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Friday, August 3, 2012

A Nature Hike for the Eyes

Photo courtesy of PublicDomainPictures.net

Our family loves nature.  We are huge fans of wildlife and trees, flowers and insects -- pretty much the entire "great outdoors".  We spend time outside enjoying nature throughout the year, but especially during the summer when the kids aren't in school and the weather is warm.  Summer is when we go camping and canoeing, take frequent nature hikes, and sit under the stars in the evenings.

Over the years, we have collected many, many books about nature.  I thought I'd share a few of them here, along with a couple that I found at the library.  First, some fictional picture books:

Have You Seen My Duckling?,
written and illustrated by Nancy Tafuri, 1984

When Mother Duck realizes that one of her ducklings is missing, she and the rest of her brood paddle around the lake, looking for him.  

The text in this board book is sparse; the story unfolds mainly through Tafuri's colorful pictures.  This book is a good way to introduce the youngest of readers to life on a lake. We've had this book since my daughter Emmalie was little, and I can still remember conversations I had with her about lily pads, turtles, ducks, and more while flipping through these pages. 

Toddlers will love looking for the missing baby duck -- he can be found hiding in the background on every page. They will also be reassured by the ending, when mother and baby are reunited.


Stella: Fairy of the Forest,
written and illustrated by Marie-Louise Gay, 2002

Stella and her little brother Sam make use of their creative imaginations as they explore the forest together.


Stella: Princess of the Sky,
also written and illustrated by Marie-Louise Gay, 2004

In this book, Stella and Sam spend the evening outside, watching the world transform from day into night as the sun sets and the moon rises.

A friend recently recommended Marie-Louise Gay's Stella and Sam books to me.  I had never heard of them before, but was happy to look for them at the library!  Gay has written nine of them so far, and I've now read two.  My six-year-old Ben and I both liked these fun books, especially the bright, whimsical illustrations and the spirited sibling conversations.


written and illustrated by Holly Hobbie, 2012

This is mostly a wordless book, though the first page provides a letter from Gran to Hope and the last page is a letter from Hope back to her grandmother.  In between, readers watch the adventures of Gem the toad as she explores her world, finally ending up in Hope's back yard.

I have been a fan of Holly Hobbie's artwork ever since I was six or so.  (In fact, I had Holly Hobbie wallpaper on my bedroom walls for several years when I was growing up.)  When I spotted this volume on the "new books" shelf of our library, I knew I had to bring it home with me!  Ben and I were delighted by Hobbie's lifelike illustrations of this charming little toad.  Ben also loved making up his own words for this story, explaining Gem's perceptions of the world around her.


Fireflies, Fireflies, Light My Way,
written by Jonathan London
and illustrated by Linda Messier, 1996

Inspired by a Native American lullaby, this book leads readers on a nighttime journey through the wilderness.  On each page, we encounter new creatures, from fireflies to turtles to otters to... alligators?  Yikes!

My parents gave this book to Emmalie for her first birthday -- she loved it so much, we read it every night for weeks and weeks!  Part of the appeal came from the lilting text and vibrant pictures of the animals, but she especially liked the ending when we would pretend to outrun the alligators until... whew!... we were safe. :)


Little Beaver and The Echo,
written by Amy MacDonald
and illustrated by Sarah Fox-Davies, 1990

Little Beaver is lonely.  One day when he is crying, he hears someone else crying on the other side of the lake.  When he calls out, "I need a friend!", the other voice says, "I need a friend!", too.  He sets off in his canoe to find the owner of the voice.  Little Beaver meets several new friends along the way, but can't find the one who called back to him.  At last, he learns a lesson about echoes from a wise old beaver, and discovers that is no longer alone.

Our family loves this sweet story and its adorable pictures!


Canoe Days,
written by Gary Paulsen
and illustrated by Ruth Wright Paulsen, 1999

The narrator of this story uses poetic images to describe a perfect day out on the canoe.

I have a feeling that any canoe enthusiast would appreciate and enjoy this book -- I know our whole family does!  (All three of my kids loved it even before they'd ever set foot in a canoe.)  The illustrations are gorgeous, and reading through the book brings a sense of peace, just like being out on a still lake in a canoe.


Lost in the Woods,
written and photographed by Carl R. Sams II
and Jean Stoick, 2004

A tiny fawn is all alone in the woods.  The other woodland creatures wonder: is he lost?  Or, like the fawn himself says, is he simply waiting for his mother to return?

With its beautiful photographs and gentle humor, this is an engaging story, especially for those who love animals.


The Goodnight Circle,
written by Carolyn Lesser
and illustrated by Lorinda Bryan Cauley, 1984

As the sun goes down, some woodland creatures settle in for the night while others are just waking up.

Lesser's lyrical text combines with Cauley's rich illustrations to create this glimpse of nighttime in the forest.  Our family likes to read this one at bedtime.  I bought this copy at a library book sale many years ago, and was thrilled to find out when I got home that it had been autographed by the author!


There are also many wonderful non-fiction books about nature.  Here are a few that our family enjoys:

A Leaf Can Be...,
written by Laura Purdie Salas
and illustrated by Violeta Dabija, 2012

Clever poetry from Salas, paired with Dabija's luminous illustrations, provides information about leaves and all that they can be.

I found this book at the library and, drawn to it's cover, brought it home with me.  I'm so glad I did!  Ben and I loved poring over the pages, reading the rhymes, and talking about leaves.


Black Bear Cub,
written by Alan Lind
and illustrated by Katie Lee, 1994

Have you ever wondered what it would be like to be a bear?  This book gives readers a peek into a black bear cub's life, offering interesting facts about these amazing animals.

This is one from my son Nick's huge collection of animal books.  He has long since graduated to reading adult nonfiction, but this is a great book for young animal lovers.


Caves and Caverns,
written and illustrated by Gail Gibbons, 1993

Are you and your family interested in exploring caves?  In this informative and easy-to-understand book, Gibbons explains how caves and caverns are formed, shares the names of various rock formations, tells about animals and plants that live underground, and much more.

Our family found this book quite useful when we went on vacation to Mammoth Caves several years ago!


Forest Explorer: A Life-Size Field Guide,
written and photographed by Nic Bishop, 2004

With chapters like "The Leafy Understory", "After Dark", and "Winter Survivors", Bishop provides large 2-page photos of various forest habitats accompanied by field notes about the plants, animals, and insects found there.  At the end of the book is a section called "Be a Forest Explorer", which offers hints for exploring and projects to try.


Zoo in the Sky: A Book of Animal Constellations,
written by Jacqueline Mitton
and illustrated by Christina Balit, 1998

In this book, Mitton combines non-fiction and fiction, supplying star maps and information about stars along with stories about various animal constellations found in the sky.

My sister gave this book to Emmalie when she was only three or so, and Emm's been interested in the stars ever since!  (Soon after reading this for the first time, we bought glow-in-the-dark stars to put on Emm's ceiling -- she loved having her own constellations shining above her bed every night.)

This is a wonderful book to display on a shelf or coffee table -- Balit's illustrations are stunning.


Have you read any of the books shown above?  If so, what did you think?  What are your favorite nature books?  My family and I would love to hear about them!

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