By Ashly Moore Sheldon • April 22, 2020
Does your Earth Day celebration feel a little different this year? With many parks and beaches closed due to concerns around the coronavirus, you may not be able to get out and enjoy the wonders of nature. Whether you're missing the velvety quiet of a forest trail, the music of a burbling stream, or the roar of the ocean, we have something for you. Read on for a diverse selection of earthy reads for all ages.
Over and Under the Pond by Kate Messner
A parent and child take a canoe ride, observing nature all around them. Fuzzy cattails sway, frogs leap from mossy logs, and loons swim by in the dappled sunlight. And what's happening underneath the water's surface? This book is part of a series of charming picture books introducing the rich ecosystems all around us.
The Curious Garden by Peter Brown
This imaginative tale explores urban environmentalism with a little boy who finds a struggling garden in his neighborhood. He starts tending the little patch of green, and the enchanted garden grows, transforming the dark, gray city into a lush, bountiful landscape.
Outside Your Window: A First Book of Nature by Nicola Davis
With winsome poetry and beautiful illustrations, this volume perfectly captures the sights and sounds of a child's early interactions with nature. Sprinkled throughout are a variety of fun natural facts and outdoorsy activities like planting an acorn, studying tidepools, or lying back to watch the birds fly overhead.
A Tree Is Nice by Janice May Udry
This 1956 Caldecott-winning book offers lovely illustrations and simple, direct messaging about why trees are good. As the author points out, even one tree is nice, if it is the only one you happen to have. It's an earnest, heartfelt love letter to these sturdy, enduring lifeforms.
The Snail and the Whale by Julia Donaldson
A lovely story about an unlikely friendship: A snail hops aboard a whale's back for a seafaring adventure. It's the chance of a lifetime for the snail, who's never left home before. But when her new friend swims too close to shore, will the tiny snail be able to help?
My Side of the Mountain by Jean Craighead George
Sam is terribly unhappy in the city, so he runs away to live a wild life in the mountains. This lovely classic, published in 1959, has captured the imagination of many disillusioned youth, dreaming of living independently on their own terms. It is the first of a series and one of many nature-immersion stories by the author.
Island of the Blue Dolphins by Scott O'Dell
Based on a true story, this classic tells of a Native American girl living alone on a remote island in the Pacific for eighteen years in the 1800s. Industrious and resilient, she finds food, builds shelters, and fends off danger, as she waits for someone to come and find her.
Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens
While this coming-of-age novel is not technically categorized as YA, we find it translates beautifully to older teens (the story includes aspects of domestic abuse and sexuality). Young Kya grows up largely on her own in the marshland after her parents and siblings desert her one by one. Sensitive and intelligent, she draws strength and happiness from nature.
Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson
Friendship seems unlikely when new girl Leslie beats Jess in the first-day-of-school race he's been practicing for all summer. But the two quickly bond over a love of nature and together they create Terabithia, an imaginary world of their own in the woods. But when tragedy strikes, everything changes.
The Overstory by Richard Powers
This glorious National Book Award-winner stitches together a handful of absorbing storylines, building a surprisingly captivating story centered around the preservation of trees, specifically the giant evergreens of Northern California. With lush, immersive prose and deep dives into the biological intricacies of the forest, this tome will transport you.
The Solace of Open Spaces by Gretel Ehrlich
A poet and a filmmaker when she first came to Wyoming, the author was so taken with the place that she took a job as a cowherd in order to have more time to take it all in. This collection of essays delves into her grief as she mourns a lover amidst the epic mountainous landscape that can be, at once, both hostile and nurturing.
The Home Place by J. Drew Lantham
As a black man coming of age in the rural South and falling in love with the natural world, the ornithologist author found himself "the rare bird, the oddity." His big-hearted unforgettable memoir traces his remarkable path. By times funny, angry, elegiac, and heartbreaking, it is a deeply moving meditation on identity.
The Hour of Land by Terry Tempest Williams
The naturalist author explores twelve national parks, meditating on what they mean to us and we mean to them. This collection of essays and images captures the unique grandeur of each, while unearthing what it means to shape a landscape with its own evolutionary history into something of our own making.
Prodigal Summer by Barbara Kingsolver
Over the course of one humid summer, a group of disparate characters find their connections to one another and to the flora and fauna sharing their place in the world. This novel offers a dynamic balance of dramatic narrative, sumptuous prose, and informative ideas.
We know that nothing can take the place of the real thing, but hopefully some of the books in this collection will provide a virtual breath of fresh air and keep us going until we can once again get back out into the wildlands we love.