Look deep into nature, and then you will understand everything better.
~ Albert Einstein

To make a prairie it takes a clover and one bee

One clover, and a bee
And revery

And revery alone will do if bees are few.

~ Emily Dickinson

It is hard to imagine any human endeavor more inspirational than a walk in an old-growth forest or an evening of desert stargazing, far from city lights. It’s no surprise that the natural world has inspired both artistic expression and scientific inquiry in equal measure and throughout the ages – from Vincent Van Gogh and Emily Dickinson to Isaac Newton and Albert Einstein. For many of us, Mother Nature was our first classroom; for all of us, the great outdoors continues to offer nearly limitless opportunities for wonder and discovery, for respite and renewal.

With the onset of summer and spending more time outdoors with our family and friends, we have curated our favorite books about the natural world and its many wonders. Our selections include something for every age, from preschool to middle school, and include a variety of literary forms, from traditional biography to graphic novels. There’s a nature encyclopedia that doubles as an interactive scrapbook (a terrific companion for a nature walk) and engaging stories about young people’s encounters with nature – from New Hampshire to India. We offer our book selections in the hope that reading will be part of your child’s summer activities, whether at home or on holiday – perhaps spending time in the great outdoors.


Here We Are: Notes for Living on Planet Earth written and illustrated by Oliver Jeffers

Harland Jeffers was two months old when his father, this book’s author, wrote this guide to our planet for him. A modern-day version of Richard Scarry’s Busytown, readers will spend hours looking at all the beautifully detailed scenes on every two-page spread. Jeffers focuses on the need for kindness, with an emphasis on caring for the planet and each other. He also brings light to the importance of embracing the fact that we are all different, and yet, the same. This book is perfect as a read-aloud to start conversations about taking care of our planet and all the amazing animals, mountains, rivers, oceans, and forests.


Hello Nature: Draw, Collect, Make and Grow written and illustrated by Nina Chakrabarti

Looking for a companion for your nature walks, beach visits, and time outdoors with your children? Then this activity-filled scrapbook is perfect! Its pages are packed with fascinating facts and brilliant activities. There are pages to doodle, draw and color in leaves, butterflies, and identify plants. You can also learn the difference between frogs and toads, among other creatures. There are pages helping your child to learn how to make their own leaf prints, daisy chains, twig sculptures, and mini-beast hotels. It is full of beautiful illustrations and is very child friendly.

GRADES 1 & 2
Me and You and the Red Canoe written by Jean E. Pendziwol and Illustrated by Phil

The acrylic on wood paintings perfectly captures the Northwoods feel of this story of siblings sharing time together on a lake. The lyrical text describes an incredibly peaceful and natural setting shared with ducks, squirrels, an eagle, and even a moose. After savoring this book for a little while, it is obvious that this writer/illustrator duo not only has spent time outdoors but enjoys doing so. The woods and water evoke a sweet nostalgia for parents and grandparents to share with young ones and make new memories just like the ones lovingly portrayed in this book.

Fatima’s Great Outdoors written by Ambreen Tariq and illustrated by Stevie Lewis

Written by the founder of the social media initiative @BrownPeopleCamping, this story is about Fatima and her family from India going camping for the first time. The camping trip reminds Fatima of treasured memories from her time in India, like when her mother caught lizards in their home and built a fire in a wood-burning stove. The whole family is a little nervous about sleeping in a tent, especially when Fatima and her sister spy a “monster” outside the tent at night. They all laugh the next morning when they see that it was a spider. I really appreciate the way this book simultaneously introduces young readers to both camping and Indian culture.

GRADES 3 – 5

Celia Planted a Garden: The Story of Celia Thaxter and Her Island Garden written by Phyllis Root and Gary D. Schmidt, Illustrated by Melissa Sweet

This colorfully illustrated biography is an ode to the life of Celia Thaxter, the daughter of a lighthouse keeper in New Hampshire in the 1830s. When she was very young she
lived on White Island, and looking for color, Celia planted a garden of bright yellow marigolds. Summers were her favorite time when she would play on the beaches and watch the migrating birds. When she was twelve, her family moved to an island off of Maine called Appledore to build a hotel for writers and artists from around New England, including Henry Wadsworth Longfellow and Nathaniel Hawthorne. Celia planted an even bigger garden on the rocky shores and eventually wrote poetry about her life and her gardening. “The very act of planting a seed in the earth has in it to me something beautiful.” This book is interspersed with her poems, along with more about Celia Thaxter, including a rich timeline and bibliography.


The 13 Story Treehouse (series) written by Andy Griffiths, Illustrated by Terry Denton

This incredibly popular graphic novel hybrid series is all about two aspiring writers named Andy and Terry, who just happen to live in the coolest treehouse ever. It is filled with a lemonade fountain, a vegetable vaporizer, swinging vines, and of course a marshmallow machine (in case you’re hungry). The friends use the wild adventures that take place here as material for their manuscript, which is overdue to their publisher, Mr. Big Nose. There are 11 books in this series, each one adding 13 stories to the previous treehouse: 26, 39, 52, and so on up to The 143 Story Treehouse. This silly action-packed series is perfect for summer reading!


For more information about Stratford School, visit www.stratfordschools.com.