The best forest books

7 authors have picked their favorite books about forests and why they recommend each book.

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Magician

By Raymond E. Feist,

Book cover of Magician

While I grew up on Narnia, The Lord of the Rings, and His Dark Materials, I still credit Feist’s Riftwar Saga for sparking my true love of fantasy. This epic spans a total of 31 books, crafting a multigenerational tale of a world of magic, cataclysm, monsters, and continuously rising stakes that never feel trite.

Through all my years reading, nothing has topped it. It’s high time I start a re-read.


Who am I?

I’m a South African fantasy and sci-fi author. I’ve been reading, watching, and playing fantasy since the gods deigned to send me to this world. Since school, I’ve been crafting fantasy realms for my friends to play in for D&D. Fantastical worlds, wondrous magic and brutal monsters fill all my books. I also adore history and philosophy, and let both permeate my fantasy and sci-fi novels.


I wrote...

Part-Time Monster Hunter

By Nicholas Woode-Smith,

Book cover of Part-Time Monster Hunter

What is my book about?

When a ghost from another world possesses Kat Drummond, she could be forgiven for being upset. But instead, she takes the chance to become a monster hunter in the darkness-infested Hope City.

With the help of her ghostly companion, and a pair of swords she bought on the internet, Kat will stop at nothing to become the greatest hunter in the city. Those bills aren’t going to pay themselves after all…

Bambi

By Felix Salten, Richard Cowdrey (illustrator),

Book cover of Bambi: A Life in the Woods

I remember the first time someone told me to read this book, and I replied, “Bambi? Really? No thank you.” I, of course, had only known the Disney-ized version of the story. I assumed it was a book for toddlers, with cute little bunny rabbits and birds singing in the trees. I was very wrong. It is a profound coming-of-age story dealing with family, love, parents, adulthood, loss, intolerance, death, betrayal, and the horrors which humans can inflict on both the environment and each other. It was banned and burned in Germany in 1936 as it was seen as a political allegory of the Nazi Party. A powerful book, and, unfortunately, still a very timely one. 


Who am I?

I've been the resident playwright at First Stage Children’s Theater in Milwaukee for over twenty years. I began my career by adapting classic titles for the stage: Little House Christmas, Treasure Island, Huck Finn, Through the Looking Glass, Tom Sawyer. As I researched previous adaptions of these novels, I discovered how so many of them were quite different from the author’s original intentions. I don’t feel these adaptations are 'bad,' by any means—in fact, I believe you have to break free of a novel to truly adapt it for a different medium—but often the 'adaptation' is the only part of the story that gets passed down to us. 


I wrote...

The Silenced

By James DeVita,

Book cover of The Silenced

What is my book about?

Marena struggles to remember what life was like before the Zero Tolerance Party installed listening devices in every home. Before they murdered her mother and put her father under house arrest. A time when difference was celebrated. When the new Minister of Education cracks down in her school, eliminating personal expression and independent thought, Marena decides she has to fight back.

The Silenced draws on the true story of Sophie Scholl and the White Rose, a movement that courageously resisted the Nazis. In an era when new technologies are accompanied by increasing surveillance, this is a powerfully relevant story of the enormous change that is possible when one person is courageous enough to speak the truth to power.

Forest Has a Song

By Amy Ludwig Vanderwater, Robbin Gourley (illustrator),

Book cover of Forest Has a Song: Poems

Amy has a way of making every poem feel personal, not just in the way the reader connects with the words, but in the way the subjects are presented. The poems are intimate, friendly, surprising, and comforting, whether they are written from a third-person perspective or from the point of view of the animals themselves. Beautiful to read, and beautiful to look at, readers will never look at the forest the same way again.


Who am I?

Ever since my parents gave me a copy of Dorothy Aldis’ The Secret Place and Other Poems, I have enjoyed a lifelong love of poetry. Now, as a traditionally-published children’s author, I have had numerous books and poems published over the years, including books that began as poems, like Flashlight Night (Astra Young Readers, 2017) and Once Upon Another Time (Beaming Books, 2021). My poems can be found in various anthologies including The National Geographic Book of Nature Poetry (National Geographic Children's Books, 2015).


I wrote...

Flashlight Night

By Matt Forrest Esenwine, Fred Koehler (illustrator),

Book cover of Flashlight Night

What is my book about?

Flashlight Night is an ode to the power of imagination and the wonder of books. Three children use a flashlight to light a path around their backyard at night; in the flashlight’s beam another world looms. Our heroes encounter spooky woods, a fearsome tiger, a time-forgotten tomb, an Egyptian god, a sword-fighting pirate, and a giant squid. With ingenuity, they vanquish all, then return to their treehouse—braver, closer, and wiser than before—to read the books that inspired their adventure.

Snow Birds

By Kirsten Hall, Jenni Desmond (illustrator),

Book cover of Snow Birds

I adore books that introduce a subject through the magic of poetry. Rhyme, rhythm, meter, and brevity are all appealing factors that keep a young audience engaged. In Snow Birds, the author and illustrator take us on a snowy poetic journey through mountains, forests, and backyards to give us a glimpse of the birds that don’t migrate but stay and brave the harsh climate of wintertime. This book fits the bill for all bird-loving, word-loving kids and adults alike.

Who am I?

My father was a life-long falconer. When I was a child, spending time with my father meant spending time with a menagerie of winged friends like goshawks, peregrine falcons, parrots, owls, and even vultures. I didn’t know it back then, but as I went hawking with my dad and helped him care for his beautiful birds, I was gathering a nest of passion and ideas for the writer and poet I would become. Today, I enjoy sharing my love of birds, nature, and books with children (and children at heart).


I wrote...

The Hawk of the Castle: A Story of Medieval Falconry

By Danna Smith, Bagram Ibatoulline (illustrator),

Book cover of The Hawk of the Castle: A Story of Medieval Falconry

What is my book about?

Gentle verse and sweeping, majestic artwork set imaginations soaring in a handsome and illuminating ode to the ancient art of falconry.

Join a young girl and her father, the falconer at a medieval castle, as they experience the joys of taking a goshawk out for a training flight. The girl leads readers through all the preparations and equipment needed for the flight — from the hawk’s hood and bells to the falconer’s gloves — culminating in a dramatic demonstration of the hawk’s hunting skill. Bagram Ibatoulline’s masterful illustrations capture the vivid details and beauty of a day spent hawking, while Danna Smith’s poetic storytelling will make readers long to experience the art and sport of falconry firsthand.

Walking the Tree

By Kaaron Warren, Greg Bridges (illustrator),

Book cover of Walking the Tree

Warren’s work is darker, more complex, and more compelling than most, and I loved this book to pieces. It’s a coming-of-age quest to circumnavigate a giant island which is also a monstrous tree, each tribe a segment of the orange, or an hour on the clock, to be discovered, savoured, and potentially escaped from, with the tree itself a constant, anchoring presence in the world. Get it! Read it!

Who am I?

I’m a fantasy addict, I work with wild animals for return to native ecosystems, and my favourite place to be is in a forest! People mock all the hiking in Lord of the Rings. But how better to tune into an unfamiliar landscape than to turn over that mossy stone, to uncover that buried gem, to find mushrooms? I enjoy fairy rings on three levels. First, by knowing they’re a food source for malleefowl and bush turkeys. Second, by understanding that their structure stems from the radius travelled by the hyphae underground. Third, by imagining where I might be whisked off to if I only dared set foot inside.


I wrote...

Crossroads of Canopy

By Thoraiya Dyer,

Book cover of Crossroads of Canopy

What is my book about?

Enter a green world of reincarnated gods and living magic. Follow Unar, a young woman, through a labyrinthine forest city where a misstep can send the unwary, the unworthy, or the unfortunate plunging to an unremarked doom. At times self-serving, at times compassionate, Unar’s ferocious attempts to both rescue fallen children and seize personal power see her snared in a wider plot to turn society upside down.

The Treachery of Beautiful Things

By Ruth Francis Long,

Book cover of The Treachery of Beautiful Things

Beneath the surface of this beautifully written old-style fairytale there lies a compelling examination of free will. This thematic depth adds a delicious, chewy meat to what is already an enjoyable romantic read. I loved the characters here. Jenny’s repeated struggle to overcome the fairytale roles that are imposed upon her, and the properly dark consequences of failure in the fairy realm, make this an excellent YA romance adventure that's hard to forget.


Who am I?

I was a weird kid. Often accused of ‘thinking too much’, I cut my literary teeth on Stephen King, Ray Bradbury, Phillip K Dick, and Shirley Jackson. Raised on their dark milk, I grew up wanting more than hollow scares and mindless eviscerations. Don’t just give me a scary story, give me a scary story that resonates, one that raises a lens to our world, our history, the rules we’re asked to live by. Unsettle me, make me think. Most of all, give me characters worth my precious time. These are the kind of stories I endeavor to write and the ones I most enjoy reading. I hope you enjoy this small selection as much as I have.


I wrote...

Resonance

By Celine Kiernan,

Book cover of Resonance

What is my book about?

Ireland, 1890: two ruthless immortals prowl Dublin’s theatre district. Ancient, pitiless, and caring for none but their own twisted family, they will stop at nothing to maintain their grip on life.

A hardworking seamstress, the young man who loves her, and a penniless American magician soon find themselves ensnared. Trapped in a snowbound country estate, the latest additions to a warped collection, they are nothing to their kidnappers but food, nothing but entertainment. Soon they will be nothing at all. But, miles from home and unlikely to survive, Tina, Joe, and Harry understand that far more is at stake than their own small lives.

Journey Beyond the Burrow

By Rina Heisel,

Book cover of Journey Beyond the Burrow

Do not be fooled by the cuddly creatures on the beautiful cover! This book is full of harrowing adventure, creepy tension, and frightening woodland creatures like giant spiders and deadly snakes. At least, as seen from the perspective of our main character, Tobin the mouse. Tobin’s quest is full of heart, for he has taken it upon himself to save his younger brother from the clutches of the invading spiders who stole him to a faraway lair. Their adventure reminded me of Secret of Nimh or The Lord of the Rings in that we follow a reluctant hero who rises to the occasion and shows their true self over the course of a challenging adventure. This is a terrific middle grade action-adventure story bulging with heart.


Who am I?

I love to read a good action-adventure story. I’ve also written a few. And I know that no matter how high the stakes, if there’s no heart in the characters then there’s very little engagement to make it any more memorable than a temporary thrill. I love thrills, but the stories that stick with you after the excitement of the moment is over, those are the true gems. Besides the fun of reading that type of book, maybe you even learn something about yourself or the world and come out a wee bit wiser than when you went in. And isn’t that a fantastic use of our imaginative powers?!


I wrote...

The Eye of Ra

By Ben Gartner,

Book cover of The Eye of Ra

What is my book about?

Exploring a mysterious cave in the mountains behind their house, John and his sister Sarah are shocked to discover they’ve time traveled to ancient Egypt!

Now they must work together to find a way back home from an ancient civilization of golden desert sand and a towering new pyramid, without parents to save them. The adventures abound—cobras, scorpions, a tomb robber, and more! The two kids have to trust each other, make friends who can help, and survive the challenges thrown at them . . . or be stuck in ancient Egypt forever.

A Wolf for a Spell

By Karah Sutton,

Book cover of A Wolf for a Spell

Told from multiple points of view, this book is a gorgeous romp through Russian folklore. While reading this book, I had the chance to live as a wolf, a young girl, and as Baba Yaga. I got to cast spells, experience powerful forest magic, save a princess, transform into animals, and defeat a terrible king. In real life, I could never experience any of those events, but I could while reading Karah Sutton’s incredible book. I especially appreciated that the story itself came together like a puzzle, pieces fitting neatly together in unexpected ways. This one is a surprise and delight at every turn.


Who am I?

For me, books have always been an incredible way to escape, most especially when life is overwhelming. I read books as an escape when I was young, and now as an author, I write books to escape as well. My favorite books to escape into always include heart pounding adventure, fantastical magic, and characters I wish I could know in real life. These are the sorts of books I write; ones that give readers the chance to exist as someone else in another place, perhaps go on a wild adventure. My hope as an author is that my books allow readers to leave their own world and their own worries behind.


I wrote...

The Wolf of Cape Fen

By Juliana Brandt,

Book cover of The Wolf of Cape Fen

What is my book about?

For as long as anyone can remember, Baron Dire has haunted Cape Fen during winter, striking magical bargains and demanding unjust payment in return. The Serling sisters know better than to bargain, lest they find themselves hunted by the Baron’s companion, the Wolf. Then the Wolf attacks Eliza's sister Winnie. They escape, but they know the Wolf will be back. Winnie would never bargain, so that must mean that someone has struck a deal with Winnie as the price.

Eliza embarks on a journey to save her sister. If she can learn the truth behind the complicated web of bargains that cross Cape Fen, she might be able to protect her sister, but the truth behind the bargain could put her own life in danger. 

Small Spaces

By Katherine Arden,

Book cover of Small Spaces

Not a GN… but still awesome! Small Spaces is a genuinely creepy novel about a girl dealing with real issues – grief, growing up – when she comes across a mysterious book that she begins to think might actually be true. When a scary bus driver warns Ollie and her classmates, “at nightfall, they’ll come for the rest of you”—as readers, we are so there! As kids, we were both pretty imaginative—and Susan especially loved anything scary. In fact, the first story she ever wrote that she was genuinely proud of was when she was in seventh grade. It was called “Ghost Cat,” about a girl mourning the death of a beloved pet. But while scary, it still had a happy ending.


Who am I?

Both of us grew up in the suburbs, which were honestly kind of boring, especially in the summer—so early on, we turned to books and telling stories to entertain ourselves and others. Susan writes stuff that relies on imagination, fantasy, and creepy stuff—and because she’s kind of immature (what nice people call “a kid at heart”), she also writes a ton of kids’ TV. Laurence’s imagination is more about mysteries and humor—he’s written detective novels and short stories. Writing together is awesome: despite minor differences, we share anxiety, similar senses of humor, and a love of storytelling. In addition to Brain Camp, we wrote the graphic novel City of Spies, as well as the YA dystopian trilogy, Wasteland.


I wrote...

Brain Camp

By Susan Kim and Laurence Klavan, Faith Erin Hicks (illustrator),

Book cover of Brain Camp

What is my book about?

Neither artistic, dreamy Jenna nor surly, delinquent Lucas expected to find themselves at an invitation-only summer camp that turns problem children into prodigies. And yet, here they both are at Camp Fielding, settling in with all the other losers and misfits who've been shipped off by their parents in a last-ditch effort to produce a child worth bragging about.

But strange disappearances, spooky lights in the woods, and a chilling alteration that turns the dimmest, rowdiest campers into docile zombie Einsteins have Jenna and Lucas feeling more than a little suspicious... and a lot afraid.

Wildwood

By Roger Deakin,

Book cover of Wildwood

This was the book that made me look again at trees, seeing them for the incredible organisms that they are. Deakin goes on an amazing adventure from Suffolk to Kazakhstan, Australia, and beyond, trying to get to the heart of why wood and trees have such profound meaning for us. If you like Wildwood, you could also try Waterlog, in which he wild-swims his way through the British Isles. He’s the perfect companion for the armchair adventurer, and a very genial writer.


Who am I?

I did a master's in Environmental Policy, and at the end of that year, I thought, "this is all very well, but there’s no point designing these policies if no one wants them." My response to the environmental crisis is to try to open people’s eyes to the beauty and wonder of Nature. If you pay close attention, you start to develop an expansive sense of the ordinary: Creation is stranger, more mysterious, and more wonderful than we can imagine. This in turn helps us to love the world more deeply, and we tend to look after things that we love. 


I wrote...

Talking Through Trees

By Edward Picton-Turbervill,

Book cover of Talking Through Trees

What is my book about?

Talking Through Trees was supposed to be a rather dry history of the gardens in St John’s College, Cambridge, but what came out when I sat down to write it was altogether more unexpected. The book is a rhapsody on the trees in the college’s garden, flowing between anecdote, history, biology, poetry, and philosophy. It was augmented by 35 wonderful woodcuts produced by Angela Lemaire for the book and printed by hand at the Old Stile Press. My favourite lines are "A tree is a river in reverse. A river converges on its trunk, and a tree diverges from its source. Humans are both wood and water, since our arteries are trees, and our veins are rivers."

This book is available here.

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