Friday, April 24, 2020

Books that encourage nature exploration

I thought it would be fun to end Earth Day week with these two books that celebrate inter-generational exploration of the natural world  - and encourage children and the adults they love to get out and explore nature where they are.

theme: observation, nature, language

The Keeper of Wild Words
by Brooke Smith; illus. by Madeline Kloepper
62 pages; ages 5 - 8
Chronicle Books, 2020

 At the end of a long cinder lane, surrounded by meadows and pine trees and sky that wrapped around and back again…

Brook runs to her grandma’s door. Summer is almost over and Brook wants something to remember. Grandma Mimi is looking for something, too. Wild Words. Words that, when not used, disappear. Words like acorn and dandelion…. So Brook and Mimi go off on a walk to collect wild words. And they take readers with them through blackberry brambles, to the pond, and up to the top of the meadow. All along the way Brook is collecting words to keep and to share with her friends.

What I like about this book: I love that Grandma Mimi crowns Brook with flowers and bestows upon her the office of The Keeper of Wild Words. And the importance of protecting and celebrating the natural world through language. And the very real loss of words that are disappearing from the English language: apricot, buttercup, drake…

And yes, there is back matter: a note in which the author explains how she noticed that words about nature were being replaced in the dictionary by other words such as “database” and “voicemail.” Brooke Smith wrote this book to share her love of nature and the need to sustain the language of the natural world. She challenges everyone to become a Keeper of Wild Words and there’s an envelope bound into the back of the book where kids (and their adults) can collect words from the nature surrounding them.

Under My Tree 
by Muriel Tallandier; illus. by Mizuho Fujisawa; translation by Sarah Klinger
32 pages; ages 3 - 8
Blue Dot Kids Press, 2020

There once was a tree different from all the rest.

So, maybe all trees look the same to you: trunk, branches, leaves. But every now and then you run into that special tree. Suzanne discovered her favorite tree while visiting her grandparents for the summer. One day, walking through the forest with her grandmother it began to rain. They took shelter beneath a tree, and when Suzanne heard noises from an owl and her babies, she knew this tree would be a safe place.

Over the summer Suzanne visits the tree and notices how its leaves blow in the wind, and the insects that live on and around it. She and a friend build a tree fort. And  before she leaves to go home, Suzanne gives her tree a hug.

What I like about this book: As Suzanne learns about her tree, readers are challenged to discover more about the trees in their neighborhood. Sprinkled throughout the pages are text boxes filled with tree facts (Did You Know?) and hands-on activities (Try This!). It’s a fun introduction to conservation for young children.

Beyond the Books:

Did the Oxford Junior Dictionary really dump nature words? Yes. Check out this article to see some of the words deleted from the dictionary and the tech-oriented words put in their place. Which of those "lost" words do you want to keep?

Become a Keeper of Wild Words. All you need is paper, something to write with, and an envelope or tin to keep them in. If you can go outside, do so, or open your window. What words about nature do you see? Hear? Smell? Feel? My words from today are: phoebe, acorn, and daffodil.

Go Hug a Tree. No, really – it will make you feel better (check out this article). And while you’re hugging your tree, notice the texture of its trunk, and whether it has leaves or buds, and what insects, birds, or other animals are using the tree.

Find a way to show how your tree changes over the summer. Will you write haiku? Create collage art? What will you do to show what is different about your tree after each visit?

Today we're joining Perfect Picture Book Friday, an event where bloggers share great picture books at Susanna Leonard Hill's website. Review copies provided by the publishers.


  1. Wild Words would be great to pair with another book about losing nature words called The Lost Words by Robert Macfarlane. Have you read it? It's gorgeously illustrated by Jackie Morris. It's so important for kids to have some kind of relationship with nature. It does their bodies and brains good. Great pics!

    1. I agree, Jilanne - The Lost Words is a wonderful book.

  2. I love the premise of both of these books. I am so disappointed in the Oxford Junior Dictionary. I'm glad that others are stepping up to show the craziness of the decision. You've got two great books this week. Thanks!

  3. What beautiful books that compliment one another! I love them both -- especially the Keeper of Wild Words. The illustrations really are magnificent. Perfect for Earth and Arbor Day.

  4. These are both beautiful books, Sue! I’m a big tree-hugger and word-lover, so I definitely have them on my list to buy now. Thanks for sharing and also for your excellent ideas and insights.