Arts | Rainy Day Fun | Stuff We Love | Ages 0–2 | Ages 3–5

Wild About Books: 7 Non-Disney Nature Books for Young Kids

In a word where Disney offers us flying elephants and talking crickets, I aim to introduce my son to nature without the personification — to show him that nature has humor, beauty, weirdness, consequences and (importantly, for my little boy) superheroes of its own, and on its own terms.

What books might engage a child from infancy through preschool years to be interested in the natural world? For me it’s meant picture books, beginning with very few words, and leading up to more complex books as my son grows older.

Birds by Kevin Henkes Nature Books for kids

Here are seven books with beautiful and accurate illustrations that depict nature as it really is, albeit in gentle terms. Most, but not all, of the books feature animals, as children readily respond to animals.

They're listed in order of age recommendation, though many are truly engaging for all of the early years.


By Kevin Henkes, illustrated by Laura Dronzek

This classic was given to us by a specialist in children's literature. I began reading this book to my son at age 6 months.

While it does not identify birds by name, it shows birds in their many varieties of color, size and behavior, and it asks the reader simple questions such as "where do birds go at night?" The illustrations offer simple learning while reading — color identification, size difference, peekaboo, and so on.

In its subtle way, the book also brings birds into everyday life, and reminds us of how birds touch our lives, if we are paying attention.

>Next: A Tree Is Nice 

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