10 picture books that will inspire you to go outdoors

The sun is shining and flowers are blooming — it’s time to get outside and soak up the glorious sunshine.  Here are some great picture books that will inspire your family to enjoy the outdoors.  Read some of these books to the kids and then take them outside for Family Nature Day at Boone Woods Park on July 29, from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Don’t forget your sunscreen!

  1. Tap the Magic Tree by Christie Matheson
    Kids will enjoy the interactive features of this book that follows a tree throughout the seasons.  Matheson’s layered collages and sparse, rhyming text are perfect for the preschool sect.  Truly there is magic in nature, and this lovely book reveals as much.
  2. All the World by Liz Garton Scanlon and Marla Frazee
    A Caldecott Honor, this is one of my absolutely favorite children’s books.  An oversized printing shows the expanse of nature from coast, to garden, rain and shine.  Easily it could be a coffee table book with as much appeal for adults to relish the simple moments in life.  Gorgeous illustrations
  3. Ask Me by Bernard Waber, illustrated by Suzy Lee
    Parents will certainly relate as a father answers his daughters’ seemingly endless questions about all they encounter during a walk in the park and beyond. Lee’s pencil illustrations in its primary color palette match the simple dialogue Waber (of Lyle the Crocodile) created and published two years after his death.
  4. Flowers are Calling by Rita Gray, illustrated by Kenard Pak
    I happened to stumble upon this gem while searching for a different title, and was immediately drawn by the lush, detailed watercolor illustrations.  Fanciful rhymes about flowers and their pollinators are peppered throughout with profiles on various wildflowers and their features.  This give multiple options for reading.
  5. The Lorax by Dr. Seuss
    The ultimate conservation book serves as a warning against all that threaten our precious environment; over-industrialization, deforestation, and pollution.  Told in typical Seuss fashion, though lengthy, this one is more appropriate for older elementary students.
  6. The Tiny Seed by Eric Carle
    Simultaneously a study of the enduring power of the meek and the life cycle of a flower, done in Carle’s unmistakable collage.  Follow the tiniest seed as it journeys on the wind across mountains, oceans, and deserts before it finds its final resting spot.  You’ll find yourself rooting (pun intended) for the seed to flourish as greater companions meet their demise.
  7. The Night World by Mordicai Gerstein
    When a boy’s cat wakes him, the world is unfamiliar in shadows.  Entirely illustrated in gray tones with only Sylvie, the cat’s green eyes to lead him through the darkness.  They find the animals lying in wake for the sunrise to bring forth color to the world.  As it does, it explodes in brilliant fashion to full color in the last few pages.
  8. Blue on Blue by Dianne White, illustrated by Beth Krommes
    Krommes intricate, scratchboard illustrations capture the texture of a beautiful summer day, at once spoiled by the sudden onset of rain.  The text invokes the colors of the farm landscape and the simple joy of being outside after the storm.
  9. Over in the Meadow by Ezra Jack Keats
    There are dozens of inceptions of this classic counting rhyme published over the years, but this one is my favorite.  Keat’s collages are more realistic and less cutesy than some others, each page invoking the natural beauty of the creatures and their surroundings.  Making the animals sounds and motions are especially fun for the little ones.
  10. Outside your Window: A First Book of Nature
    by Nicola Davies, illustrated by Mark Hearld
    A hefty volume worthy of ownership, or at least multiple checkouts from the library!  This volume of poetry is divided among the seasons with titles such as “Lamb’s Tails” and “Five Reasons to Keep Chickens” for any occasion.  Perhaps it will even inspire little poets to write their own works about the world outside their windows.


Micha O’Connor Millwood is the Community Events Liaison for Boone County Public Library.  A reformed teacher, she is a children’s librarian who reviews books for the Southwestern Ohio Library Consortium, and sits on the committee for the Kentucky Bluegrass Awards.




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