100 books like We All Play

By Julie Flett,

Here are 100 books that We All Play fans have personally recommended if you like We All Play. Shepherd is a community of 10,000+ authors and super readers sharing their favorite books with the world.

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Book cover of On a Magical Do-Nothing Day

Danica Novgorodoff Author Of Alexander von Humboldt: Explorer, Naturalist & Environmental Pioneer

From my list on playing in nature.

Why am I passionate about this?

When I was growing up, my favorite books were about kids getting lost in the wilderness. Now, as an artist and writer, I love to create stories about people’s connection to land and the plants and animals that inhabit natural spaces. The inspiration for my picture book biography, Alexander von Humboldt: Explorer, Naturalist & Environmental Pioneer, came after hiking many of the volcanoes that Humboldt had climbed some 200 years earlier in South America. Besides hiking, I occupy myself with drawing and watercolor painting, climate activism, and looking at bugs and rocks with my daughters. I’ve published four graphic novels, two picture books, and a cookbook about rice.

Danica's book list on playing in nature

Danica Novgorodoff Why did Danica love this book?

Besides the fact that the illustrations in On a Magical Do-Nothing Day are gorgeous, I love this story of a child turning a boring, lonely, rainy day into a magical (dare I say spiritual?) adventure—an encounter with “a world full of treasures that I could feel!”

I’ve often found that a life-changing experience of beauty comes after some difficulty or personal challenge, and this kid discovers—after being ignored by their parents, losing their favorite video game in a stream, and being drenched by cold rain—a breathtaking world that seems “brand-new, as if it had been created right in front of me.” 

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 The Tea Party in the Woods

Wendy BooydeGraaff Author Of Salad Pie

From my list on playing outside.

Why am I passionate about this?

I love the outdoors, and there are so many benefits to playing, imagining, and being outside. I grew up on a fruit farm in Southern Ontario, so I spent much of my growing years playing outdoors and enjoying the natural world. When I became a professional educator, I read the research about the very concrete benefits being outside every day has on young learners. Bring on the recess! Books have a way of sparking action. When we read about how someone else enjoys the outdoors, it makes us want to do the same. Books are inspiring.

Wendy's book list on playing outside

Wendy BooydeGraaff Why did Wendy love this book?

The Tea Party in the Woods is an homage to Little Red Riding Hood, but with a twist. Kikko sets off to bring her grandmother a pie and comes upon a magical tea party in the woods where all of the woodland creatures politely welcome and share their spread. Instead of being a victim of a cautionary tale, Kikko’s grandmother applauds her bravery in traveling on her own. The woods, by the way, are not scary or dangerous at all.

By Akiko Miyakoshi,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Tea Party in the Woods 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?

When a young girl named Kikko realizes her father has forgotten the pie he was supposed to bring to Grandma's house, she offers to try and catch him as he makes his way through the woods. She hurriedly follows her father's footprints in the snow and happens upon a large house she has never seen before. Curious, Kikko peers through the window, when she is startled by a small lamb wearing a coat and carrying a purse. Even more surprising, the lamb speaks, asking her in a kind voice, “Are you here for the tea party?” Suddenly, Kikko realizes her…


Book cover of The Mushroom Fan Club

Wendy BooydeGraaff Author Of Salad Pie

From my list on playing outside.

Why am I passionate about this?

I love the outdoors, and there are so many benefits to playing, imagining, and being outside. I grew up on a fruit farm in Southern Ontario, so I spent much of my growing years playing outdoors and enjoying the natural world. When I became a professional educator, I read the research about the very concrete benefits being outside every day has on young learners. Bring on the recess! Books have a way of sparking action. When we read about how someone else enjoys the outdoors, it makes us want to do the same. Books are inspiring.

Wendy's book list on playing outside

Wendy BooydeGraaff Why did Wendy love this book?

The Mushroom Fan Club is a quirky nonfiction book about hunting for mushrooms that will make you laugh! The mushrooms “look like aliens from outer space” and the illustrations prove it.  Facts, diagrams, and fun incidents the author has experienced with her children encourage the reader to try mushroom hunting. But even if you don’t want to hunt, mushroom by mushroom, Gravel will convince everyone that mushrooms are indeed very cool.

By Elise Gravel,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Elise Gravel is back with a whimsical look at one of her family s most beloved pastimes: mushroom hunting! Combining her love of exploring nature with her talent for anthropomorphizing everything, she takes us on a magical tour of the forest floor and examines a handful of her favorite alien specimens up close. While the beautiful coral mushroom looks like it belongs under the sea, the peculiar Lactarius indigo may be better suited for outer space. From the fun-to-stomp puffballs to the prince of the stinkers?the stinkhorn mushroom?and the musically inclined chanterelles, Gravel shares her knowledge of this fascinating kingdom…


Book cover of Wonder Walkers

Wendy BooydeGraaff Author Of Salad Pie

From my list on playing outside.

Why am I passionate about this?

I love the outdoors, and there are so many benefits to playing, imagining, and being outside. I grew up on a fruit farm in Southern Ontario, so I spent much of my growing years playing outdoors and enjoying the natural world. When I became a professional educator, I read the research about the very concrete benefits being outside every day has on young learners. Bring on the recess! Books have a way of sparking action. When we read about how someone else enjoys the outdoors, it makes us want to do the same. Books are inspiring.

Wendy's book list on playing outside

Wendy BooydeGraaff Why did Wendy love this book?

Wonder Walkers is an inquisitive book that explores the natural world from morning to night. Two siblings walk past mountains, a lake, a grove of trees, and ask questions: “Are trees the sky’s legs?” “Are rivers the earth’s veins?” Coupled with lush collage and ink illustrations, this book explores the outdoors in a unique and playful way.

By Micha Archer,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Wonder Walkers 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?

When two curious kids embark on a "wonder walk," they let their imaginations soar as they look at the world in a whole new light. They have thought-provoking questions for everything they see: Is the sun the world's light bulb? Is dirt the world's skin? Are rivers the earth's veins? Is the wind the world breathing? I wonder...Young readers will wonder too, as they ponder these gorgeous pages and make all kinds of new connections. What a wonderful world indeed!


Book cover of Ten Ways to Hear Snow

Wendy BooydeGraaff Author Of Salad Pie

From my list on playing outside.

Why am I passionate about this?

I love the outdoors, and there are so many benefits to playing, imagining, and being outside. I grew up on a fruit farm in Southern Ontario, so I spent much of my growing years playing outdoors and enjoying the natural world. When I became a professional educator, I read the research about the very concrete benefits being outside every day has on young learners. Bring on the recess! Books have a way of sparking action. When we read about how someone else enjoys the outdoors, it makes us want to do the same. Books are inspiring.

Wendy's book list on playing outside

Wendy BooydeGraaff Why did Wendy love this book?

Ten Ways to Hear Snow commemorates the sounds of winter. Lina sets off alone to visit her grandmother (another Little Red Riding Hood reference!) the morning after a blizzard. As she walks through the neighbourhood, she notices the sounds snow makes while building a snowman, shoveling snow, and more. At her grandma’s place, they form a new point of connection because her grandma can’t see well and so relies on listening.

By Cathy Camper, Kenard Pak (illustrator),

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Ten Ways to Hear Snow 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?

One winter morning, Lina wakes up to silence. It's the sound of snow - the kind that looks soft and glows bright in the winter sun. But as she walks to her grandmother's house to help make the family recipe for warak enab, she continues to listen.

As Lina walks past snowmen and across icy sidewalks, she discovers ten ways to pay attention to what might have otherwise gone unnoticed.


Book cover of Lala's Words: A Story of Planting Kindness

Danica Novgorodoff Author Of Alexander von Humboldt: Explorer, Naturalist & Environmental Pioneer

From my list on playing in nature.

Why am I passionate about this?

When I was growing up, my favorite books were about kids getting lost in the wilderness. Now, as an artist and writer, I love to create stories about people’s connection to land and the plants and animals that inhabit natural spaces. The inspiration for my picture book biography, Alexander von Humboldt: Explorer, Naturalist & Environmental Pioneer, came after hiking many of the volcanoes that Humboldt had climbed some 200 years earlier in South America. Besides hiking, I occupy myself with drawing and watercolor painting, climate activism, and looking at bugs and rocks with my daughters. I’ve published four graphic novels, two picture books, and a cookbook about rice.

Danica's book list on playing in nature

Danica Novgorodoff Why did Danica love this book?

This book reminds me of my neighborhood in Brooklyn, with its sweltering summer streets and “empty” lots overflowing with weeds. Of course, as Lala discovers, an empty lot is rarely actually empty.

Lala develops a deep friendship with the plants in one patch of dirt and concrete—her own urban secret garden. When her mom makes her stay inside one especially hot day (“Stop playing with weeds and leaves!” her exasperated mother cries), Lala mourns not being able to visit her beloved garden. But her care and kind words have grown something magnificent… And I adore the loose, brushy artwork in this book.

By Gracey Zhang,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Lala's Words 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?

Winner of the 2022 Ezra Jack Keats Illustrator Award!

From debut author-illustrator Gracey Zhang comes a timeless and timely picture book that celebrates the unassuming power of kind words.

Oh, there goes Lala! She carries a pot of water around the corner, down the block, and over the fence, to a patch of dirt and concrete where tiny weeds sprout. "Hello, hello, friends!" she whispers. Lala waters the plants every day, but it is her kind words that make them sway and nod.

Lala's wild nature and quiet compassion enchant in this evergreen story about the power of kind words…


Book cover of Wild

Danica Novgorodoff Author Of Alexander von Humboldt: Explorer, Naturalist & Environmental Pioneer

From my list on playing in nature.

Why am I passionate about this?

When I was growing up, my favorite books were about kids getting lost in the wilderness. Now, as an artist and writer, I love to create stories about people’s connection to land and the plants and animals that inhabit natural spaces. The inspiration for my picture book biography, Alexander von Humboldt: Explorer, Naturalist & Environmental Pioneer, came after hiking many of the volcanoes that Humboldt had climbed some 200 years earlier in South America. Besides hiking, I occupy myself with drawing and watercolor painting, climate activism, and looking at bugs and rocks with my daughters. I’ve published four graphic novels, two picture books, and a cookbook about rice.

Danica's book list on playing in nature

Danica Novgorodoff Why did Danica love this book?

A classic raised-by-wolves (and birds and bears and foxes) tale, this delightful book describes what happens when you try to tame a wild spirit.

While I’ve never personally caught a salmon with my teeth (though my daughters and I love to pretend that we can!), I completely identify with the main character’s longing to be outdoors in nature as much of the time as possible. Emily Hughes’ lovely illustrations are full of energy (check out her other wonderful nature-themed book The Little Gardener, too). 

By Emily Hughes,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Wild 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?

"You cannot tame something so happily wild."

In this beautiful picture book by Emily Hughes, we meet a little girl who has known nothing but nature from birth-she was taught to talk by birds, to eat by bears, and to play by foxes. She is unashamedly, irrefutably, irrepressibly wild. That is, until she is snared by some very strange animals that look oddly like her, but they don't talk right, eat right, or play correctly. She's puzzled by their behavior and their insistence on living in these strange concrete structures: there's no green here, no animals, no trees, no rivers.…


Book cover of The Hike

Miri Leshem-Pelly Author Of A Feather, a Pebble, a Shell

From my list on picture books about hiking in nature.

Why am I passionate about this?

I grew up in a family of nature lovers and went with my parents and my brother on numerous nature hikes. These are my most precious childhood memories. I learned as a child to appreciate nature, I was fascinated by wild animals and inspired by the beauty of the natural world. As I grew up, I became more and more aware of how fragile the natural world is today and how important it is to protect it. This is one of the main motivators for me to create books for kids that will inspire them to love and respect nature.

Miri's book list on picture books about hiking in nature

Miri Leshem-Pelly Why did Miri love this book?

I loved this book because it is so full of surprises and fun things to discover!

Reading the book felt like going on a nature hike. When I’m in nature I always look for the little discoveries–an insect, a special plant, a beautiful bird, mysterious footprints. And this sweet book is full of such discoveries.

I got inspiration from the book and ideas for fun activities to do in nature, and I loved the three fun characters of the traveling sisters, I wish I could join them on a hike!

By Alison Farrell,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked The Hike as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 3, 4, and 5.

What is this book about?

With lyrical language that captures the majesty of the natural world coupled with fun narrative featured throughout, this spirited picture book tells the victorious story of three girls' friendship-and their tribulations and triumphs in the great outdoors. Here is the best and worst of any hike: from picnics to puffing and panting, deer-sighting to detours. Featuring a glossary, a sketchbook by one of the characters, abundant labels throughout, and scientific backmatter, this book is a must-have for budding scientists, best friends, and all adventurers. And it proves, as if proof were needed, what epic things can happen right in your…


Book cover of Good-Night, Owl!

Caroline Pitcher Author Of The Winter Dragon

From my list on night-time, getting to sleep, and dragons.

Why am I passionate about this?

Picture books are so important. They’re for everyone, not just young children, and often the readers are adult. Writing one is similar to writing a poem while watching the story in my imagination like a film. Usually I know the illustrator and can write to their strengths. Sophy Williams has drawn The Winter Dragon as an awesome creature who's also kind and protective. When I was seven, my teacher sent my stories to Enid Blyton who replied I must not be spoiled (shame!) and wouldn’t write once I was an adult. After making Dragons with children, I watched them bring their creature alive in their play. The Winter Dragon enlarges Rory’s imaginative world.

Caroline's book list on night-time, getting to sleep, and dragons

Caroline Pitcher Why did Caroline love this book?

One of the best books about someone desperate to sleep is Good-night, Owl! written and illustrated by Pat Hutchins. This is short and jolly, excellent for very young children, and there is a board book format available. The clear bright pictures are like mosaics.

Poor Owl, who has to sleep in the daytime, is constantly disturbed by bees buzzing, woodpeckers pecking, doves cooing and squirrels cracking nuts. These are refreshingly local creatures, not exotic zoo inmates. It’s a rhythmic, cumulative text which I often read to the young children I taught. They loved to join in with the noises, and act the story. There’s a surprise ending. You’ll love to see Owl get his own back!

By Pat Hutchins,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Good-Night, Owl! as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 2, 3, 4, and 5.

What is this book about?

Owl can't get to sleep in Pat Hutchins's beloved Good-Night, Owl!

How is Owl supposed to sleep the day away with the bees buzzing, the woodpecker pecking, the doves cooing, and the squirrels crunching? But when night falls and everything is finally quiet, suddenly there's a new sound-and it's coming from Owl!

From author-illustrator Pat Hutchins, this cumulative bedtime story with a surprise ending will send little ones off to sleep with a smile.


Book cover of Whole Whale

Leah Rose Kessler Author Of Rat Fair

From my list on upbeat humor on doing the right thing.

Why am I passionate about this?

Over my career as an elementary school teacher and a science educator I’ve seen time and time again that no matter the topic, learning happens best when people feel positive and engaged. My favorite books to share with young readers are those that capture their attention–be it with stunning illustrations, unusual information, or hilarious situations–and leave them with a strong emotional connection to the characters or story. Now, as I read oodles of picture books for writing research, I keep an extra special eye out for those that leave me smiling and also make me think. Some of my very favorites are collected for you here.

Leah's book list on upbeat humor on doing the right thing

Leah Rose Kessler Why did Leah love this book?

The Whole Whale is a counting book, a delightful, read-aloud rhyming book, and, at its core, it’s a book about making space for everyone, even when it might seem easier to say, “Sorry, there’s no room for you.” The other 99 animals in the book don’t hesitate to make way for their biggest friend by pushing and shoving until… voilà… they arrive at a special surprise—a double fold-out page big enough to fit all 100 different animals (Seriously! 100!). Talk about a page you and your little one can pore over again and again and find something new every time!

By Karen Yin, Nelleke Verhoeff (illustrator),

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

One hundred unusual animals try to squeeze into the pages of this raucous rhyming tale. But will there be room to fit a whole blue whale? The humorous ending features an expansive double gatefold and educational endnotes list the 100 animals in the book.


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