The best kids books that turn the natural world into an imaginative wonderland

Who am I?

I live in my imagination. I never really grew out of seeing imaginary friends and fantastical elements in the world. Every budding flower or dancing sun shadow is a call to create. This is why I find children’s literature so thrilling and why my own writing often resides within the realm of make-believe. I love kids lit because it allows a grown-up like me to be a kid again – even if it’s just for a few pages.


I wrote...

If My Oak Tree Could Speak

By Rachel Greening,

Book cover of If My Oak Tree Could Speak

What is my book about?

Have you ever wondered what an oak tree would say? Or how a fork would sing? Or perhaps what a furnace would eat? These questions and many more are posed, pondered, and beautifully paraded across the page in this charming poetry book about childhood wonder. Read along in this world of whimsy as the seemingly ordinary objects around you turn into fascinating characters with just a little bit of curiosity and a whole lot of imagination.

The books I picked & why

Shepherd is reader supported. We may earn an affiliate commission when you buy through links on our website. This is how we fund this project for readers and authors (learn more).

Beyond the Pond

By Joseph Kuefler,

Book cover of Beyond the Pond

Why this book?

I love nothing more than books that engage with the imagination of a child. Worlds of possibility are revealed when we allow our imaginations to lead us along. Ernest D. finds a new world inside his home pond. All it takes is a glance into the water for an adventure to unfold.

I also love how Kuefler doesn’t shy away from sophisticated language. It is great for vocabulary building. I adore books where I can explain those big words to the kiddos. It stretches my own understanding sometimes too as I grasp to find the best way to explain something. The pictures are mysterious and fantastical with a dark pallet that sets a complementary tone to the words. Let your imagination wander with Ernest D! 


When I Listen to Silence

By Jean E. Pendziwol, Carmen Mok (illustrator),

Book cover of When I Listen to Silence

Why this book?

In this book, a little girl learns to hear the trees and see characters and creatures when her mother asks her to be quiet. Poetry is made when we stop to listen and be still. Each page builds from the last, and Pendziwol's poetic language draws the reader in. My poet’s heart resonates with this book’s message in a deep way. I think it is vital for children to experience a small amount of boredom because it can be the catalyst for creativity and ingenuity. So don't be afraid to tell your kids to be still! You're doing them a favor. Let this charming book lead the way.


Ruby's Sword

By Jacqueline Veissid, Paola Zakimi (illustrator),

Book cover of Ruby's Sword

Why this book?

Ruby’s Sword explores the type of imaginative play that can be had with natural world elements. Letting your kids explore nature in a tangible way does wonders for their learning and ingenuity. A simple stick turns into a sword, turning a little girl into a gallant knight. Our children do not need colourful plastic toys to have fun. All they need is a little fresh air and something as simple as a stick. Once my family moved out to the country, I saw my children transform before my eyes. Rocks have become treasures and bugs their newest friends. With the first signs of spring, socks are flung aside as their naked toes seek sand and grass. Let your kids fall in love with nature and it will be a love affair that lasts a lifetime. 


On a Magical Do-Nothing Day

By Beatrice Alemagna,

Book cover of On a Magical Do-Nothing Day

Why this book?

I think every human can relate to the situation in which the character of this story finds herself. A little girl is bored on a rainy day and glued to her game. But when her game falls into the water, she’s left only with the nature around her to occupy her mind. What she once thought was another “do-nothing” day becomes an adventure of discovery. Her eyes are awakened to the life and thrills around her making her whole world seem brand new. The power of nature and the healing quality it can have on our souls is the underlying message within the pages of this colourful and practical children’s book.


This Is Sadie

By Sara O’Leary, Julie Morstad (illustrator),

Book cover of This Is Sadie

Why this book?

A little girl with an active and playful imagination is why I love this book so much. Sadie spends her days in her own make-believe world with the hours never being long enough for all she wants to see and do. She builds and explores, climbs and reads, having both nature and books as the catalyst to her always brimming imagination. Sadie is what I hope all little boys and girls become – full of big ideas and even bigger possibilities – as they play and grow through the world around them.


5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in imagination, play and playing, and explorers?

5,888 authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about imagination, play and playing, and explorers.

Imagination Explore 71 books about imagination
Play And Playing Explore 10 books about play and playing
Explorers Explore 68 books about explorers

And, 3 books we think you will enjoy!

We think you will like Frederick, When Green Becomes Tomatoes, and Owl Moon if you like this list.