, passed down through generations.

Fourteen Wolves: A Rewilding Story

By Catherine Barr, Jenni Desmond (illustrator),

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

'A magical true story with stunningly beautiful illustrations. It is a book to treasure forever' David Walliams, comedian and children's author
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In fairy tales, the wolf's cry makes people shudder. They've been hunted, captured. But the wolf carries a wild magic - a magic that once restored a barren land.

When wolves disappeared from Yellowstone Park in the 1930s, the ecosystem started to collapse. Enormous herds of elk swarmed the plains, bears starved, rabbit families shrunk and birds flew away to new homes. Plants vanished, trees withered and rivers meandered.

Until in 1995, wolves returned to the park and…

Tree Beings

By Raymond Huber, Sandra Severgnini (illustrator),

Book cover of Tree Beings

Why this book?

I first became aware of this beautiful book when I shared a stage with the illustrator at a literary event. I was captivated by her cover illustration which is like a ‘Where’s Wally’ tree containing 70 hidden animals. Once I got my copy home (and after I found most of the animals) I flipped to explanations of the superpowers of trees. These are guaranteed to shift your youngsters’ perspectives. Nonfiction stories invite them to imagine themselves in the field with well-known conservationists and activists who have dedicated themselves to saving trees and their inhabitants. I love that so many of these heroes are women which, hopefully, will encourage more girls to embrace science.

Tree Beings

By Raymond Huber, Sandra Severgnini (illustrator),

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Winner: The Wilderness Society's Environment Award for Children's Literature

We depend on trees for our survival, yet few of us understand just how fascinating these beings really are. With a foreword by the world-renowned anthropologist Jane Goodall, Tree Beings is an adventure through the secret world of trees. Challenging the perception that trees are just 'silent statues', it focuses on four big ideas:

Trees give life to the planet. Trees can help save us from climate change. Trees are like beings. Trees need our help and protection.

Along the way, you'll meet some of the scientists and explorers who helped…


The Secret Garden

By Frances Hodgson Burnett, Tasha Tudor (illustrator),

Book cover of The Secret Garden

Why this book?

Fictional narratives have just as much power to connect kids with nature as nonfiction. This book was given to me by my grandmother when I was eleven and my dog-eared copy has travelled around the world with me. I credit my first crush on the character Dickon with my sense of wonder for natural systems. It prompted a lifelong love of nature. The Secret Garden may contain old-fashioned language and a story of British imperialism, but for me, this is an oldie, but a goodie. When they turn the last page, buy your kids a trowel and a packet of seeds!

The Secret Garden

By Frances Hodgson Burnett, Tasha Tudor (illustrator),

Why should I read it?

6 authors picked The Secret Garden as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett is a magical novel for adults and children alike

'I've stolen a garden,' she said very fast. 'It isn't mine. It isn't anybody's. Nobody wants it, nobody cares for it, nobody ever goes into it. Perhaps everything is dead in it already; I don't know.'

After losing her parents, young Mary Lennox is sent from India to live in her uncle's gloomy mansion on the wild English moors. She is lonely and has no one to play with, but one day she learns of a secret garden somewhere in the grounds that no…


A Hollow Is a Home

By Abbie Mitchell, Astred Hicks (illustrator),

Book cover of A Hollow Is a Home

Why this book?

Although I am originally from the UK, I now live in Australia—home to amazing creatures, many of whom make homes in hollows. This book rams home the importance of protecting habitat because it doesn’t just highlight species like possums, owls, parrots, quolls, snakes, and goannas, but it integrates them with their environment. A Hollow is a Home is designed in a magazine-like format, with illustrations and photos, which I have found connects really well with reluctant readers. The bite-size sections are useful for school projects and, if you don’t live in Australia, this book is a fantastic way to learn about global biodiversity!

A Hollow Is a Home

By Abbie Mitchell, Astred Hicks (illustrator),

Why should I read it?

1 author picked A Hollow Is a Home as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Do you know what a tree hollow is?

To you and me, a tree hollow is just a hole, cavity or tunnel in a tree or branch. But to an animal, that hollow may be a bedroom, hiding place, nursery or shelter. It is the ultimate tree house!

Come and take a peek inside the amazing world of tree hollows and discover more than 340 species of incredible Australian animals that call hollows home. With colour photos of glorious gliders, darting dunnarts, minute microbats and many more, this book is full of fun facts about animals that use tree hollows…

Leaf Litter

By Rachel Tonkin,

Book cover of Leaf Litter

Why this book?

Learning about nature and loving it through the narrative is the first step toward stewardship. If we want to grow young conservationists, the next step is translating that love into action. This book encourages kids (from five up) to put down their gadgets, get outside and discover the natural world in their own backyard. Each page includes 10 things to find in leaf litter with clever illustrations and hidden flaps that figuratively and emotionally open up a whole new minuscule world. Just like the experiments in my own books, Leaf Litter engages kinetic learners and harnesses the power of action.

Leaf Litter

By Rachel Tonkin,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

In this exquisitely illustrated book, award-winning author/illustrator Rachel Tonkin explores a small patch of leaf litter beneath one tree, which contains a hidden world that changes day by day. The more you look, the you will find. Ages 5+ Put simply, Leaf Litter is Stephen Beisty's Cross-Sections meets Where's Wally with lift-the-flaps - from an ecological point of view! In a time when respect for and understanding of our environment are paramount, Leaf Litter is an excellent introduction to the intricate and complex relationships that exist in our natural world. Leaves, twigs, branches and bark collect on the ground in…

5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in trees, gardens, and threatened species?

6,000+ authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about trees, gardens, and threatened species.

Trees Explore 38 books about trees
Gardens Explore 29 books about gardens
Threatened Species Explore 16 books about threatened species

And, 3 books we think you will enjoy!

We think you will like The Lord of the Rings, A Rage for Rock Gardening, and Bridge to Terabithia if you like this list.