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Top 100

A few years ago, the Children and Nature Network asked me to compile a list of the very best works of children’s literature that support kids’ connection to nature. (You can read more about C&NN and its amazing work at www.childrenandnature.org.) I’ve been refining the list ever since.

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My Side of The Mountain

Jean Craighead George (1959)

A runaway boy makes a new home in the Catskills with two companions, a falcon and a weasel. (8-12)

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The Snowy Day

Ezra Jack Keats (1962)

A snowstorm makes the city a wondrous and fun place for a little boy. (Infant-preschool)

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The Secret Garden

The Secret Garden

by Frances Hodgson Burnett (1911)

Watch how an abandoned garden—and some unexpected friendships—blossom on the moors of England. (8-12) 

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The Birchbark House (series)

by Louise Erdrich (1999)

Every bird and berry is vividly drawn in this chronicle of a young Ojibwa girl and her family living on an island in Lake Superior in the mid-1800s. (8-12)

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Charlotte's Web

by E.B. White (1952)

A clever spider befriends a wide-eyed pig in this beloved barnyard story.  (8-12)

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The Complete Adventures of the Mole Sisters

by Roslyn Shwarz (2004)

No one conveys the giddy delight of exploring the outdoors better than the wee mole sisters. (Infant-preschool)

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Ladybug Girl

by David Soman and Jacky Davis (2008)

After she flaps across the grass, leaps off a log, splashes through a puddle, and climbs a tree, little Ladybug Girl feels as big as the whole outdoors! (3-7)

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Seedfolks

by Paul Fleischman (1997)

Thirteen neighbors, thirteen distinctive accounts of a fledgling garden in Cleveland. (12 and up)

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A Different Pond

by Bao Phi (2017)

Exquisite graphic-novel style panels portray a father-son fishing trip against the backdrop of one Vietnamese-American family’s immigrant experience. (3-7)

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I'm in Charge of Celebrations

by Byrd Taylor (1986)

Being alone outside in the desert is never lonely for a little girl cataloging hundreds of moments to celebrate. (3-7)

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Birdsong 

by Julie Flett (2019)

Katherena forms a friendship with an aging neighbor over a year’s changing seasons. (3-7)

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Stella, Fairy of the Forest

by Marie-Louise Gay (2002)

Unreliable but irresistible Stella leads her brother Sam on a playful trek outdoors. (Infant-preschool) 

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Owl Moon

by Jane Yolen (1987)

Follow a girl and her father as they trek through the winter night searching for a great horned owl.  (3-7) 

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Roxaboxen

by Alice Mclerran (1991)

Build a fort and maybe you’ll find you’ve created a whole new community. (3-7) 

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The Heart and Mind of Frances Pauley

by April Stevens (2018)

Frances, aka Figbottom, finds refuge on the rocks among a flock of crows even as she learns to negotiate human relationships. (8-12)

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Henry and Mudge and the Starry Night

by Cynthia Rylant (1999)

Mom knows how to set up a tent, Dad knows how to play the guitar, and Henry and his big dog Mudge know how to soak up all the fun of an annual camping trip. (3-7)

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The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate

by Jacqueline Kelley (2011)

It’s 1899, and eleven-year-old Callie Vee wants nothing to do with sewing, cooking, and other domestic arts; her joy is rambling with her naturalist grandfather in the wild Texas woods, where discoveries await. (8-12)

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The Yearling

by Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings (1938)

Young Jody convinces his parents to let him raise an orphaned fawn in this bestselling novel set in 19th-century central Florida. (10-14)

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The Raft

by Jim Lamarche (2000)

When you’re dropped off for a summer with grandma and she doesn’t even have a TV, it’s a good thing she’s a “river rat”! (3-7) 

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SkySisters

by Jan Bourdeau Waboose (2002)

Two Ojibway sisters venture out into the cold night to see the Sky Sisters, otherwise known as the Northern Lights. (3-7)

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Julie of the Wolves

by Jean Craighead George (1972)

A young Eskimo girl runs away from home, only to find herself lost on the Alaska tundra and dependent on the aid of a pack of wild wolves. (8-12)

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Hatchet

by Gary Paulsen (1987)

When the small plane he’s riding in goes down in the Canadian wilderness, 13-year-old Brian fends for himself with little more than the clothes on his back and a hatchet. (8-12)

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The Wild Berries

by Julie Flett (2014)

A boy and his grandmother venture into the woods to harvest berries. Written in spare, evocative prose with select words translated into Swampy Cree. (3-7)

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Blueberries for Sal

by Robert McCloskey (1958)

Plink, plank, plunk. Eat a berry, see a bear. It’s all good in this beloved picture book. (Infant-preschool)

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Over and Under the Pond

by Kate Messner (2017)

A boy and his mom paddle across a pond, discovering the real-life plants and animals found above and below the surface. (3-7)

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Echo Mountain

by Lauren Wolk (2020)

Hit hard by the Depression, Ellie and her family move to a wild mountain in Maine and begin a whole new way of life. (10-14)

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Make Way for Ducklings

by Robert McCloskey (1941)

Watch how the mallard family makes a home in the city of Boston. (3-7)

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The Wind in the Willows

by Kenneth Grahame (1908)

Life along the stream bank is a witty romp in the company of Mole, Rat, Toad, and their woodland friends. (10-14)

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The Girl Who Helped Thunder and Other Native American Folktales

by James and Joseph Bruchac (2008)

Animals, trees, giants, moons, rocks, and the people themselves are given voice in this expansive illustrated collection of indigenous stories. (8-12)

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Island of the Blue Dolphins

by Scott O’Dell (1960)

Fictionalized story of a real-life Nicoleño woman who lived alone for eighteen years on one of California’s Channel Islands. (10-14)

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Miss Rumphius

by Barbara Cooney (1982)

Have big adventures around the world, but don’t forget to make your own neighborhood a little more beautiful. (3-7) 

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Children of the Forest

by Elsa Beskow (1910)

The woods will never look the same once you know where the fairies live and play. (3-7) 

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Rascal

by Sterling North (1963)

The story of a motherless boy and his pet raccoon. (8-12)

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Gilberto and the Wind

by Marie Hall Ets (1963)

Wind is a lively, if unpredictable, friend for a little boy in this timeless picture book. (Infant-preschool)

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The Bat-Poet

by Randall Jarrell (1964)

A little brown bat has insomnia and begins to craft elegant little poems about his encounters with the daytime world. (6-10)

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Where the Red Fern Grows

by Wilson Rawls (1961)

A boy and his two hound dogs roam and hunt in the Ozark mountains in this beloved tearjerker of a tale. (10-14)

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A Beach Tail

by Karen Lynn Williams (2010)

Gregory draws a lion in the beach sand and promises his dad he won’t stray farther than the length of its tail. But who’s drawing the tail? (3-7)

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The Hobbit

by J. R. R. Tolkien (1955)

The fields and forests of the English countryside come alive with hobbits, elves, and more in this classic fantasy book. (12 and up)

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Diary of a Worm

by Doreen Cronin (2003)

Get down in the dirt and start seeing the world from a worm’s point of view! (3-7)

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Twelve Kinds of Ice

by Ellen Bryan Obed (2012)

Twenty short chapters, illustrated with pen and ink drawings, offer an exquisite portrait of a season of ice and the many pleasures it provides. (8-12)

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Three Bird Summer

by Sara St. Antoine (2014)

Canoeing adventures and a mysterious trail of notes—not to mention a spunky girl next door—give Adam a memorable summer at Three Bird Lake. (10-14)

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Half a Chance

by Cynthia Lord (2014)

A photography contest provides Lucy with opportunities and dilemmas at a loon-filled lake in Maine. (10-14)

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And Then It’s Spring

by Julie Fogliano (2012)

Waiting for the brown world to reveal its spring green is made easier with these gorgeous drawings and sympathetic text. (3-7)

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One Day and One Amazing Morning on

Orange Street

by Joanne Rocklin (2012)

Who knew that one Los Angeles orange tree could be so central to its neighbors’ lives? (8-12)

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Amigo

by Byrd Baylor (1963)

A poor boy longs to have a dog all his own. Perhaps a wild prairie dog will do? (6-10)

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Juna's Jar

by Jane Bahk (2015)

Juna’s kimchi jar isn’t just a great place to store treasures from the park; when her best friend moves away, it’s also a springboard to exciting, and consoling, flights of fancy. (3-7)

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Grasshopper on the Road

by Arnold Lobel (1978)

Grasshopper travels the road meeting articulate insects with light-hearted plights familiar to any human. (6-10)

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Ladybug Girl and Bingo

by David Soman and Jacky Davis (2012)

A camping trip takes the outdoor adventures of Ladybug Girl and her dog to new heights. (3-7)

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Tracks in the Snow

by Wong Herbert Yee (2007)

In simple rhymed verse, a little girl ponders the source of a mysterious set of prints around and through the snowy countryside. (Infant-preschool)

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Sweet Clara and the Freedom Quilt

by Deborah Hopkinson (1993)

How can you relay the route of the Underground Railroad across the landscape without arousing suspicion? Young Clara has a most creative notion. (6-10)

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The Bee Tree

by Patricia Polacco (1993)

Why buy honey from the store? Chasing a bee to its bee tree is much more fun! (3-7)

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Leaf Man

by Lois Ehlert (2005)

The text and pictures of this stunning book are sure to inspire a leaf hunt and some beautiful leaf collages. (Infant-preschool) 

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Lizzie Bright and the Buckminster Boy

by Gary D. Schmidt (2004)

Based on real events, this heartbreaking novel tells the story of a white boy, a black girl, and the friendship they form on the rocky coast of Maine. (12 and up)

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Me, Jane

by Patrick McDonnell (2011)

A beguiling nutshell biography of one of the most famous biologists in the world, Jane Goodall. (3-7)

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Ordinary Wolves

by Seth Kantner (2005)

Crystalline, often wrenching, depictions of people and wildlife fill this story of a boy whose family lives alone in the Alaska wilderness, a day’s sled-drive away from the nearest Iñupiaq village. (12 and up)

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The Camping Trip

by Jennifer K. Mann (2020)

Irresistible pen and ink panels chronicle a city girl’s first camping trip, complete with starry night and scrumptious s’mores. (3-7)

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Houndsley and Catina: Plink and Plunk

by James Howe (2009)

Houndsley shares his love of canoeing with Catina and she shares her love of bicycling with him, with hilarious results. (6-10)

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Mouse and Mole: Fine Feathered Friends

by Wong Herbert Yee (2009)

It’s springtime, and Mouse and Mole will try anything to get closer to the returning birds. (6-10)

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Summer in the City

by Marie-Louise Gay (2012)

It takes determination—and some imagination—to create a summer of wild adventure in the big city. (6-10)

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Planting a Rainbow

by Lois Ehlert (1988)

Why just plant a garden when you can plant a whole rainbow? (Infant-preschool) 

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We’re Going on a Bear Hunt

by Michael Rosen (1989)

Splish splash, swish, swish...So much good terrain to get through on an adventurous family hike. (Infant-preschool) 

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Flashlight

by Lizi Boyd (2014)

No words are needed to convey the magic of a nighttime hike that spotlights a child’s wild neighbors. (Infant-preschool)

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Abel's Island

by William Steig (1976)

Ingenuity and imagination help Abel the mouse endure a year on a wild, inhabited island. (6-10)

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Johnny’s Pheasant

by Cheryl Minnema (2019)

A gentle story about a boy and his grandmother who have different ideas about what’s befallen the pheasant they find lying motionless on the side of the road. (3-7)

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The Line Tender

by Kate Allen (2019)

Lucy follows the research trail of her late mother, a shark biologist, across a season of grief and healing. (8-12)

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Violet Mackerel’s Pocket Protest

by Anna Branford (2013)

Violet and Rose find an unusual way to honor a beloved, ill-fated oak tree. (6-10)

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Gone-Away Lake

by Elizabeth Enright (1958)

Two children and their cousin enjoy a summer at a hidden lake where animals and old stories abound. (8-12)

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The Truth of Me

by Patricia MacLachlan (2013)

Grandmother Maddy has a magical way with wildlife and the right kind of understanding to help Robbie negotiate some family strains. (8-12)

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The Complete Book of the Flower Fairies

by Cecily Mary Barker (1923)

Winsome illustrations and sweet poems introduce the fairies inhabiting dozens of flowers of the garden, meadow, and forest. (6-10)

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Noah's Seal

by Layn Marlow (2021)

While Nana works on the sailboat that will take them out to spot seals, Noah makes a sand seal on the beach.  (3-7)

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Cecil the Pet Glacier

by Matthea Harvey (2012)

A quirky, tender story about a small glacier that demands to be loved by the little girl it follows home. (3-7)

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A Ring of Endless Light

by Madeleine L’Engle (1980)

Romance, grief, and the remarkable ways of dolphins are all part of the universe that 15-year-old Vicky Austin seeks to understand. (12 and up)  

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Nest

by Esther Ehrlich (2014)

The saltmarshes of 1970s Cape Cod provide the backdrop for this emotion-laden story about a mother’s depression and its effects on her 11-year-old daughter, Chirp. (10-14)

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Swallows and Amazons

by Arthur Ransome (1930)

Four children in the Lake District enjoy a summer holiday of uncommon adventures. (10-14)

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The Sign of the Beaver

by Elizabeth Speare (1983)

Matt survives a season in the 1700s Maine wilderness with the help of a boy from the Beaver clan, whose own survival story takes a wholly different form. (10-14)

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Heidi

by Johanna Spyri (1881)

It’s hard to imagine anyone who loves the mountains as much as Heidi, the heroine of this story from the Swiss Alps. (8-12)

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An Owl on Every Post

by Sanora Babb (1970)

Sanora Babb was seven years old when she arrived at the desolate plains of eastern Colorado in 1913. Her memoir captures the “wonder and poetry” (as Ralph Ellison put it) of her remarkable childhood. (12 and up)

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Bridge to Terabithia

by Katherine Paterson (1977)

Two lonely kids create a magical forest kingdom in the woods near their home. (8-12)

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The Black Book of Colors

by Menena Cottin (2006)

Take away the visuals and experience the colors of the world through the heightened senses of a blind boy named Thomas. (3-7)

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Alligator Crossing

by Marjorie Stoneman Douglas (1959)

A boy stows away on the boat of an outlaw alligator hunter in this Florida Everglades adventure. (8-12)

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High, Wide and Lonesome

by Hal Borland (1956)

Autobiographical story of a boyhood on the life-filled Colorado plains at the turn of the 20th century. (12 and up)

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The Carrot Seed

by Ruth Krauss (1945)

Sometimes growing a garden requires a little stubborn faith. (4-8) 

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On the Day You Were Born

by Debra Frasier (1991)

Lyrical writing and stunning collages celebrate the child’s arrival to the pulsing, life-filled planet Earth. (3-7) 

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The Sea-Ringed World: Sacred Stories of the Americas

by María García Esperón, translated by David Bowles (2021)

Strikingly illustrated collection of indigenous stories from the Arctic to the southern tip of South America. (10-14) 

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Summer of the Wolves

by Polly Carlson-Voiles (2012)

An orphaned girl forms an unexpected bond with the wolves her uncle studies in the wild lake country of Minnesota. (8-12) 

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Out of the Woods

by Rebecca Bond (2015)

A remarkable true story about a day a sudden forest fire collapsed the distance between people and forest animals. (3-7)

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We Are Brothers

by Yves Nadon (2018)

A young boy has never made the leap off the big rock at his family’s lake house. His big brother thinks it’s time he tries. (3-7)

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Lola Plants a Garden

by Anna McQuinn (2014)

Storybooks inspire Lola to plant a splendid garden of her own. (Infant-preschool)

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Dogsong

by Gary Paulsen (1984)

Russel lives in an arctic village where snowmobiles reign, but he longs to have a dogsled and learn the old ways. A blind old man named Oogruk launches him on his quest. (10-14)

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Wishtree

by Katherine Applegate (2017)

A community comes together around an old red oak who is, in fact, the narrator of this middle grade novel. (8-12)

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My Family and Other Animals

by Gerald Durrell (1956)

Light-hearted autobiography of the renowned British naturalist’s childhood on the island of Corfu. (12 and up)

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Come On, Rain!

by Karen Hesse (1999)

There’s nothing like a soaking rain on a sizzling summer day to restore the good natures of hot city folk. (3-7)

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Fireflies

by Julie Brinckloe (1986)

A boy and his friends catch fireflies on a warm summer night. (3-7)

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I am a Bunny

by Ole Risom (1963)

A small bunny spends the spring, summer, and fall enjoying the wonders of nature. (Infant-preschool)

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Hike

by Pete Oswald (2020)

A nearly wordless picture book captures a sweet, memorable day spent hiking in the mountains with Dad. (Infant-preschool)

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Sylvester and the Magic Pebble

by William Steig (1969)

A charming reminder that there’s magical potential in the merest of pebbles! (3-7)

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How To

by Julie Morstad (2013)

An irresistible how-to book for engaging with the world. (Infant-preschool)

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Hoot

by Carl Hiassen (2005)

A boy named Roy encounters a colorful cast of characters in his new Florida home, along with a bevy of burrowing owls in need of his help. (10-14)

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Treasure Island

by Robert Louis Stevenson (1883)

The story that launched a thousand pirate pretend games. (10-14)

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Watercress

by Andrea Wang (2021)

 

Gathering roadside watercress with her family leads a young girl to unearth new stories of her family's past. (3-7)