The best wildlife books

8 authors have picked their favorite books about wildlife and why they recommend each book.

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Sunrise Dance

By Serena Gingold Allen, Teagan White (illustrator),

Book cover of Sunrise Dance

A companion book to Moonlight Prance, this interactive lift-the-flap book will entertain young readers as they read along during a sunrise dance in a meadow, and all the animals that come and join the fun. Kids will love making the animals dance along by moving the flaps, plus it’s short enough for when you need that super quick read before a late bedtime.


Who am I?

As a mom of young kids who love animals, I know firsthand the benefit of finding fun books that are also easy to read, fun to look at, and short enough not to make you flinch when your kids pull them off the shelves during those later bedtime nights.


I wrote...

Dream Flights on Arctic Nights

By Brooke Hartman, Evon Zerbetz (illustrator),

Book cover of Dream Flights on Arctic Nights

What is my book about?

At night, just as the moon climbs high, I make a wish that I could fly.

Follow a child’s dreamy flight across the Arctic and discover the animals that live there, from wolves prowling through the snow, to goats and sheep leaping across mountains, to walrus and sea lions lying on icebergs. Told in singsong rhymes and colorfully illustrated with gorgeous linocut art, Dream Flights on Arctic Nights is a beautiful bedtime story for children to explore the Arctic before drifting off to sleep.

The Ranger

By Nancy Vo,

Book cover of The Ranger

The Ranger is the second book in the artistically rendered Crow Stories series by Nancy Vo. The animal friend in this book is a mysterious fox. When a young ranger, Annie, rescues a fox they begin an uneasy journey together. When Annie in turn needs help, she has to confront the meaning of friendship. The art in The Ranger has a look all its own incorporating watercolour and collage in a way that gives just the right mood to pair with the text. Readers will be drawn to the fox’s strong, captivating presence, and the beautiful, muted landscapes provide the perfect setting. In addition to the memorable illustrations, this book offers lots to discuss around reciprocity and friendship. There is also some mystery - is there more to the fox than meets the eye?

Who am I?

I am an illustrator, author, and animator. When I write and draw, I hope to vividly bring characters and settings to life in the imaginations of readers. Mischievous dogs, mysterious old houses, and brilliant mathematicians are some of the subjects I’ve had the pleasure of putting on the pages of books. I love animals and art, so artistic picture books with animals at their heart, give me a lot of joy. Because the illustrations in a picture book tell stories, I look for artwork that expresses character, mood, and movement. The best picture books leave a mark in visual memory that connects to the feeling of a story.


I wrote...

Tricky

By Kari Rust,

Book cover of Tricky

What is my book about?

Tricky was my first picture book. It is about a pair of rascally troublemakers and what happens when one of them (a dog!) sees the error of his ways. It is a tale of revenge and reform told in a fun and lighthearted picture book. The story was inspired, in part, by some trickster dogs from my own life.

The Love Letter

By Anika Aldamuy Denise, Lucy Ruth Cummins (illustrator),

Book cover of The Love Letter

A misunderstanding about the intended recipient of a love letter first brings Hedgehog, Bunny, and Squirrel great joy, but then threatens their friendship. In the end, Mouse helps them remember why they love each other. The final illustration even suggests that Mouse is joining their circle, since after all, love is unlimited. The Love Letter struck me first as a writer, because I recognized a unique story premise; and then I realized how much tenderness underlies both the text and the illustration.


Who am I?

I expect that the folks at Shepherd.com approached me as a picture book author, since I’m the author of eleven picture books, including the four books of the Vampirina Ballerina series, which were adapted into the Disney Junior hit series Vampirina. But my thoughts and ideas about friendship and community really stem from once having been a child myself and from being a parent of four children, each of whom approached the roller coaster ride of childhood friendship in their unique ways. I was always happy to help them find answers in a book, even when those answers involved more, and deeper, questions.


I wrote...

Groundhug Day

By Anne Marie Pace,

Book cover of Groundhug Day

What is my book about?

Starring a cast of lovable forest animals, Groundhug Day is ostensibly a book about late winter and spring holidays, but more deeply, it’s about friendship. If we value our friends, we take time to appreciate the ways in which we are all different from one another. Instead of dismissing Groundhog because he is afraid of shadows, the friends learn to work with him to help him conquer his fears. And while Porcupine’s quills make it difficult to hug him, the friends find other ways to express affection.

Groundhug Day may start out being about a Valentine's Day Party, but in the end, it’s really a celebration of community.

Bear Came Along

By Richard T. Morris, LeUyen Pham (illustrator),

Book cover of Bear Came Along

After Bear falls into a river, which doesn’t know it’s a river, he’s joined by a series of forest friends, each of whom add to and enhances the group’s adventure until at the end, they have become friends in the community, all thanks to Bear’s misstep. The art is stunning, especially the use of color, which begins drably in the endpapers and ends up stunningly bright and light-filled. A Caldecott Honor book.


Who am I?

I expect that the folks at Shepherd.com approached me as a picture book author, since I’m the author of eleven picture books, including the four books of the Vampirina Ballerina series, which were adapted into the Disney Junior hit series Vampirina. But my thoughts and ideas about friendship and community really stem from once having been a child myself and from being a parent of four children, each of whom approached the roller coaster ride of childhood friendship in their unique ways. I was always happy to help them find answers in a book, even when those answers involved more, and deeper, questions.


I wrote...

Groundhug Day

By Anne Marie Pace,

Book cover of Groundhug Day

What is my book about?

Starring a cast of lovable forest animals, Groundhug Day is ostensibly a book about late winter and spring holidays, but more deeply, it’s about friendship. If we value our friends, we take time to appreciate the ways in which we are all different from one another. Instead of dismissing Groundhog because he is afraid of shadows, the friends learn to work with him to help him conquer his fears. And while Porcupine’s quills make it difficult to hug him, the friends find other ways to express affection.

Groundhug Day may start out being about a Valentine's Day Party, but in the end, it’s really a celebration of community.

Wildwood

By Colin Meloy, Carson Ellis (illustrator),

Book cover of Wildwood

I want to list something that is contemporary and this was one of the few series I was willing to see through. I was impressed with the way the world beyond the Impassable wilderness comes to life, literally, as we follow Prue and Curtis on their mission to rescue Prue’s baby brother. As well as plunging into forests or villages, replete with talking animals and birds, menacing ivy, an army of coyote bandits, underground warrens, cushions made of moss, an occult queen– there is enough mysticism, ritual, strange politics and twists, turns and perils to ensure a compelling narrative pace. 


Who am I?

I credit my overactive imagination to a childhood in which our parents left us to run wild. There I developed a very alive and personal relationship to the living world which I've continued to both plunder and nourish in order to write novels. In these times of ecological devastation, it’s telling that so many children’s lives have migrated towards the virtual. I believe it’s the interpenetration of our own imagination into what is mysterious, enduring and alive in the natural world that shows us why we must strive to hold it sacred. I encourage all kids to get off their screens and to go outside. There you will find life’s unbridled magic.


I wrote...

Molly & Pim and the Millions of Stars

By Martine Murray,

Book cover of Molly & Pim and the Millions of Stars

What is my book about?

All Molly wants is to be normal like her friend Ellen Palmer. Ellen, with her neat braids and a tidy house and a mother and father who are home for dinner every night. But Molly's mom spends her mornings tramping through the woods, looking for ingredients for her potions. Their rooster, the Gentleman, runs wild in their yard, angering their grumpy neighbors, the Grimshaws. So Molly's mom makes a potion that will grow a tree between their houses.

When Molly's mom accidentally drinks the potion and turns into the tree, Molly is determined to get her back. But the Grimshaws plan to cut down the tree branches that reach onto their property. Molly sets out to save her mother and discovers the wonder that lies in the ordinary.

Dark Emperor and Other Poems of the Night

By Joyce Sidman, Rick Allen (illustrator),

Book cover of Dark Emperor and Other Poems of the Night

If you wonder why Joyce Sidman is considered one of the preeminent children’s poets of our time, this Newbury Award-winning book should be all you need. From bats and crickets to moths and salamanders – and yes, even the Dark Emperor himself, the great horned owl – Joyce utilizes powerful imagery, delicate wordplay, and a poet’s insight to bring these mysterious creatures out of the dark and into our homes.

From formal rhyme structures to free verse, Joyce combines magnificent poetry with nonfiction sidebars to create a perfect book that enlightens, enthralls, and educates.


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 (N.G. Children’s Books, 2015) and Construction People (Wordsong, 2020) as well as Highlights for Children magazine.


I wrote...

Once Upon Another Time

By Charles Ghigna, Matt Forrest Esenwine, Andrés F. Landazábal (illustrator)

Book cover of Once Upon Another Time

What is my book about?

"Once upon another time, the world was young and new. If you want to know this world, there's something you can do..." With sweeping landscapes and up-close details of the natural world, “Once Upon Another Time” takes readers through a lyrical exploration of the world as it was before humans made their mark. Contrasting the past with the present, this expansive picture book serves as an invitation for children – and all people – to appreciate, explore, and protect this planet we call home.

Written by award-winning authors Charles Ghigna and Matt Forrest Esenwine, and illustrated by Andres F. Landazabal, Once Upon Another Time is a stunning portrait of a world that used to exist, and can still be found – if you just know where to look.

Porcupine Cupid

By Jason June, Lori Richmond (illustrator),

Book cover of Porcupine Cupid

Porcupine’s clueless optimism and the adorably expressive illustrations by Lori Richmond are what draw me into this fun book. Porcupine is excited to make some love matches on Valentine’s Day by using his quills like cupid’s arrows. But what he doesn’t realize is that his pokes are making everybody mad instead! With a forest full of angry animals on his hands, Porcupine calls a meeting that ends up bringing the friends together with love after all. And even Porcupine gets a Valentine of his own. 


Who am I?

I am a New York Times Bestselling author of more than twenty children’s picture books and chapter books as well as a mom to two young kids. Nothing fills me with more joy than reading to children and witnessing how a story can open up their hearts and minds. And Valentine’s Day is a holiday that brings me extra joy because it’s all about spreading love and friendship. I love Valentine’s Day so much that I’ve written two picture books about it!


I wrote...

The Littlest Valentine

By Brandi Dougherty, Michelle Todd (illustrator),

Book cover of The Littlest Valentine

What is my book about?

Emma may be the littlest in the Valentine family, but she knows that she has what it takes to help the family business get ready for the holiday. But Emma just can't seem to do things the right way like the bigger members of her family, no matter how hard she tries. When Emma finds a lost puppy, who is little just like she is, she discovers a heartwarming way to make Valentine’s Day an even bigger success. 

Pokko and the Drum

By Matthew Forsythe,

Book cover of Pokko and the Drum

Pokko’s parents give her a drum and soon regret it, as you might imagine. (In my own book, Mom says, “don’t even think about a drum kit.”) But sending Pokko outside begins a beautiful symphonic journey that turns Pokko into a leader who makes sure her bandmates don’t eat each other. In the end, even her parents are swept away (literally) by the beautiful music.


Who am I?

I am not a rock star but I do play a mean (computer) keyboard. My debut picture book, How to Be a Rock Star, was inspired by my musical children and our endless hours jamming as a family band. I was always on the lookout for books to inspire my little rock star, and because they were hard to come by, I wrote one! These books will inspire your budding musician, or just help you embrace a spirit of creative play in any way they want to rock.


I wrote...

How to Be a Rock Star

By Lisa Tolin, Daniel Duncan (illustrator),

Book cover of How to Be a Rock Star

What is my book about?

How to Be a Rock Star is a tongue-in-cheek guide to everything a kid needs to know to start a rock band. Becoming a rock star isn't easy. From finding the right instrument to mastering the best dance moves, to taking your band on the road, there's a lot to consider! And that's not to mention dealing with critics, crazed fans, and a little brother with a chocolate milk problem.... Luckily, this giggle-inducing book has everything you need to know to make it big.

“A joyous, raucous must-have manual for little rock stars everywhere.” - Savannah Guthrie, Today show co-anchor

Chirri & Chirra

By Kaya Doi, Yuki Kaneko (translator),

Book cover of Chirri & Chirra

In Chirri and Chirra, Japanese author and artist Kaya Doi captures the magic of best friendship with gorgeous colored pencil illustrations and a dream-like tale. When twins Chirri and Chirra head off into the woods for a bike ride they find themselves in a wonderland that blends the strangeness of Lewis Caroll with the sweetness of Goodnight Moon. Along the way they stop to enjoy chestnut coffee, clover blossom tea and jelly sandwiches, all served by forest animals. They swim in a lake, nap under a tree, and ride on to a cozy hotel just in time for a forest animal concert that lights up the night of the girls’ perfect day.


Who are we?

Besides creating inventive best friends Melia and Jo, Jennifer Oxley and Billy Aronson created problem-solving best friends Peg and Cat, stars of Peg + Cat picture books and the PBS TV series which airs around the world. While creating those sets of best friends Jen and Billy became best friends themselves, brainstorming together, learning together, singing and dancing together, sharing pizza, inspiring and supporting each other, and laughing together many times a day. So yeah, they know a lot about best friends. 


We wrote...

Melia and Jo

By Billy Aronson, Jennifer Oxley (illustrator),

Book cover of Melia and Jo

What is our book about?

Tech whiz Melia loves to create things in her backyard laboratory. Artistically inclined Jo loves to swirl and leap and go wild with words. When Jo leaps into Melia’s yard the two girls find that if you blend the arts and science, something unbelievable happens. Together, they form a STEAM dream team! Melia and Jo is inspired by two of history’s boldest adventurers: famous flyer Amelia Earhart and singing/dancing/comedienne Josephine Baker.

The Tea Party in the Woods

By Akiko Miyakoshi,

Book cover of The Tea Party in the Woods

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.


Who am I?

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.


I wrote...

Salad Pie

By Wendy BooydeGraaff, Bryan Langdo (illustrator),

Book cover of Salad Pie

What is my book about?

Maggie is determined to make Salad Pie at the playground—alone. But then Herbert appears. He wants to play. Maggie resists. Herbert watches and waits. Maggie’s imagination flourishes with the attention. Then, Salad Pie tumbles down, Herbert saves the day, and an unexpected friendship begins.

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